PRO Talk LIVE at Cirque de Demain: Gender Representation in the Circus Arts with Diana Salles & Stacy Clark

Circus News

PRO Talk LIVE at Cirque de Demain: Gender Representation in the Circus Arts with Diana Salles & Stacy Clark

PRO Talks are CircusTalk’s live virtual events led by industry influencers and experts focused on career-building topics. Our virtual conversations feature talent seekers from different sectors within circus and the performing arts. PRO members will gain new insights, meet fellow professionals, and strengthen their career connections. This particular PRO Talk was different and special for many reasons. Moderated by award-winning performer, Diana Salles, and CircusTalk CEO, Stacy Clark, this first ever in-person PRO Talk was held at the 43e Festival Mondial de Cirque de Demain, inviting artists, talent seekers and programmers from around the world to discuss the important topic of gender representation in circus.

Let’s set the scene. It’s a frigid Saturday morning in Paris, January 27, just past 11am. The 43e Festival Mondial de Cirque de Demain is in full swing, but the Cirque Phénix lobby is rather quiet, scattered with only a few people compared to the masses who will attend the spectacular performances later in the day. Those in the lobby are making their way outside to the Club PRO dome with purpose. Today, they’ll be active participants in the first ever gender-focused roundtable discussion in Cirque de Demain’s workshop series.

Despite the chill outside, it’s actually pretty warm in the dome! The space hums with the curiosity and eagerness of almost 50 attendees, both in person and on the Zoom call being projected at the front of the room. One of these Zoom participants has even tuned in at 3am their time to participate! As everyone sheds their coats and settles into their seats, Diana Salles and Stacy Clark switch on their mics and begin the discussion by setting the tone… “Let’s just be awesome people. This is a space for everybody.” And the conversation begins.

The goal of this PRO Talk was to create a space where people of all identities, cultures and roles within the circus arts could feel comfortable voicing their thoughts and questions about gender in circus. In pursuit of this, participants were asked to anonymously write down a thought, question or experience regarding  gender in circus and hand their card over to Diana and Stacy for collection. From there, four small groups were formed, (the fifth composed of the Zoom attendees), and given three random cards from the collection to consider and discuss. After twenty minutes of conversation, a representative from each group shared a summary of their group discussion.

Topics ranged from traditional gender roles to pronouns to circus school curriculums and much more. This was not your average panel or Q&A discussion. Everyone in the room was an active participant in these amazing conversations, and we are so happy to share these highlights and summaries from the groups with you.

One of the biggest takeaways from these conversations was a collective realization. Historically, circus has always been the space for the outcasts, the minorities, and the others. Circus gave outsiders a space to belong and thrive… and this realization left us wondering where that got lost that along the way. And more importantly, how to get back to that. As Diana stated as she closed out the session, “Don’t be silent when somebody is marginalized in this industry because that’s not circus. Circus is inclusivity and circus saved us… It takes a whole group to change an institution. Be mindful.”

Thank you to Diana and Stacy for guiding us, Festival Mondial de Cirque de Demain and Pascal Pierron for allowing us all to come together and open this topic of conversation, and to everybody who attended, near and far! This discussion started ripples, let’s continue to talk and take action. What is something you can do tomorrow to make this industry more inclusive?

Did you miss our Gender Representation in Casting PRO Talk with Ess Hödlmoser last week?  Stay tuned for the recording publishing here on CircusTalk.com February 19th!

All photos courtesy of Valerie Thénard Béal @vtb_circus.
Em Holt
Burlesque Dancer, Acrobat, Community Manager -UNITED STATES
Em Holt (they/she/he) is a genderfluid mover, burlesque dancer, drag performer and acrobat based in Florida, US. With a background in high level competitive gymnastics, circus arts and multidisciplinary dance, their diverse capabilities allow them to meet a variety of physical requirements and personas on stage.

These days, Em independently travels and tours the US as burlesque and circus bombshell, Karma Carnelian. Karma's performance style seamlessly blends classic and neo burlesque choreography with dynamic acrobatic chair and floor work. Karma has performed coast to coast, from the Hubba Hubba Revue in San Francisco, CA, to the House of Blues in Chicago, IL, to countless productions in their home state.

Em received their BA in Advertising in 2019 and MS in Integrated Marketing in 2021 from Florida State University, where they also performed teeterboard, flying, swinging and double trapeze in The FSU Flying High Circus from 2016-2020. Em first joined CircusTalk first as a journalism intern in 2020, and currently serves as the team's Community Manager, creating written and digital content for the site, and managing the companies' social media channels.
Stacy Clark
CEO of CircusTalk, Casting Director, Career Coach -Canada
Stacy is a seasoned professional in the circus and performing arts industry. A former gymnast and circus artist, Stacy worked in marketing and communications before leaving it all behind to perform and teach circus worldwide on stage, at festivals, and on screen. Today she is a freelance casting director, career coach, and artistic advisor. In 2021, Stacy joined the small and dynamic team at the international online platform CircusTalk as CEO. Previously, Stacy was a talent scout and then the Director of Casting at Cirque du Soleil.
Diana Salles
Award-Winning Performer, Creator, Author -Brazil
Born in São Paulo, Brazil in 1996, Diana embarked on her contemporary circus journey by joining the Escola de Circo e Artes Culturais in Brazil. There, she discovered a profound love for the art form.



Diana's philosophy is rooted in the power of connection and the transformative nature of the stage. She believes circus can bring people together, create unforgettable moments but also serve as a conductor of social issues. Over the years, circus has become the driving force in Diana's life, continually surprising and enriching her journey.



In 2023, Diana produced and was co-author of her debut solo show DELUSIONAL ''I killed a man’,’ with direction of Firenza Guidi. She received the Best of Fringe - International bursary award during its premiere at the Amsterdam Fringe Festival.  Currently Diana works with the Welsh National Opera as the Mother of Tadzio in Death in Venice, an Opera by Britten directed by Olivia Fuchs.

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Em Holt

Em Holt (they/she/he) is a genderfluid mover, burlesque dancer, drag performer and acrobat based in Florida, US. With a background in high level competitive gymnastics, circus arts and multidisciplinary dance, their diverse capabilities allow them to meet a variety of physical requirements and personas on stage. These days, Em independently travels and tours the US as burlesque and circus bombshell, Karma Carnelian. Karma's performance style seamlessly blends classic and neo burlesque choreography with dynamic acrobatic chair and floor work. Karma has performed coast to coast, from the Hubba Hubba Revue in San Francisco, CA, to the House of Blues in Chicago, IL, to countless productions in their home state. Em received their BA in Advertising in 2019 and MS in Integrated Marketing in 2021 from Florida State University, where they also performed teeterboard, flying, swinging and double trapeze in The FSU Flying High Circus from 2016-2020. Em first joined CircusTalk first as a journalism intern in 2020, and currently serves as the team's Community Manager, creating written and digital content for the site, and managing the companies' social media channels.