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Circus comes to the University: Circus++ project creates a curriculum for teacher training in youth and social circus arts

Published on 30.5.2022
Tampere University
Pieniä iloisia lapsia jumppamatolla heittelemässä ilmaan värikkäitä huiveja.
Youth and social circuses use circus arts as a tool to give young people and special needs groups experiences of success and empowerment.
Which skills are required of a circus instructor and how could they be taught at a university? These questions were addressed by the Circus++ project, which has resulted in the first European bachelor’s degree programme in teacher training in youth and social circus arts.

The Youth and Social Circus Arts - an innovative and inclusive education for Europe, Circus++ project – which began in 2019 – is an Erasmus+ project coordinated by Tampere University. The project was born out of a need for formally qualified professionals who not only have circus skills but also deep pedagogical competence.

On 15–16 June, Tampere University, the Faculty of Education and Culture, and Sorin Sirkus organise the Circus Pedagogy – The Future of Creative Education Conference, which will present the new curriculum and latest developments in circus pedagogy.

Curriculum was built on the needs and traditions of circus

Tiina Kujala, University Lecturer and Head of the Unit of Education at Tampere University, says the current project is a continuation of earlier research on the educational needs of circus.

“Circus arts have an informal culture of training, which often means master-apprentice type learning. Our study found that there is a need and a desire for more formal qualifications and further learning in the field,” Kujala says.

According to University Instructor of Physical Education Joonas Kalari, a wide range of teachers are working in circus arts, and they are often also artists. The teaching methods and practices vary a lot. The new curriculum aims to respond to the fact that teaching should not only be based on model learning or trial and error but be supported by theory.

The curriculum was built with a strong respect for circus traditions and the nature of the performing arts. Creativity is both a tool and an end.

“We want to offer young people new career paths, but the degree education is also based on the recognition of prior learning and provides possibilities for a personalised learning path. There is already much competence in this field, which will be complemented by formal qualifications,” Kujala mentions.

What does the first teacher training in circus pedagogy consist of?

There are many tasks in the circus field and skills are needed not only in teaching, but also in eg administrative tasks, such as circus school administration.

“The curriculum focuses on circus techniques, didactics and creativity, and youth and social circus. In addition to these main strands, the curriculum includes studies in project management, communication, and research skills,” Kalari says.

“The idea is that students can complete their training internationally by collecting modules from different universities. Increasing international mobility has been an important objective from the start,” Kujala adds.

A bachelor’s degree in circus pedagogy also opens the way for students to pursue further education up to the doctoral level. Kalari and Kujala also expect the training to boost circus research. They hope that circus will find a stronger place among the performing arts alongside theatre, music, and dance.

Welcome to the conference to hear more!

In June, the conference at Tampere University and Sorin Sirkus will focus on the theory and practice of circus pedagogy. On the first day, the new curriculum is presented, and circus professionals and experts talk. On the second day, workshops will give a taste of the new training.

On the first day of the conference, remote participation is also possible via Zoom. The event is free of charge and open to all art, education and social circus professionals and students who are interested in youth and social circus pedagogy.

Further information:

Conference programme and registration
University Instructor Joonas Kalari, tel. +358 (0) 50 437 7551, joonas.kalari [at] (joonas[dot]kalari[at]tuni[dot]fi)
University Lecturer, Head of the Unit of Education Tiina Kujala, +358 (0) 40 190 4174, tiina.kujala [at] (tiina[dot]kujala[at]tuni[dot]fi)

The project participants include five teams consisting of a national university and a youth and social circus school. In addition to Tampere University, the partners include: Sorin Sirkus (FI), Stockholm University of the Arts (SE), Circus Cirkör (SE), Galway Community Circus (IE), National University of Ireland Galway (IE), Le Plus Petit Cirque de Monde (FR), Cirqueon Centre for Contemporary Circus (CZ) and the Caravan Circus Network of youth and social circuses (BE).

Text: Nina Jylhä
Photograph: Katérina Flora