Social Circus



The Social Circus is a teaching-learning process of circus skills that aims to include people at risk and the social development of their community. In a pedagogical proposal such as this stimulating creativity and promoting social skills are achieved by the participants. These can improve and develop their skills related to cooperation, solidarity, effort, perseverance, communication, self-esteem and participation based on learning techniques such as trapeze, acrobatics, juggling, balances and a final show or exhibition.


1.    Initial Diagnosis

This is the initial phase of a project. To use the circus as a tool for the promotion of social integration, an analysis of the needs had to be made. The knowledge about the context of the collective that you are going to intervene is essential.

As a first step there should be an interview with someone who is close to the community you plan to work with, who knows the possibilities, the threats and the institutional, financial and social frames.
Having the results you are able to plan the social circus project that fits to the community. It will be designed beginning from the prior definition of participants considering the goals you want to achieve. It won’t be the same work carried out with young people aged between 12 to 16 and adults with physical and intellectual disabilities. Their definition should be made in a careful and realistic manner. We have to define the objectives, the team of teachers, the materials used, the appropriateness of the techniques, the need for sets, stage, light, sound, adequacy of space and timing.

In the attachment you can find more detailed information to realize this phase.


Initial diagnostic


The teaching-learning method:

According to the definition of aims and the framework of action we well be able to define the most appropriate and suitable method. This is what will be use to achieve the goals set by the circus skills. You can use different things like group work, cooperative activity, the circus circuit, individual learning, in pairs, free game, etc. The working method has to be the adequate one for participants, to their level and experience, while it should be feasible and challenging. They must keep consistency with the aims of the project.


1. first stage: “Discovering ourselves through the new circus”

The aim of the first step is to build up the relationship between the circus trainers and the group. We create a safe atmosphere using the tools of socio-cultural animation, that is crucial to be able to practice circus. It is good to bring participation based exercises as well, to develop the motivation of the participants and also their responsibility for the process. And if we are already in a circus process, we discuss what does this mean (history, rules, physical and physiological part. etc.)


how to start to teach juggling with 3 balls

2. second stage: “Knowing the new circus disciplines”

The stage is about the development of physical, artistic and social skills (persistence, solidarity, team work, etc.) of the participants, introducing circus tools. In this period they can try out themselves in many type of circus activity and learn the basics. The aim is to raise motivation in them to move freely in this diverse and colourful world of circus and discover their limits, interest and the style and the genre that fits most to the identity of one.

3. third stage: “I can, I want to”

The focus in on the motivation of the participants and on the empowerment of them, both on a personal and a group level. In this period they choose 1-2 disciplines and develop their skills in it. This focused work develop their persistence and commitment and provides the experience of learning and progression. They acquire skills they never thought they could and what people in their surroundings are not able to. Relying on their own potential, overcoming own boundaries, the belief in themselves develop in this phase in parallel with the technical development in the chosen discipline.

4. fourth stage: “Creating together a dream”

In this phase the participants make a step from the technical knowledge in direction to a common dream about a circus performance. The various disciplines come together and create one show. The energy and practice, the little tricks learnt now receive a frame and meaning, starting the creation of the participants from the save ground of the acquired techniques. Improvisation, rehearsals and team meeting happen in this phase together with a community of support and holding.

5. fifth stage: “Showing our circus”
The participants show the results of their learning process in the framework of a performance to the members of the community, so that their efforts turns to be visible for both the participants and their surroundings.

Success is guaranteed.

Text and methodology by Circolio Association published in SIM:Social Model Exchange project, check:

(photos: Warren Richardson)


useful links:
Circus games – game that help to introduce and practice different disciplines


Bolton, Reginald Why Circus works

Handicirque Circus with mentally and physically challenged students

John-Paul Zaccarini Circoanalysis

Fondation Cirque du Soleil COMMUNITY WORKER’S GUIDE

cirque du soleil: CODE OF ETHICS FOR social circus instructors

Juggling Magazine/Giocolieri e Dintorni Circo Verso

Sharon McCutcheon: NEGOTIATING IDENTITY THROUGH RISK:A community circus model for evoking change and empowering youth



  1. Teresa

    24 October 2015

    Hi Panni,
    just to let you know that your Learning Path has inspired a creative group of young people in Italy.
    Thank you!
    More news soon,

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