Research on Social Circus

This section compiles circus-related academic (circademic) research both published and underway. It is not an exhaustive database, but provides some key resources.

Self-Determination Through Circus Arts: Exploring Youth Development in a Novel Activity Context by Jennifer P. Agans, Jacqueline L. Davis, Spyridoula Vazou, and Tal Jarus. Published in the Journal of Youth Development in 2019. The study shows support for basic psychological needs and positive developmental outcomes among youth circus program participants.

Circus Arts Therapy® Fitness and Play Therapy Program Shows Positive Clinical Results 2018 – Carrie Heller, MSW, LCSW, RPT and Dr. Lauren Taglialatela

Research on Social and Emotional Learning in Youth Circus 2017, commissioned by the American Youth Circus Organization (AYCO) and conducted by the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality.

The Impact of Circus Arts Instruction on the Physical Literacy of Children in Grades 4 and 5 2013, Tia K. M. Kiez. A thesis submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies of The University of Manitoba in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science.

Occupational therapy and circus: Potential partners in enhancing the health and well-being of today’s youth by Jill Maglio discusses her research on occupational therapy and circus. She details her project in Australia, the positive results circus had on the youth in her study, and the potential for partnerships to reach more communities.

This page shows the work done by Jill Maglio on Holistic Circus Therapy. Read about benefits and how it works.

Ulla Hokkanen’s research on youth and social circus pedagogy, presented at AYCO in 2016: Circus + 

Paul Woodhead’s report on his 2003 Fellowship with the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust of Australia, where he visited and studied nine US, UK, and Dutch in-school circus programs’ management and teaching practices and efficacy in terms of student welfare, performance, and physical education.

The National Institute for Play unlocks the human potential through play in all stages of life using science to discover all that play has to teach us about transforming our world. See how playing through circus can make a difference.

Click here for an overview of Dr. Dean Kriellaars’ work with physical literacy.

Phenomenology of Youth Circus Training at Fern Street Circus 2005, Doyle W. Ott, A Dissertation Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Philosophy.

Negotiating Identity Through Risk: A Community Circus Model For Evoking Change and Empowering Youth 2003, Sharon McCutcheon, B.A. ANU. Dip Ed. La Trobe University. A thesis submitted for the fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Arts – Cultural Performance, Faculty of Arts, Charles Sturt University.

Community worker’s guide: when circus lessons become life lessons. This document published by Cirque du Monde offers community workers a specific tool adapted to the social circus particular intervention context.

This article by Kate Hammer was published in the Globe and Mail and details the research that Dean Kriellaars is doing on Physical Literacy. The article discusses the history of physical education, and how physical literacy can be used with children to help prevent injury.

Kristy Danialle Seymour’s paper titled “How circus training can enhance the well-being of autistic children and their families.

Students from Princeton University collaborated with Trenton Circus Squad to write “CBLI Report: The Benefits of Social Circus.

This article, titled “BLAKflip and Beyond: Aboriginal Performers and Contemporary Circus in Australia” investigates BLAKflip and Beyond, a program of workshops set up by the Australian circus company Circus Oz to mentor and support young Aboriginal performers by providing training and pathways into professional circus.

Exploring the Experiences of Adults Participating in Community Circus Classes: The Synergistic Relationship Between Circus and Occupational Therapy, written by Jessica Baumgold, explores the adult experience of a community circus class through an occupational therapy lens.

Social circus and health equity: Exploring the national social circus program in Ecuador

Cuerda Firme – a model for Social Circus programming. Cuerda Firme is a regional social circus model formed by three circus schools in South America. This document was translated into English for ACE by Ana Maria NL Toporek from the original Cuerda Firme publication Cuerda Firme Summary

Falling together: an examination of trust-building in youth and social circus training – Stephen J. Cadwell

Do degrees in circus provide the requisite graduate attributes to successfully transition to industry? 2018, Lauren Ryznar, dissertation, MSc Dance Science and Education, The University of Edinburgh

These resources are not available to the public, but may be obtained through university / library networks or by purchasing:

Social Circus: The Cultural Politics of Embodying “Social Transformation” Jennifer Beth Spiegel

Social Circus as an Organised Cultural Encounter Embodied Knowledge, Trust and Creativity at Play – Ilaria Bessone

Re-approaching community development through the arts: a ‘critical mixed methods’ study of social circus in Quebec – Ilaria Bessone and Stephanie Parent

Social circus program (Cirque du Soleil) promoting social participation of young people living with physical disabilities in transition to adulthood: a qualitative pilot study – Frédéric Loiselle, Annie Rochette, Sylvie Tétreault, Michel Lafortune & Josée Bastien

Here is a list with dozens of additional resources:

More Circademic Resources

Learning Community Resources (resources on anti-racism and anti-oppression, trauma informed, trauma and dissociation,  and systemic change and disproportionality)

Circus Research Reading List:

“The Impact of Circus Arts Instruction in Physical Education on the Physical Literacy of Children in Grades 4 and 5” (Kriellaars et al., 2019)

“ Circus and Curricular innovation in physical education teachers’ education (PETE) in Brazil” (Tucunduva & Bortoletto, 2022)

“ Gender Participation and Preference: A Multiple-Case Study on Teaching Circus at PE in Brazilians Schools” (Bortoletto, 2020)

“Everyone is welcome under the big top: a multiple case study on circus arts instruction in physical education” (Bortoletto et al.,2022)

“ Identifying the influence of leisure-based social circus on the health and well-being of young people in Australia” (Stevens et. al, 2019)”

‘It’s like exercise for your soul’: how participation in youth arts activities contributes to young people’s wellbeing” (Ennis & Tonkin, 2018)

“ Physical Literacy and Resilience in Children and Youth.” (Jefferies et. al, 2019) Circus Arts Therapy® Fitness and Play Therapy Program Shows Positive Clinical Results(Heller et. al, 2018)

Cirque du Monde as a health intervention: perceptions of medical students and social circus experts.(Fournier et. al, (2014)

Interrupting ‘the Other’ Childhood: On Social Circus in Asylum Accommodations (Löf, 2021)

The art of survival: Social circus, youth regeneration and projected community in the North East of Scotland (Jeffery et. al, 2016)


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