Circus News

Social Circus Initiatives Focus on the Marginalized in 2020 

With global nationalism and hate crimes on the rise, social circus programs will continue to provide events and spaces throughout 2020 for conversations about uplifting the vulnerable, such as children and refugees.

In 2008, six European circus schools joined in Brussels to create the nonprofit Caravan Circus Network (CCN) as an international youth and social circus network. Currently, the 35 circus school members come from 23 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, and produce youth festivals and exchanges, as well as support seminars, training, research and volunteers. 

Discussing 2020, Vincent Wauters, president of Caravan/director of Ecole de Cirque de Bruxelles says “We see the implementation of two of our new exciting Erasmus+ funded projects Circus++ and Circus as Intercultural Encounter. We also see the culmination of the Wires Crossed, a funambulism project, which brings together many Caravan partners.”
Ciao, Italia
Mirror miming, Social Circus,Initiatives,Focus,Marginalized
A moment from Altro Circo, 2018. Photo courtesy of Caravan

The fifth annual  Social Circus Conference: Another Resource (Conference Circo Sociale: un’Altra Risorsa)will hold workshops, roundtables, keynote lectures and spaces for discussions and reflections about the theme of participation on April 4-5. Theweekend event, presented primarily in Italian, will reflect on how circus arts can be an active participation tool, and ways that circuses can cause upheaval in the status quo. Tools to involve participants and the public from different social and cultural backgrounds and experiences will be explored too. 

The four breakout sessions include:

  1. Passion and participation from creation to staging
  2. Social circus and inclusion: How to break down barriers to participation and give voice to the marginalized
  3. Methodologies and participation strategies: The participant-centered approach
  4. Circus and audience development: Practices and projects for development of the circus public

Circus educator and social circus researcher  Ilaria Bessone calls the conference “ParticiPassion,” where the passion for circus becomes a driving force for participation. 

Erin Go Bragh
tight wire social circus
Wires Crossed in Galway this August. Photo courtesy of Galway Community Circus

Galway Community Circus (GCC), in partnership with Galway 2020 and the European Funambulism Network, is presenting  Wires Crossed between August 6 and 9. The largest, most ambitious circus spectacle to be staged in Ireland, Wires Crossed will bring 400 people from all ages and walks of life to cross Galway’s river Corrib and the Claddagh Basin on high wires over a period of 2020 minutes, about 34 hours. 

‘‘People try the art of funambulism (tightwire walking using a balancing pole), not believing that they can do it, but then they make it to the other side of a wire or slackline, and become surprising heroes,” says GCC Executive Creative Director Ulla Hokkanen. 

“This is the true magic of circus arts, unlocking personal potential and finding talent, resilience and a sense of empowerment,” she added. 

GCC gives opportunities to young people to live their best lives by supporting physical, mental and social well being, including via social circus for all ages and all levels of ability and disability. Beginning in 2016, thousands of people have been trained, working with nine European youth and social circus schools. The Galway crossing site was chosen to acknowledge the loss of life to suicides over that river in recent years. Wires Crossed will provide solidarity, courage and hope to those grappling with mental illness.  

Hoş Geldiniz
Blue puppet, Social Circus,Initiatives,Focus,Marginalized
A moment from Flying Carpet Fest. Photo credit: Eleni Papadopoulou

The Flying Carpet Children’s Festival will hold workshops from June 1 through August 22, culminating in a festival  August 23-29, as part of  Sirkhane’s social circus work with vulnerable children affected by conflicts and war. The group believes that all young people have the right to access cultural experiences by first class artists. The work takes place on the  Turkish-Syrian border where millions of refugees are settled. 

About 30-40 performers per year, including  musicians,  circus and  visual artists, magicians, storytellers, designers and visionaries are brought in to produce a one-hour show and become catalysts for positive change in the lives of children. Over the past two years, the group has provided 15 concerts and 250 workshops by 75 artists, reaching 3,000 children and over 7,000 audience members. 

In the past, they linkeda Brazillian circus group, Circo No Ato, with Iranian musicians to create a 20-minute set that combined circus and classical Persian and Western music. In 2019, the festival hosted David Rimelis, a New Jersey jazz musician, who performed with a fire dancer by live-looping on his violin and guitar. They also featured Collin Edouard, a classical singer from New York, who collaborated with a Russian pianist from San Francisco and a Turkish dancer from Istanbul at the 1500-year-old Dara Mesopotamian ruins.  

Doe Het Goed!
Giant puppet, Social Circus,Initiatives,Focus,Marginalized
A moment from Flying Carpet Fest. Photo credit: Eleni Papadopoulou

CCN has also begun the  “Circus as Intercultural Encounter” research project to discover a set of skills and dialogue practices for effective anti-racism and social inclusion interventions to use when working with communities of refugees, asylum seekers and new migrant youth. Funded by Erasmus, participating circus schools include Zaltimbanq Zirkus(Luxembourg), Caravan (Belgium), University College Dublin (Ireland), Altro Circo (Italy), Sirkus Magenta (Finland), Circus Planeet (Belgium), Skala (Slovenia), and Palestinian Circus School (Palestine). Project progress will be shared from November 12-15, with the final results being presented in April 2021 in Italy. 

Related content: Exploring European Youth and Social Circus with Caravan Circus Network

Feature photo Altro Circo 2018, courtesy of Caravan
Karin McKie
Writer, Actor, Educator -United States
Karin McKie is a writer, SAG-AFTRA actor, educator, publicist and activist. She teaches students and professionals about storytelling, public relations, theater and stage combat, critical reading and comparative literature. Raised in the DC area and currently in Chicago, Karin has studied in London and the Bay Area, spent the millennium in Buenos Aires, performed in Amsterdam, Scotland, and around the Americas, and was a China/Taiwan scholar. She has a BS in Theater and Communications, an MFA in Creative Writing, and is a yogini, cyclist, weight lifter, and sometimes barefoot tennis player.

Karin McKie

Karin McKie is a writer, SAG-AFTRA actor, educator, publicist and activist. She teaches students and professionals about storytelling, public relations, theater and stage combat, critical reading and comparative literature. Raised in the DC area and currently in Chicago, Karin has studied in London and the Bay Area, spent the millennium in Buenos Aires, performed in Amsterdam, Scotland, and around the Americas, and was a China/Taiwan scholar. She has a BS in Theater and Communications, an MFA in Creative Writing, and is a yogini, cyclist, weight lifter, and sometimes barefoot tennis player.

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