The Circus Diaries Goes TransAtlantic

One of the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey elephants takes her final entrance before the herd was retired completely to their Center for Elephant Conservation earlier this month. IMAGE: Andrew Kelly/Reuters

In celebration of The Circus Diaries’ three year anniversary this week, we have crossed the pond to explore what circus culture means in North America. The one-off trip has been supported with public funds from Arts Council England and the British Council, following a successful application to their Artists’ International Development Fund (which, a little bird told us, is actively seeking more applications from within the circus arts!).

As well reviewing shows, the trip involves meeting people who work across the spectrum of circus: contemporary, classical, commercial, community – and whatever else comes into our field of vision.

A running log of activity will be published here, as well as links to reviews and articles as they go live. We’re also ramping up our social media activity, so you can now follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Periscope and Vine.

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Day 1 – NEW YORK: Meeting with Adam Woolley of Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, who also co-founded American circus advocacy organisation Circus Now. Visit to Press Night of new Cirque du Soleil Broadway musical Paramour in the company of Andrea Honis, the creative force behind CircusTalk, a project in development to build an online social marketplace for circus professionals.

Paramour review

Day 2: Meeting with Keith Nelson of Bindlestiff Family Circus, followed by a visit to Big Apple Circus‘ show The Grand Tour, and conversation with professionals from the fields of clowning, animal training, rigging and percussion.

Big Apple Circus review

Day 3: Meeting with Duncan Wall, author of The Ordinary Acrobat, co-founder of Circus Now, and part of the creative team behind the multi-platform Me, Mother project about motherhood and circus. Visit to NoFit State Circus in their North American debut run of Bianco, hosting a post-show talk with the creators of the show to an audience of people with circus and non-circus backgrounds.

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Post-Show discussion in the NoFit State tent

Day 4: Visit to Newark, New Jersey to see UniverSoul Circus.

UniverSoul Circus review

Day 5: Meeting with Kat Vecchio to chat about her research for a documentary on the lives of women in early 20th Century circus. Visit to Coney Island to meet sideshow artists and speak to Dick Zigun, the man behind Coney Island USA. Visit to the daytime Sideshow performances, and the last date of the all-female Demented Dolls of Sideshow US tour.

Coney Island article written for This Is Cabaret

Day 6: A planned visit to see the Alexander Calder circus art at Whitney Museum of American Art fell through because their collection is not currently on display. Meeting with Roy Gomez-Cruz, who is researching a PhD on circus as a global and local phenomenon.

Day 7 – MONTREAL: Meeting with Professor Louis Patrick Leroux, who heads the research hub Montréal Working Group on Cirque/Circus, teaches at Concordia University and L’Ecole Nationale De Cirque, conducts his own practical research into circus dramaturgy, and edited the new book on recent circus development, Cirque Global.

Model circus displayed as part of La TOHUs exhibition of circus art and memorabilia


Day 8: Visit to purpose built circus arts centre la TOHU in the Cité des Arts du Cirque, seeing the first of the end of year graduate shows from L’École Nationale De Cirque.

Day 9: Meeting with Nicolas Boivin-Gravel, Head Coach at Cirque Éloize. Meeting with Gypsy Snider, one of the founding members of 7 Doigts de la Main. Visit to la TOHU to see the second of the end of year graduate shows from L’École Nationale De Cirque.

Graduate showcaseDemain’/’Colibri’ review

Day 10: Visit to L’École Nationale de Cirque, including meetings with Head of Creation, Howard Richard, and Librarian, Anna-Karyna Barlati. A planned visit to see Luzia by Cirque du Soleil was cancelled due to technical issues with the show, leaving time to check out Cirque Éloize’s appearance in the digital street arts project Cité Mémoires.

Day 11: Visit to Cirque du Soleil international headquarters, and meeting with Anik Couture, Head of Community Relations. A returning  to the ENC library, and meeting with members of the research team for social innovation in circus, one of the projects under the school’s Centre for Circus Arts Research, Innovation and Knowledge Transfer. Visit to the Cirque du Soleil tented show Luzia.

Luzia’ review

Day 12 – TORONTO: Meeting with Holly Treddenick of Femmes de Feu, a circus creation and community development company.

Day 13: Meeting with pioneering circus semiotician and author Paul Bouissac, Professor Emeritus at Toronto University.  CHICAGO: Meeting with Dana Dugan, aerial performer and coach. Visit to Aloft Circus Arts training centre to watch graduation show from students of the 9mth full-time training programme.

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Circus semiotician Paul Bouissac


Day 14: Meeting with Shayna Swanson, founder of Aloft Circus Arts, and visit to the new premises the centre is moving to later this year. Meeting with Kim Campbell, who edits the American Circus Educators magazine and is a freelance circus writer.

Day 15 – BARABOO: Visit to Circus World Museum, and meeting with Peter Shrake, archivist at the Robert L Parkinson Library and Research Centre.

Entrance to Circus World Museum in Baraboo



Day 17 – Visit to Oakland to meet Abigail Munn of Circus Bella at Trapeze Arts, and watch rehearsal for their forthcoming show. Visit to Kinetic Arts and Athletic Playground training centres.

Day 18 – Visit to AcroSports and Circus Center training centres. Return visit to Oakland for a circus cabaret at life/work space Prop Box at The Vulcan

Jeremiah Johnston compering fundraising cabaret at Prop Box


Day 19 – LAS VEGAS Check in at Circus Circus hotel

Day 20 – Visit to Trapeze Las Vegas outdoor flying centre and indoor training studio, attached to Braun Productions rigging/prop design and fabrication workshop. Visit to Le Rêve – The Dream.

Day 21 – Visit to Cirque du Soleil’s first permanent home at Treasure Island hotel, where their longest-running production Mystère is still showing. Visit to more recent show The Beatles: LOVE.

Day 22 – Visit to Cirque du Soleil shows  and Zumanity.

Day 23 – Visit to the Adventuredome clown show at Circus Circus, and conversation with resident clown Dave Dedera. Visit to O, by Cirque Du Soleil, and Absinthe, by Spiegelworld.

Day 24 – Watching the acts that play in the Circus Circus hotel throughout the day. Visit to Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey show Circus Xtreme.

Circus Xtreme review

Day 25 – Recorded podcast with Josh Aviner and Lyndsay Magid of Hideaway Circus. Visit to Fremont Street Experience.


Article published in The Stage detailing some of the practicalities for UK artists wanting to work North America.


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