What is Circus Now? 

Circus Now helps circus thrive. We are a volunteer-powered, non-profit organization that encourages and promotes circus as an art and a practice in North America. We support adult circus artists, enthusiasts, and thinkers in their efforts to create, practice, and evolve circus.

We host events for people to meet, see work, and make circus together. We help circus companies survive and thrive, and connect with theaters and presenters from around the world. We coordinate advocacy campaigns so that people know that the circus is a diverse, dynamic form of performance and practice, and that if they haven’t experienced it already, they’re missing out.

What is Circus?

Circus is art. Circus is a vehicle for beauty, meaning, self-expression, and social commentary, unique from dance, theater, or any other form. Circus skills have their own histories, training methods, physical vocabularies, and capabilities. They convey their own power.

Circus is practice. Circus is a unique combination of creative physicality and performance, open to anyone of any age, background, or physical ability. Circus is a vehicle for personal growth, health, self-esteem, and communication. Circus works.

Circus is community. Because of its inherent playfulness, physicality, and non-competitiveness, circus brings people together in a unique and powerful way. Both circus art and circus practice are important possibilities for the creation of civil society. They provide distinct opportunities for people to meet and build relationships, across class, ethnic background, gender, or sexual orientation.

Why Circus Now?

Circus Now has emerged as the response to an explosion in circus art and practice in North America and around the world. Our organization and our passion are both a result and an agent of this unique and thrilling time in circus history.

Fifty years ago, the circus was on the verge of extinction. After a popular and critical apex near the turn of the 20th century, advancements in technology, especially radio and television, had left the art in ruins. Circus families, who still mostly ran the shows, were struggling to survive. Spectators deserted the form in droves, as the reputation declined precipitously.

Then in the sixties and seventies, the situation changed. The era’s popular spirit led theatermakers to reconsider popular forms, including puppetry, mime, commedia dell’arte, and the circus. In doing so, they questioned the codes that had defined the art for centuries. Did a circus need to include animals? Could a circus include theater and dance? Could it tell a story?

Another important shift emerged from the circus families themselves. Up to that point, most professional circus performers came from such families, their skills passed down from generation to generation, because of the itinerant lifestyle. But in 1974, two circus insiders opened their codes to the world in Paris, creating Western Europe’s first two professional training grounds. Dozens, then hundreds of schools quickly followed, including state subsidized circus conservatories, like National Circus School in Montreal, created in 1981.

Since then, across America and around the world, circus art and practice have experienced a historically unprecedented expansion. The circus has become an internationally vibrant art form and widespread form of physical practice, with tens and possibly hundreds of millions of people are touched by the circus in one way or another.

Our Vision

Circus Now is a community, a catalyst, and a cause.

Through a grassroots network of passionate individuals, we work to directly confront the underlying challenges confronting the field. We create and sustain projects that provide opportunities for circus artists and practitioners, while reinventing the public consciousness of circus among the general public.

Our vision is vast, but we strongly believe that we’ve only seen the beginning of the potential force and desire for circus art and practice in the United States. We believe that the circus is building in momentum every year, and that with a coordinated effort, we can accelerate that momentum even further.

Specifically, we strive to achieve the following in the next ten years:

    • Widespread public awareness of the diversity of circus today. A general perception that circus isn’t static or past, but rich in potential as an art, a practice, and a tool for social good.
    • Universal access to creative circus performance. Circus festivals and theaters that program circus that challenges the form and finds new ways to connect to diverse audiences. Urban space that are specifically zoned for tents, even buildings dedicated entirely to circus performance. (Such as already exist in other countries.)
    • Institutional support for professional circus artists. Circus residences and creation spaces. Funding opportunities for circus shows and tours, including circus category — like dance, theater, and the visual arts — on grants and funding application. A critical appreciation of circus of the circus among the press and the ability to talk about it clearly.
    • Opportunities for circus professionals to convene and learn. Seminars, workshops, and colloquiums, online and in person, where circus artists and professionals can discuss the issues facing the field and have access to information and resources to better their skills. Integration of such discussions in national performing arts events and conferences.
    • Universal access to circus training for adults. Access to the benefits of circus training, for all adult populations. An understanding and acceptance of the benefits of circus practice on physical and mental health, and of its ability to bring communities together.
    • Educational integration of circus training and research. Professional circus training programs, and circus studies as a respected and rigorous academic discipline within universities.

Please consider helping us in our efforts to help circus thrive in North America. Help us show the world how circus can bring people together to grow, share, and learn, and to relate physically, and as citizens. Help us alert the public to the diversity and beauty of circus art, and offer circus artists the professional education and opportunities they deserve.

We’d love to hear from you, write us: info@circusnow.org. We’re good about returning e-mails. We like circus people.