What is Social Circus?

After having the immense opportunity to collaborate with social circus organizations in 12 countries throughout the Americas, members of makeShift Circus Collective have landed on this definition for social circus:


To use the
performance and teaching1 of circus arts to create alternative spaces2 in which we3 can experience ourselves differently, shaking free of attitudes, beliefs and habits4 that do not serve us and provoking5 the development of healthier ones that support social transformation at the individual, group , community , regional and global level.

  1. Commonly the term ‘social circus’ refers to doing circus workshops with at-risk communities. We have found it useful to broaden our definition to include the many environments and ways in which circus arts can be used as a potent social intervention tool with a range of populations.

  2. Alternative spaces in this case refers to environments out of the ordinary, not bound by participants’ everyday physical, emotional and mental norms. We seek to create environments in which the magic of the circus is carried over into the direct experience of the participant suspending what he or she might imagine is possible for his or her self and community.

  3. We do not seek to transform others but to open up spaces that will transform everyone involved including the artist and the public, student and facilitator. The process looses power if one of the parties is not open to their own transformation.

  4. Through play, supporting each other and challenging ourselves in the exploration of physical feets, and analyzing our interactions and experiences, we seek to free ourselves from attitudes, beliefs and habits that do not serve us…
    a. Attitudes – ‘ Street youth can not do anything right, they’re worthless. ‘ ‘Women are weak. ” ‘ Art is a waste of time . ‘
    b . Beliefs- ‘ I can’t . ‘ ‘ I’m weak. ‘ ‘ People are not trustworthy’.
    c . Unconscious habits or ways of behaving -Using violent language , self-judgement, feeling frustrated or stressed by the learning process , focusing on the negative aspects of self and others.

  5. Not only do we seek to remove what doesn’t work but also to open up spaces to look collaboratively for solutions.

  6. We realize that our actions , workshops and presentations , have an influence on the development of our society. Being aware of that reality, we understand our importance and we can choose how we want to affect the participants in our circus: ourselves and our students, communities, states, countries, regions and the world.

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