The Risk of Circus Studies: Mapping the Current Landscape in US Higher Education - CircusTalk

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The Risk of Circus Studies: Mapping the Current Landscape in US Higher Education

It was spring semester at Muhlenberg College.  My Aerial 2 class and I were discussing how television was a detrimental development to performing arts, particularly circus. “Why didn’t we learn about this in my communications class? We just studied the impact of television on American culture,” a student blurted out.
This is just one instance in a decade of teaching collegiate aerial arts courses in which students have expressed confusion tinged with resentment that they don’t learn about circus anywhere else. I took note, reflected on my own degrees in dance and theater and swapped stories with other artists and academics. It seems American education is strewn with holes that circus could fill. Why didn’t circus make it into the education system? Is this a purely an American phenomenon? What would change if it was more valued and visible in academia? I decided to do some digging. Over the past six months, I have had the pleasure of interviewing over a dozen circus scholars, authors, professors and directors of professional training programs in North America on the topic. Similar ideas and phrases were said over and over again in these interviews. Everyone’s experiences were surprisingly alike. This is the narrative of an entire community, not a singular trai...
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Madeline Hoak

Madeline Hoak is an artist and academic who creates with, through, and about circus. She is a Writer for CircusTalk, Adjunct Professor of Aerial Arts and American Circus History at Pace University, Editor and Curatorial Director of TELEPHONE: an international arts game, and curator and director of Cirkus Moxie, a weekly contemporary circus show at Brooklyn Art Haus. Madeline has performed, coached, produced, and choreographed at elite regional and international venues. Her background in dance and physical theater is infiltrated into her coaching and creation style. She is passionate about providing her students holistic circus education that includes physical, historical, theoretical resources. Madeline initiated the Aerial Acrobatics program at her alma mater, Muhlenberg College, where she taught from 2012-2017. She is also a regular contributor to Cirkus Syd's Circus Thinkers international reading group. Her circus research has been supported by Pace, NYU, and Concordia University. Recent publications include "Teaching the Mind-Body: Integrating Knowledges through Circus Arts'' (with Alisan Funk, Dan Berkley), a chapter in Art as an Agent for Social Change, "expanding in(finite) between," a multimedia essay in Circus Thinks: Reflections, 2020, and "Digital Dance & TELEPHONE: A Unique Spectator Experience." Madeline has presented academic papers at numerous conferences including Circus and its Others (UC Davis), International Federation for Theatre Research (University of Reykjavík), the Popular Culture Association, Gallatin (NYU), and McGill University. Madeline earned an MA from Gallatin, New York University’s School of Independent Study, where she designed a Circus Studies curriculum with a focus on spectatorship.