Social Circus

Social Circus

Purpose: To investigate how artistic and social skill-building in social circus projects with marginalized youth proposes new ways of working that promote social inclusion and cultural democracy. Beginning with a six month pilot study with Montreal’s Cirque Hors Piste, a social circus program with urban youth with marginalized life trajectories, the project is analyzing tensions and critical issues arising both in the embodied creative processes and the impact of social circus in shaping social trajectories and cultural modes of engagement. This includes navigating questions of liberation and control, marginality and inclusion, and how participation in embodied creative processes affects life trajectories and ways of seeing and engaging with the world.

Cirque Hors Piste is a program that developed out of Cirque du Soleil’s social circus program, Cirque du Monde. Cirque du Monde has been teaching circus arts in a range of at-risk communities across Quebec, and in over 80 communities across 25 countries. The pilot study with Cirque Hors Piste is intended to develop research methodologies that can then be deployed in the analysis of other social circus programs including Cirque du Monde sites in Quebec and around the world.

The research draws on critical and performance ethnography including techniques of performative inquiry; analysis of program materials and teaching methods; semi-structured interviews with trainers, instructors, participants and community leaders; and analysis of social and cultural implications of the social circus performance creation processes and presentations analyzed in light of changing aesthetics of circus and the ethics they embed. Working with the evaluation pod, it also develops a methodology for identifying quantitative indicators and collecting data that could be used by programs in conducting evaluation. It asks: are these projects embodying and promoting the values they set out to promote and what are the social and cultural impact of what is being set in motion though these interventions?

The project aims to contribute both to scholarship and practice; among its goals is thus to develop methodology that could be useful in assessing the social and cultural dimensions of social circus projects, as well as the social and cultural implications of the partnership and pedagogical models they deploy (working with the ASC! Partnership Pod and Teaching and Learning Pod respectively). Cirque de Monde and Concordia are the lead partners in this field study, along with several of our collaborators, including Concordia Professor Patrick Leroux and Industrial Chair Patrice Aubertin of the National Circus School in Montreal.

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