Intro to Youth Circus
Youth Circus in the United States:
We define "Youth Circus" as people 21 years old and under practicing or performing circus arts. This includes young people who are learning circus skills at home, within another program or at school, all the way to professional young performers working in traditional circus settings. The American Youth Circus Organization provides an umbrella for all youth circus activity, and our members reflect the diversity of youth circus in the US. We also have members who are college age, young adult, and many circus educators who teach students of a variety of ages.
Here are some of the typical skills included in youth circus:
- Aerial techniques such as fabric, trapeze, aerial hoop and corde lisse
- Other manipulative skills such as plate spinning, diabolo, devil sticks, poi spinning
- Balancing skills such as rolling globe, roller boller, tightwire, unicycling and stilt walking
- German gym wheel, teeterboard, Russian pole and other specialist techniques
This is not an exhaustive list! Circus arts can be performed with almost any type of equipment. Many people invent their own tricks using whatever they can find.
Note also that circus is a worldwide tradition and there are many different names for the same thing.
Types of Program
Within our membership, organizations and performers define themselves in different ways. Some of these include:
- Circus school: a center that teaches circus skills; these schools often teach adults as well as youth
- Collegiate: programs for college students
- Community: programs designed to bring people together in community (may also be called social or recreational)
- In-School: programs that form part of a school curriculum
- Pre-professional: programs designed to help young people become professional performers
- Recreational: circus programs just for fun
- Social circus: circus programs that have a specific social agenda e.g. helping children stay in school
How Big Is Youth Circus in the US?
Our members and supporters account for about 8,000 youth practicing circus regularly and we estimate there are at least 2,000 more youth in circus that we haven’t yet connected with. A much larger number of youth engage in a circus workshop at least once a year.
Much of work with youth in circus is done voluntarily by youth workers, performers and ex-performers. The sector accounts for around $10M in revenue and most youth circuses have budgets of less than $100k per year.
Most of AYCO’s member circuses have been founded in the last 20 years. Even the two largest youth circuses by budget (Circus Smirkus and Circus Juventas) are less than 20 years old. The sector has the potential for major growth. AYCO expects to see 50,000 youth in circus by 2015.
Benefits of Youth Circus
- Promotes self-esteem
- Helps kids do better in school
- Helps kids stay fit
- Promotes a life long commitment to fitness and self-discipline
- Welcomes all types of individuals
- Encourages non-competitive and collaborative approaches
- Can provide a rewarding, exciting career opportunity