Now celebrating its third year, Social Circus Day is April 7th. Championed by the Asian Social Circus Association (ASCA), it has caught on as a day to embrace the work circus practitioners around the globe do in the name of humanity. Although the definition of social circus is often debated, the fields social circus practitioners work in give us a good idea of the sector. The most prevalent type of social circus organization worldwide is engaging with at-risk or impoverished youth. But there are also social circuses that work with the physically disabled community, with elderly people, with the homeless and with people with learning differences. Since the concept behind social circus is that the practice of this diverse art form can help people overcome challenges and gain new skills that bolster confidence and foster collaboration, it is an apt tool for such a wide range of the population. The understanding that circus is for all ages and types of people has long been part of the circus mythos, so it is no stretch that this philosophy of inclusion is one that social circus educators have taken to heart. Today we celebrate some of the organizations that make a big impact on their chosen communities through the craft of social circus.
Happy Social Circus Day and please let us know how you celebrate the day with your circus clan!
Cirque du Monde –Montreal, Quebec, Canada
“At Cirque du Soleil, we completely reinvented circus arts and became a world leader in artistic entertainment. Established in Montreal, we have brought wonder and delight to over 180 million spectators with 42 productions that have taken place in close to 450 cities in 60 countries. We strive to be a good neighbor at our offices and in the cities we visit by building relationships with communities through activities and programs that benefit at-risk youth. This cause is a natural fit for a company founded by street performers. We speak to youth in a language that is built into our DNA: art.”
When asked what ways they will ramp up their social circus outreach this year, Anik Couture (head of community relations) says, “Our success (at Cirque du Soleil) relies on partnerships. It is not different for our social circus program, Cirque du Monde. For social circus day 2018, we want to celebrate our partners and what we have accomplished together through a short video that we will post on Facebook.” Visit Cirque du Monde on Facebook to catch their video!
Circus Stars–Gold Coast, Queensland Australia
“Founded in 2013 by Kristy Seymour, Circus Stars was the first circus school solely dedicated to children with autism. The specialized program is based in Kristy’s honors research (2012) and uses the art form of circus to develop physical, social and emotional well-being in its students. Providing sensory embodiment, risk taking and a place to belong, Circus Stars is driven towards providing an inclusive and supportive environment for children with autism to develop at their own pace, to learn, to thrive and become the best versions of themselves! Circus Stars was recently awarded the Autism Queensland, Creative Futures Award- Community/School Category.”
When asked what social circus meant to Circus Stars, Seymour says, “Circus Stars defines social circus as a platform to intervene with the social, emotional and physical barriers that young people might be struggling with. I was lucky enough to be mentored by the great Dr. Reg Bolton during the early stages of my career and I hold his “Hand Analogy” at the center of my practice. Circus Stars believes that social circus provides young people with a safe space to be themselves, to take risks, to connect and belong and to go beyond themselves in ways that they may have not thought possible.”
Coreto Circos Social–Santiago, Chile
“A Chilean organization formed in 2014 and composed of teachers, psychologists and social workers who, through the creation of circus schools inserted within vulnerable communities, try to enhance the socio-emotional skills of children and young people so that they become social actors in their community as well as of the country in general, rescuing the role of art and culture in this mission.”
When asked why April 7th Social Circus Day was important, Adrián González (psychologist and social worker, co-founder of the NGO Coreto Circo Social) says, “The day of the social circus is very important for all people who (in one way or another) had our lives transformed by the circus. It is a way of remembering the great step that circus has taken from the circus tents as a purely artistic form to becoming a companion– able to advise us and give us a lot of learning, often without words. Having a commemorative day of the social circus invites us as organizations and people in general to continue celebrating, reflecting and promoting the development of the circus as a real and effective tool for the evolution of people and their conscience, pushing fundamental values for the sustainability of our communities. QUE VIVA EL CIRCO!
Video made by Eduardo Cabello from ONG POLOC
Circus Harmony–St. Louis, Missouri, USA
“Circus Harmony teaches the art of life through circus education. We work to build character and expand community for youth of all ages, cultures, abilities and backgrounds. Through the teaching and performing of circus arts, we help people defy gravity, soar with confidence, and leap over social barriers, all at the same time. We hold classes and present hundreds of shows at City Museum and in other venues around St. Louis!”
When asked how Circus Harmony planned to up their social circus outreach this coming year, Jessica Hentoff (artistic and executive director) says “In honor of Social Circus Day 2018, Circus Harmony is announcing a new Peace Through Pyramids partnership with the National Circus School of Puerto Rico! The National School of Circus of Puerto Rico (ENC) is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2014. The ENC is a school for professional training, but also has a strong division of social circus community workshops that seek the social transformation of young people at risk.
This cultural exchange will bring together members of Circus Harmony’s St. Louis Arches, a troupe of children from various neighborhoods throughout St. Louis, with the children of ENC’s Social Circus project in Dorado, one of the neighborhoods devastated by the hurricanes in 2017. The combined troupe will work together to create a show and take it to communities most affected by the passage of Hurricane Maria bringing some much-needed joy and entertainment to municipalities who were among those most impacted by the disaster including Corozal, Naranjito, Comerío, and Morovis.
The Social Circus Day announcement of the new partnership will be made in the Circus Harmony ring on the third floor of City Museum during the St. Louis Arches shows at 1 and 3 PM on Saturday, April 7. The Puerto Rican Peace Through Pyramids partnership is scheduled for July 3-17, 2018 and fundraising plans are in the works.”
CircEsteem, Chicago, Illinois, USA
“CircEsteem is a non-profit youth circus located in Chicago IL, USA. Our mission of bringing together diverse youth to practice circus arts and to assure that mutual respect is present in all that we do. We serve youth across Chicago’s north, south and west sides in addition to partnering with social circuses nation-wide and internationally.”
When asked what social circus means to CircEsteem, Kasumi Kato (programs director) says “CircEsteem defines social circus as using circus as a means of social change, whether that be inter/intra personal or institutional. While we focus most of our energies on social change on the individual (inter/intra personal level), we would love to change our institutions and world through the power of social performance and intervention. Our flagship programs have all developed out of necessity to the populations we serve. For example, when our kids were unable to join summer camp, because they were all in summer school, we created a year-round tutoring and circus program. Or when our teens couldn’t come to programming because they had to find a job to support the family, we created a youth employment program. Social circus, as with any social intervention, is about identifying a need first, then acting on that need. As much as possible we involve our youth in identifying what change they want to see in themselves or their community/school. Social circus, as opposed to regular recreational circus, teaches to the whole child; their personalities, needs, strengths, weaknesses. It sees the youth as a growing whole being, who happens to really love circus!”
MIGHTY JAMBO CIRCUS ACADEMY–Gathera, Nairobi, Republic of Kenya
“Mighty Jambo is an art organization registered as a charitable trust under the laws of the Republic of Kenya. Mighty Jambo´s vision is to see acceptability of art as a way of expression and integration in the community. Mighty Jambo Trust wants to help artists embrace their talents and become role models who are instrumental in the positive development of their community.”
When asked what social circus means to the organization, John Otieno Dindy (founder and executive director) explains, “Social circus has been very important to Mighty Jambo because we have used it as a vehicle and tool to solve societal problems such as prostitution, unemployment, drugs addiction e.t.c. Social circus has joined the communities together by eradicating tribalism amongst the youth. It has also opened new creative ways of tackling issues that engulf the youth in the society. The circus activities have developed emotional balance, belief, patience, trust, and cooperation amongst the youth. Through social circus, we have entrenched the right principles and values to make the communities a better place. We believe the next step is to harness social circus with circus business to create an exit for people who would like to further their careers in circus.”
Circus Talk would like to congratulate the many social circus organizations around the world who will be joining in the celebration on April 7th and we encourage you to share what you are doing on social circus day here!
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