Social Circus Presentation David Hunt, American Youth Circus Organization College Resurgence Conference, Hampshire College March 29, 2008 What is Social Circus? Social Circus is The application of circus learning and coaching as a DEVICE for facilitating the student’s abilities… to forge new relationships with themselves and the world around them to develop greater personal responsibility as well as sovereignty to development concrete life skills for… individuals and groups who are disenfranchised because of race or ethnicity, economy, and/ or life history and experience. Conducted in partnership with support organizations such as a homeless shelter, drug rehabilitation clinic, juvenile detention center, community center, or even a school. * there isn’t always a collaborating organization, but this is typically how it is done…. Here we are talking about programs for youth. There are Social Circus programs that work with adults all over the world. All kids are at risk, no matter where they live, how much money they have, or what their ancestral heritage, but… Children and adolescent youth coming from lower income neighborhoods, youth with mental health challenges, who grow up with addiction in their families, who are homeless, experience violence, or struggle with addiction face much greater obstacles in their lives. The goal isn’t to prepare the student for a professional performing career … BUT this COULD happen! The goal is to provide a FUN and CHALLENGING stepping stone or, even, a LAUNCH PAD for the student’s positive sense of self and realization of her/his potential and expression in the world. Circus can Save the World? Circus learning is a powerful and innovative tool for youth intervention Reg Bolton, 1945 – 2006, was a pioneer of youth and community circus in Australia and around the world. He wrote and talked widely about his theory of the “essential needs of childhood:” to Take Risks To Show Off To Trust and have Physical Contact (they meant the same to Reg) To Dream Circus Education meets all of these needs rather well in many different ways. Jessica Hentoff, of Circus Day Foundation in St. Louis, sums it up very well in her program description: “By turning you upside down we teach you to stand on your own two feet. By dropping objects we teach you to catch them. By having you walk all over someone we teach you to take care of him or her. By having you clown around we teach you take yourself seriously….Participation requires cooperation, individual and group responsibility and control over mind, body and emotions.” Michele Lafortune and Dirce Morelli, from Cirque du Soleil, co-wrote an article called The Phoenix that presents the concept of resilience in social circus workshops. The article articulates how circus, when with the right conditions, can contribute to the student’s road towards resilience and overcoming trauma. Arts Council England commissioned report published last summer found that he popularity of youth circus reflects its success in children’s educational development in schools, youth clubs and community settings. Circus skills help children develop their mental and physical coordination within a creative environment. We know it works. But we need more studies and articles to contribute to the vocabulary we use to work and promote the work! Social Circus Workshop Components There are many others. This is a modified list drawn from the work of Cirque du Soleil’s Teacher Training and personal experience. Educational Sessions Group Games Group Rituals Physical Skill Training Character / Clown Development Creation Reflection Performance Program Components (requirements) There are many others. This is a modified list drawn from the work of Cirque du Soleil’s Teacher Training and personal experience Circus Teaching Artists o Experience working with youth o Circus Skills o Coaching Skills Training o Working with youth who have suffered trauma sometimes requires EXTRA SKILLS and KNOWLEDGE o Classroom management, conflict-resolution, ethics, teaching outside one’s culture, communication, sensitivity, multiple intelligence….the list goes ON…. Social Organizational Base o Often to provide a population of youth or to assist in recruitment o To support both the coaches and the youth in their journey o Often to provide a SPACE for the workshops Financial Support o 99.9% of the time, the participants do not have financial resources for their own experience. Program Models Prescott Circus Theater and Satellite Programs Oakland, CA Established 20 years ago! Serves approximately 160 children annually Operates in cooperation with 7 different Oakland public elementary schools and with after-school provider agencies Individual programs vary school to school but PCT has overarching objectives and philosophies which permeate each program such as leadership training for the youth, conflict / resolution strategies, cultural connections to learned skills (such as the African roots of stilt-walking/dancing), and accurate self-assessment skills. The principal program, Prescott Circus Theater, at Prescott Elementary, develops an annual, year round, touring show as well as opportunities for continuation past the 5th grade. Funded through public grants, private foundations, and individual donations. CircEsteem Chicago, IL Established in 2001 Operates in cooperation with Alternatives, Inc., a youth and family service agency Also collaborates with other schools and service agencies around Chicago. Operates many different programs including a youth employment initiative and a scholarship fund which is now supporting some of its students to attend college Funded through public grants, private foundations, individual donations, fundraising events, and circus performances, Cirque du Soleil Social Action: Cirque Du Monde and Teacher Trainings Cirque du Monde Established with Jeunesse du Monde, an international cooperation NGO. Operating in 17 countries and 35 communities around the world. Currently running programs in 5 cities in the United States (Orlando, New York City, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Atlanta) Serving from 8000 – 12,000 youth, globally Programs are carried out in collaboration with community organizations and international-cooperation NGO’s such as Jeunesse du Monde and Oxfam. Teacher Trainings Cirque du Soleil’s Social Action develops programs and training networks to develop circus instructors’ skills in to coach in a social intervention contact. International Network for Social Circus Training (INSCT) established to disseminate theory and practice of social circus. INSCT is composed of ten organizations from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Canada, Burkina Faso, Australia, and South Africa. Members include Cirque du Soleil and Jeunesse du Monde and professional and social circus schools.