About ACE

Dear Community,

With the news of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey today, it feels important to assert our our deep belief and understanding that the circus is alive and well.

Like all art forms, circus will evolve – and is evolving. While it does, we must be aware of the incredibly rich 2000 year history of circus disciplines and performance existing in a myriad of contexts and forms. It is important to grieve the loss of institutions that we have known and loved in our lifetime – especially the ones that have been dedicated to performing on US soil like RBB&B and Big Apple Circus. These institutions have sparked a generation of circus people and communities in our country, many of whom have laid the foundation for a new and different golden age of circus education and opportunity. This new wave is still unfurling – we have only just begun.

Currently we are experiencing new models of circus viability – in the form of educational institutions that teach circus arts at a variety of levels and circus in new performance venue contexts like proscenium theatres, cruise ships, and site specific locations. We are seeing recognition of circus as an art form for the first time from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival. Performing arts festivals in the USA are producing more circus shows than ever before. We are in the midst of conducting the first and only study about Social Circus as a tool for developing social and emotional learning skills.

The circus education community is growing in the USA – and around the world. There are over 250 circus schools in the USA at present, and we estimate 10 new programs open each year. Our or organization – a network of circus schools, educators, and young artists – has grown from 40 to 400 members in the past 6 years. Circus schools teach circus arts to virtually every age group and have a variety of different missions – from using circus as a tool for social change, to encouraging fitness and healthy lifestyles, to training a next generation of circus artists, producers, and innovators who will usher the art form into the future.

Our organization is looking forward to a 2017 full of programming and impact. We will be hosting the 2017 American Youth Circus Festival in Trenton, NJ and expect hundreds of young circus artists, parents, and educators to attend. Each attendee represents dozens more individuals and groups who believe in and devote their lives to the circus.

We are in community with innovators and entrepreneurs who are moving forward with both respect to our circus history, and a sense of urgency for a viable and visible circus sector in the present and future. May the circus always grow and change with the times, and may the show go on, in its diverse and varied forms.

In the spirit of Circus,

Amy Cohen
Executive Director
American Youth Circus Organization
American Circus Educators Association

The ACE Story

The American Circus Educators Association was formed in 2014 as a branch of the American Youth Circus Organization (AYCO) and is dedicated to supporting circus educators. ACE is the trusted authority when it comes to all things circus education and is the primary source for professional development, networking, and information about circus education for anyone identifying as a circus parent, teacher, educator, coach, program director, or administrator.

ACE currently offers the following:

Safety Program
Resources and Networking
Monthly Newsletter
Tri Annual magazine (American Circus Educators Magazine)



AYCO, the parent organization of ACE, has been serving circus educators since it’s founding in 1998, when the main form of circus education in the USA was catered towards youth. Since 1998, circus has gained in popularity and students range in age from toddlers to elders and everything in between. As a result, AYCO formed ACE in order to better serve the emerging circus education community.  AYCO is now dedicated to distinctly serving young people and their supporters through a variety of youth focused programs.

For those of you who know and love AYCO, it’s important to assure you that all of the programs and opportunities that AYCO has been providing for the past 15 years are still alive and well!

Although AYCO has “youth” in it’s title, the only direct services we have been offering to youth are our youth circus festivals. The direct service offered to adults and educators have been much more substantial. Our online network, professional development opportunities, magazine, social media, and newsletter have all been catered towards adults.

It’s become clear that the best way to serve youth and educators is by doing so distinctly. We’ve shifted all of the community and networking programs that you know and love for adults to be housed appropriately under ACE, and made a strong commitment to serving the diversity of circus educators under that branch. As a result, we are now able to truly serve youth through AYCO—which means new services catered towards young artists and practitioners and their supporters. AYCO has been re-imagined to include a circus swag box membership perk, youth authored e-newsletter and blog, a new website that is youth friendly, increased showcase opportunities, and all of the national and regional events we’ve always produced. For more information about the distinction between AYCO and ACE programs visit our FAQ. To visit our AYCO website, click here.


Circus Education

Circus education has evolved over the centuries. Traditionally skills were passed down through family lineage or bestowed through an apprenticeship model. The past 100 years has seen the development of pedagogy and training techniques offered to students through circus schools, organizations, performing companies, and individual coaches and educators.  The present day circus student can be virtually anyone- from toddlers to elders and everyone in between.  From students with a recreational focus to those hoping to go pro, circus education is inclusive of a diversity of access points. Some of the many approaches included are: youth circus, circus as a tool for social change and therapy, health and well being for adults, professional career development, and artistic expression for all. It is our aim to support the diversity of circus educators through our professional development offerings, safety project, and community network.