Core Competencies

Recommended Core Competencies for Youth Circus Practitioners

November 18, 2011


            From September 17‐19, 2010, the biennial educator’s conference of the American Youth Circus Organization (AYCO) convened at the New England Center for Circus Arts in Brattleboro, Vermont. Under the facilitation of Jackie Davis, a two‐part meeting was held in which twenty‐five youth circus program directors, teachers, and practitioners identified, discussed, drafted, and subsequently recommended eight core competencies to the AYCO board of directors.

AYCO enthusiastically endorses these core competencies as tools to shape policy, practice, professional development, research, and evaluation in youth circus programs, and it acknowledges the autonomy and authority of each member organization to operationalize the core competencies according to the culture, customs, and practices of each organization. The recommended core competencies address: 1) stages of development; 2) activities, program, and curriculum; 3) professionalism; 4) cultural competence and diversity; 5) youth voice (involvement and empowerment); 6) caring relationships and behaviors; 7) physical and emotional safety; 8) community partnerships: families, schools, and civic organizations.

The rationale for identifying core competencies for youth circus practitioners is articulated in the paper Toward best practices in youth worker training for developmental circus arts programs, by Jacqueline Davis, EdM (2009).

AYCO thanks its members who contributed to drafting the core competencies for youth circus practitioners:

AYCO Member Program Location Affiliation

  1. Agans, Jen NH Silver Lining Circus Camp
  2. Alford, Jesse CA Great All American Youth Circus
  3. Boyles, Sam NY I Circus (Ithaca College Circus)
  4. Cripps, Jennifer AL Alabama Waldorf School
  5. Davis, Jackie NH Hilltop Circus, Pine Hill Waldorf School; Silver Lining Circus Camp; Flying Gravity Circus
  6. Davis, Rick VT Circus Smirkus
  7. Deull, Sara Washington DC Zip Zap Circus USA
  8. Euler, Laurie VT Independent educator
  9. Everett Ball NY Independent educator
  10. Gallagher, Treacy PA Philadelphia School of Circus Arts
  11. Gorigoitia, Christy PA Philadelphia School of Circus Arts; Aerial Mind
  12. Greenberg, Judy VT New England Center for Circus Arts
  13. Hentoff, Jessica MO Circus Harmony
  14. Hislop, Megan Washington DC Zip Zap Circus USA
  15. Leonard, Joan FL PAL Sailor Circus
  16. Maile O’Keefe, Erin NY/VT Circus Yoga
  17. Maile O’Keefe, Kevin NY/VT Circus Yoga; AYCO founder
  18. McIntee, Colleen MI Cirque du K (Kalamazoo College Circus); Starfish Circus; Aerial Angels
  19. Montgomery, Jo WA School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts
  20. Pellegrini, Carlo NY Amazing! Grace Circus
  21. Rappapport, Suzanne VT New England Center for Circus Arts
  22. Ricci, Laura CA AYCO journal editor
  23. Roenker, Steven KY My Nose Turns Red
  24. Wheeler, Dic CT Artfarm/Connecticut School of Circus Arts
  25. Wright, Caroline VT New England Center for Circus Arts



Recommended Core Competencies for Youth Circus Practitioners

November 18, 2011


A youth circus practitioner takes the stages of child and youth development into consideration when implementing circus arts programs to enable the acquisition of skills and performance experiences in age appropriate ways.


A youth circus practitioner designs and implements programs with the goal of meeting the needs of students of varying abilities with a wide variety of activities taught through incremental skill progressions that promote life skills and enhance physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development.

Core Competency #3: PROFESSIONALISM

A youth circus practitioner: defines and communicates behavior expectations of youth, trainers, and board members during and outside of program hours; participates in professional development for self-care and life-long learning; demonstrates respectful representation for self and organization within “local-to-global” communities; and respects interpersonal boundaries.


Because circus historically has been created by and appealed to people across a wide spectrum of backgrounds and abilities, a youth circus practitioner will understand and support this cultural and human diversity.

Core Competency #5: YOUTH VOICE: Involvement & Empowerment

A youth circus practitioner: creates an environment in which age-appropriate decision-makingopportunities are recognized and facilitated for, by, and with youth; is willing to listen to, and incorporate, contributions from youth; creates opportunities for self-advocacy; and respects the ability of young people to express their views in shaping decisions that impact themselves, their organizations, and their communities.


A youth circus practitioner nurtures caring relationships and behaviors with self, other, and community through healthy modeling and kinesthetic practices that embody trust, communication, respect, empathy, co-authorship, and accountability.


A youth circus practitioner possesses sufficient knowledge of, and can apply techniques for, ensuring the physical and emotional health and safety of youth and staff.

Core Competency #8: COMMUNITY PARTNERSHIPS: Families, Schools, & Civic Organizations

A youth circus practitioner creates family, school, and community collaborations for funding, volunteerism, and service engagement.

Please cite this document as follows:

American Youth Circus Organization. (2011). Recommended core competencies for youth circus practitioners. Retrieved [insert date, year], from

To view the core competencies as a PDF, click here to download.