ACE Discussion Series

The American Circus Educators Association is excited to present a bimonthly online discussion series for continuing education and professional development for circus educators. Each session is based on a particular topic and facilitated by a community expert in that topic!

Attendance is FREE to current ACE/AYCO members.
Non-members pay a small sliding-scale fee, $5-20.
Space per session is limited.

Sessions are one hour long, and happen every other month. The facilitator introduction and group discussion from the sessions are recorded, and made available to registered attendees and all ACE members through the ACE member portal.

Tuesday June 18, 2024: Instruct Not Destruct: Teaching Up Without Breaking Down

Do you find yourself wondering how to be a highly effective teacher that can demo and spot, without compromising your body in the process? This 60-minute discussion will dive deep on different coaching strategies that will not only keep your body from being sacrificed to your students’ gains, but give you a tool box full of new teaching skills to better reach more types of students. Together we’ll collaboratively examine and practice ways to preserve their teaching body. 

Facilitator: Erinina Marie Ness of Cirque Instructability

Cirque Instructabiity is a collaboration between veteran pole and aerial coaches Ashley Robinson and Erinina Marie Ness. It is a new continuing education series, designed specifically for instructors that are looking to enhance their teaching practices. Together they have 24 years of coaching in the industry, combined with CSCS, EMT, RYT, CPT, HMS and CES and over 20 specialty certifications.

Past Discussions:

Tuesday April 16, 2024: Contracts For Circus Businesses & Pros

 In this ACE Discussion we’ll be exploring different types of contracts, contractual red flags and things you should make sure are in a contract as a business owner and/or contractor.

Facilitator: Max Hass

Max has taught copyright basics workshops to musicians, visual artists, and filmmakers for nearly 10 years, and has assisted a number of business owners with trademark registration, preparation and negotiation of contracts, and providing advice and counsel on copyright and other entertainment industry matters. He’s now a founding partner of Holon Law Partners, LLP, a cloud-based firm that serves businesses and individuals in the entertainment industry and other industries across the country.

Tuesday February 27th, 2024: Culture, Optics, and Colorism

1pm Eastern Time

Within the conversations around justice and equity it is imperative that we also recognize our material realities through the lens of culture, optics, and colorism.  What are the definitions of these and how do they impact our lives, progress, and society?  Through examining each of these from an intersectional stance we gain a deeper understanding of our diverse communities and our own roles within them— in this way we can begin to navigate deeper discussions within our own lives around the topics of social justice.

Facilitator: Theresa Edge + BCA (BIPOC Circus Alliance)

Theresa Edge, born in Fayetteville, NC, started her circus journey at the age of 26.  In lieu of a traditional movement background, her passion was in theatre and creative writing.  Her passion for using the circus arts as a medium for storytelling and change led her to contemporary circus company “the Nouveau Sud project” and she has since performed in multiple main stage shows, various gigs, coaching, and facilitating seminars on the intersection of equity and circus.  Theresa is first a mother of 2 and also the Asst. Artistic Director of Nouveau Sud- in hopes of creating more equity around circus arts.

About BCA: For the past two years, BCA has been facilitating working sessions with circus organizations around the nation on the topic of creating supportive, inclusive environments for BIPOC participation in Circus. During this discussion, BCA will be sharing some key learnings from these working sessions and creating small discussion groups to apply and extend these learnings for participants. BCA is a collective of circus practitioners and performing artists dedicated to creating more supportive, inclusive, and representative circus communities.

Tuesday November 14th, 2023: Mental Health in Youth Circus Programs

1pm Eastern Time

Carrie Heller, MSW, LCSW, RPT, will present a framework for Mental Health in Youth Circus
Programs. This presentation will include defining triggers; Trauma-Informed Core Principles,
including the factors that contribute to building resiliency; identifying and addressing symptoms
of concerns with youth followed by examples of great things to say when youth share hard
things with you. We will explore tips and tools to promote Youth Mental Health including de-
escalation tips, suggestions for coalescing a group into a team like community agreements, as
well as general psychological first aid for youth programming. The presentation is followed by opportunities for attendees to interact.

Facilitator: Carrie Heller

Carrie Heller, M.S.W., is the Founder and Director of the Circus Arts Institute in Atlanta, Georgia.  Carrie fell in love with circus arts as a child in 1972 while learning from the FSU Flying High Circus performers and has been happily flying through the air ever since.  She has been involved with the American Youth Circus Organization since its inception and is the author of the industry’s first The Aerial Circus Training and Safety Manual.   Melding together her background as a social worker, play therapist, and circus artist, Carrie served as a Trainer of Trainers for Cirque Du Monde, a Cirque Du Soleil Outreach Program that uses circus arts to help youth around the world.  She is passionate about passing on her experience in both adaptive and typically developing circus arts through her trainings.  In conjunction with Dr. Lauren Taglialatela Carrie is the co-author of the April 2018 published article entitled: Circus Arts Therapy® fitness and play therapy program shows positive clinical results which appears in the International Journal of Play Therapy (published by the American Psychological Association). Carrie is both excited and honored to be serving on the AYCO Board of Directors.

Tuesday October 17th 10am PST / 11am MST / 12pm CST / 1pm EST

Consent in A Circus Education Context

Strong consent culture allows students to feel in control of their bodies and to feel safe in their training spaces. This workshop is aimed at teachers of both adult and youth circus students who wish to foster strong consent culture in their classes and studios. Through a combination of lecture and discussion, we’ll come to a more full understanding of what consent looks like in an educational setting, and explore techniques for: discussing the concept of consent with your students; incorporating consent check-ins into your coaching; and incorporating consent check-ins into student interactions like spotting and partner work – all without making it awkward!

Facilitator: Ellen Waylonis

Ellen has been teaching movement to students of all ages since 2007. She is a co-owner at Esh Circus Arts in Somerville, MA, and a co-founder of Commonwealth Circus Center in Boston, MA. Ellen is a founding member and frequent performer with the Boston Circus Guild, and has toured nationally with Cirque Productions, Nimble Arts, and her own company, Off the Ground Circus. In 2021 she received a LAB Grant from the Boston Foundation with her contemporary circus troupe, Circus 617, which she co-founded in 2020. In addition to her work as a circus performer and educator, Ellen recently began training as an Intimacy Director with IDC.

As a circus educator, Ellen is passionate about building a culture of inclusion and consent. Her teaching draws from her diverse background in weight lifting, dance, acrobatics, physical theater, and functional anatomy. She believes circus can be revolutionary, and that it is most definitely for everyone. 

Saturday July 15th, 2023: Circus in Physical Education —research, implementations, barriers and discussion

1pm Eastern Time

Are you interested in seeing more circus in school PE? In this discussion Adam Woolley will do a brief overview of current research, present a framework for thinking about circus pedagogy and content, and then facilitate a discussion on barriers to circus in school in the USA and how those barriers might be addressed. Especially relevant for science nerds, folks interested in school outreach or after school programming, or anyone interested in how the circus arts might find a home in public/private education.

Facilitator: Adam Woolley

Adam Woolley is a former ACE board member, and since COVID he’s been pursuing a Masters of Science doing research on the effects of circus arts education in public school.

Tuesday May 9th, 2023: Racial Equity in Circus Education

1pm Eastern Time

The BIPOC Circus Alliance Midwest (BCAM) will be facilitating a discussion on racial equity in circus education on May 9th 2023 as part of ACE’s bi-monthly discussion series. For the past two years, BCAM has been facilitating working sessions with circus organizations around the nation on the topic of creating supportive, inclusive environments for BIPOC participation in Circus. During this discussion, BCAM will be sharing some key learnings from these working sessions and creating small discussion groups to apply and extend these learnings for participants. BCAM is a collective of circus practitioners and performing artists dedicated to creating more supportive, inclusive, and representative circus communities.

Facilitator: Chris Rooney

Chris Rooney has been involved in circus arts since his first flying trapeze swing in 2009. He has worked as an instructor with the Trapeze School New York at their Chicago location since 2011, and began experimenting with aerial straps in 2013. He was part of the group that formed the BIPOC Circus Alliance Midwest (BCAM) in 2020, focused on working with circus organizations to create more supportive, inclusive, and representative circus communities. 

Tuesday March 14th, 2023: Circus for Everybody

1pm Eastern Time

everyBODY is is dedicated to educating and training both instructors and studios on body inclusive teaching and effective coaching of diverse body types. While the focus is on Plus Size Aerialists, this training can also be applied to bodies that are: masters (40+), youth, disabled and injured/recovering from injury. This discussion will cover what people get wrong about training different body types and share what really matters, look at creative teaching and spotting methods that keep students and instructors safe, and provide actionable steps for real training success and regular deposits to that trick bank.

Facilitator: Ashley Robinson

Ashley Robinson is the owner and head coach of FlexyFit + Aerial Ashletes, out of Dallas, Texas. This dynamically melanated aerialist and coach helps people achieve their aerial ambitions with a focus on safety, skill mastery and better movement mechanics. She specializes in body inclusive teaching and coaching  for everyBODY, including plus-size aerialists, masters, youth, disabled and injured bodies. She is the current Athlete Chair for the United States Pole Sports Federation (USPSF), a judge for USPSF, PSO and Aerialympics and the creator of DFW’s first community Pole Show: Slay the Stage. Promoting body inclusion, better teaching practices, self-advocacy are passions of hers.

Tuesday January 10th, 2023: Accessible Juggling For Everyone!

This session includes a presentation by functional juggling developer, Craig Quat, and is meant as an introduction to the basic elements and intentions of how and why juggling can be made more accessible for everyone. 
Additional information about community developments and cultural growth of inclusive practice from different parts of the world will also be shared and a portion of the meeting will include interactive sample lesson plan materials.

Facilitator: Craig Quat

Craig Quat is the 2014 ACE recipient of the award for innovation in circus arts education. He investigates the properties of juggling and searches for ways to make it more accessible to more people. In attempting to do so he created a discipline known as Functional Juggling, which formulates an equation of the sensory experience of juggling based on the relationships it allows us to form with space and time. Craig’s ideas make up the foundational philosophies of Functional Juggling and have inspired a new generation of educators to dream bigger and imagine more, than ever before. 

Thursday November 10th, 2022: Opening and Closing Routines for Inclusive Circus Practice

As a group, we will explore the meaning of inclusion and its importance. This session will also explore current opening and closing routines and accommodations to make them inclusive for circus practice.

Facilitator: Cornell Freeney

Cornell Freeney is the Founder and Director of the Unity Circus Project. At the age of 12, Cornell was in search of a positive outlet and was pointed in the direction of a social circus by the name of CircEsteem. From 2002 – 2008, he grew up in the organization. After graduating from Illinois State University with a degree in Elementary Education and touring as a professional acrobat, Cornell acted as the Head Coach and Program Coordinator for CircEsteem. 

Tuesday September 13th, 2022: Substance Use, Misuse, and Abuse

This session will provide the participants with a 7 element “Taking it” informed decision approach (see below) to taking any substance whether it be food or drink,  functional food, nutriceutical, herbal product, over the counter medication, or illicit drug. This background for the use of this informed decision making model will be highlighted briefly. Specific examples using commonly used substances will be discussed in detail including marijuana (THC and CBD), caffeine, protein and related supplements, etc. The latest research and information will be provided on a variety of common substances. Participants will increase their awareness of issues related to substance use, increase their knowledge of specific substances, and have a framework from which they can approach any substance.  

“Taking It” 7-Element Approach

Dean Krriellaars is the Director of the Applied Health Sciences program at the University of Manitoba, and a faculty member in physical therapy in the College of Rehabilitation Sciences. He is also the Scientific Director at the Circus Research Institute at the National Circus School in  Montreal. He has worked with the Sports Medicine Council of Manitoba to create a comprehensive program for making informed decisions about substance use and employed this program in many settings, in schools, in numerous sports and in the circus industry. His research is directed to enhancing human potential through movement using a physical literacy lens. 

Tuesday July 12th, 2022: Shoulder Health

If you’ve ever experienced training setbacks due to shoulder injuries or immobility then this workshop is for you. We’ll briefly discuss the anatomy of the shoulder and move to the hands-on portion where we’ll practice evidence-based myofascial release, mobility, stability, and strengthening exercises. 

It’s important you leave with the confidence and competence to immediately begin integrating this methodology and these techniques. This is why we’ll spend the remaining time discussing how you can transfer these new skills to your own training and self-care programs, as well as those of your students. 

The systems approach we will take stems from our research-based, internationally-known RAD Mobility Continuum, which is also present in our Healthy Shoulders programming available online.

Equipment needed: (use discount code RADCIRCUS15% for 15% off one order)

Facilitator: Mike Mallory from RAD

Mike Mallory is a former competitive skier, mountain biker, and corrective exercise specialist working with everyone from professional athletes to people with everyday back pain.  These days you can find him in Denver, CO where he founded RAD; a myofascial release product and education company with one goal in mind, unleashing human movement.  

Tuesday May 10th, 2022: Supporting Students with Anxiety and Panic

This discussion will start with an expanded excerpt from the longer training “Unafraid – Mental Health Tools for Circus Communities”. We will discuss elements of anxiety and panic as adaptive traits, and what happens when they become overwhelming or disordered in circus students. Participants will leave with concrete tools for supporting their students who experience anxiety and panic, as well as tools they can use to soothe and ground themselves as needed. 

Janelle Peters (she/they) is a queer contortionist, aerialist and circus coach, as well as a therapist. Janelle is known online as @cirque_psych, where she creates content, and promotes conversations about mental health, wellbeing, and systemic change in circus. They also have a small private counseling practice in Colorado, where they live. 

All instructors, studio owners, and circus community leaders have a duty to prevent and respond to abuse. This session will summarize federal and state laws related to reporting, prevention, and response to abuse, and raise best practices to consider. Q&A and discussion opportunities will allow all attendees to get community and expert input on the most critical aspects of our jobs and identify the growth opportunities in your abuse prevention and risk management practices.

Facilitator: CB Baga
CB Baga is an aerial instructor in Minneapolis, Minnesota, figure skater with American Ice Theatre, and sports law attorney at the law firm Faegre Drinker. CB’s legal work for clients focuses on dispute resolution and risk management. CB counsels clients in dispute resolution, commercial litigation, insurance, and sports and recreation. CB serves on the Title IX and NextGen Committees with the Sports Lawyers Association.

Tuesday November 9th 2021 – Discussing Stiltwalking

A historical and cultural approach to teaching stiltwalking will be the foundation for this discussion.

Facilitator: Oriana Lee
Oriana Lee is Co-Executive Director of Education, Outreach, and Employee Relations at Wise Fool New Mexico. Over the past five years, Oriana has also inspired as a coach, continued to learn as a student, dazzled as a performer, wowed as a theatrical director, and has served as an active member of the Wise Fool social circus community. Stiltwalking and Juggling are Oriana’s primary circus-based disciplines. Oriana is also an interdisciplinary artist and a Well-Being Coach, collaborating with both individuals and organizations on creating “well” work/live environments.

Tuesday September 14th 2021 – Discussing Plus Size Aerial Student Inclusion

As more and more students flock to aerial arts, so do their different body types! Plus size students often find joining aerial classes intimidating as they have run up against so many barriers and instances of discrimination. This discussion will focus on how to help plus size students feel more comfortable in classes as well as adaptations for larger bodies and the importance of creativity and joy in every student’s movement journey.

Facilitator: Ginger Snaps, The Tastiest Tease in Texas, is an award-winning burlesque performer, aerialist, and producer from Austin, TX. Voted Austin’s “Best Burlesque Performer” by the 2016 – 2021 Austin Chronicle Reader’s Poll, she is renowned for her unique approach to burlesque and aerial performance infusions. Ginger has been seen on stages and screens across the globe including on America’s Got Talent, Das Supertalent in Germany, performing at the illustrious Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender in Las Vegas, and numerous viral social media videos and articles. 

 She is the Performance Manager for Sky Candy aerial arts, the founder of Legislate THIS – a series of burlesque fundraiser shows for Planned Parenthood, as well as the founder and lead producer of the Buxom Blaze Festival – the world’s first plus size burlesque, drag, and variety fest. Ginger is very passionate about spreading the gospel of plus size inclusion in circus arts and dance. As such she teaches a series of professional development workshops to studios across the nation about teaching plus size aerial students. Follow her shenanigans on various platforms at @gingersnapsburlesque!

Tuesday July 13th 2021 – Discussing Eating Disorders

This discussion will focus on breaking the stigma of disordered eating and how to best support our students. We will discuss body image, nutrition in circus education, resources, and other related topics. 

Facilitator: Annie Rosenberg
Annie Rosenberg is a circus coach, theater director, mental health counselor, and a mom of 3. She has been doing circus aerials since she was 4 years old. 

Tuesday May 11th 2021 – Discussing Mental Health

This discussion about mental health in circus education is to examine as educators and students how the very pedagogy of circus training itself has led to teaching styles and classroom/studio designs that can cause harm to many people, including those living with mental differences and those who have experienced trauma and oppression. We may address body image, hierarchy, elitism, punitive exercises and class rules, ableist language, etc. among other topics.

Facilitator: Vanessa Furlong
Vanessa Furlong (she/her) is a professional circus and physical theatre artist specializing in acrobatic stilts, trapeze, and clown. She identifies as a Mad artist (of the Mad Pride movement), and is based in Kjipuktuk/Halifax. A graduate of Bishop’s University (Theatre and Music), Vanessa has toured with multiple performance groups nationally and internationally upon graduating and for the past 2 decades. Vanessa co founded the award winning circus duo LEGacy Circus in 2016 alongside professional circus artist Erin Ball. Together they explore new ways to share their passion for representation and access focused performances using Circus Arts as their medium.

Assistant Facilitator: Anne Boock Miller
Anne Boock Miller, Ph.D., is a clinical neuropsychologist and the founder/artistic director of Suspend, a circus arts studio in Louisville, KY. She has particular interests in neurodevelopmentally appropriate and adaptive circus education, and the use of circus and aerial dance as a tool for therapeutic and cultural change. Anne is also an AYCO/ACE Board Member.

Tuesday March 9th 2021 – Discussing Disability

Facilitator: Erin Ball
Erin Ball identifies as a Mad (from the Mad Pride movement) and Disabled white circus artist living on the traditional territory of the Mississaugas of the Ojibwe; Katarokwi, also known as Kingston, Ontario. She runs Kingston Circus Arts and is the co-founder of LEGacy Circus (a performance company co-created with Mad artist, Vanessa Furlong). Erin took a year off in March 2014 due to life changing events that resulted in having both lower legs amputated. She has since returned to her passion of training, coaching and performing with a focus of including as many people in her audiences, as collaborators and performers in shows, as well as students in her classes. She has traveled world-wide to perform and teach. She strives for representation, access and inclusion in the arts.