What is “Social Circus”?
Social circus uses circus arts as a medium for personal and social change. Through the approach of arts-based education, social circus fosters the development of self-esteem, trust, communication, cooperation, through artistic expression and physical activity. This is achieved through the range of circus skills to reach the diversity of participants (from pyramid building to clowning, theater, dance, juggling, or plate spinning…there is something for everyone and every skill set), as well as interactive social, trust and team building exercises. Participants are also invited in follow-up discussion and sharing in circle to reflect on their experience.
Since circus arts includes artistic expression, humour, as well as physical activity, social circus becomes a perfect tool to act as an entry point for participants to diversify their interests with some discovering their athleticism for the first time and others finding new outlets for creativity and self-expression. Social circus creates an opportunity for participants to find their niche and celebrate their diversity while being part of a united community working towards a larger goal. As such, social circus encourages autonomy as well as allows participants to experience a sense of belonging to a community.
"Social Circus" is a growing movement is active in many countries around the world, including (but not limited to) South Africa, Australia, Belgium, Burquina Faso, Canada, Cameroon, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, and the United States. Canada's own Cirque Du Monde, the social action department of Cirque Du Soleil, is at the forefront, which supports the practices of social circus programs in 15 different countries and over 86 communities, including SoCirc, here in Toronto, an official partner of Cirque du Monde.
SoCirC (Social Circus Circle) is a Toronto based charitable organization that uses the social circus modality to provide social development and support for young people on the margins, 14-29 years old. Trained social circus facililtators (and circus artists) facilitate the workshops in partnership with community workers, counselors and social workers. Workshops are participant based and tailored to the specific needs and interests of each individual and group as a whole. We incorporate the artistic and physical skill participants have, or desire to learn, into our exercises while encouraging new creative forms of expression and the discovery of unique skills. We use a progression based learning style to allow for moments of success, to build self-confidence, as well as develop risk management skills. We create a safe space for participants using the principle of voluntary participation and by integrating dialogue in circle, trust exercises, and social games.
SoCirC works in partnership with several community-based agencies and specialized alternative secondary schools that service youth with a variety of needs. Our community partners include SKETCH: a Toronto program bringing arts to street involved youth and Kensington Pedestrian Sundays where our group has an opportunity to perform (supported by the Toronto Arts Council). As well as the Art Gallery of Ontario's free programming for young people: Free After Three. In addition, through the support of the Ontario Arts Council, we bring programming to TDSB public alternative secondary schools, including The Triangle Program, Oasis Alternative: Arts and Social Change Program, Heydon Park, Contact Alternative, Quest Collegiate & Addictions Recovery Program, and the Aboriginal Education Centre Secondary School program. As such, we access and build relationships with a diverse range of participants in our programs, primarily young people dealing with mental health issues, street involved youth, LGTBQ youth, aboriginal youth, youth coping with addictions, newcomers, youth with intellectual disabilities, youth with complex needs or any young person who can really benefit from an inclusive and safe space.