Remembering Why We Do What We Do

On Sunday I went to see a movie. That in itself is nothing unusual for me but on Sunday I went to see a documentary called Without A Net which was showing as part of the Raindance Film Festival.

I heard about the film via Leila Jones, Circus Producer at the Roundhouse, who had tweeted about it, so I had expected to see some circus folk at the screening. But when I got there, as far as I could tell, I was the only one.

Without A Net is a documentary about a social circus project in Rio de Janeiro. It is the feature debut of Kelly J. Richardson of Live Wired Productions and follows the training and lives of three young performers as they train for their first big show.

This isn’t a review of Without A Net (which is excellent); it’s more of a reflection.

I’ve worked on various social circus projects for years. I’ve been a Cirque du Monde trainer, worked with youth at risk or kids excluded from school. Obviously it’s very different here that it is in Rio but the idea and the intention is the same.

“Social circus aims to help these young people get their self-confidence back, make them realize their strengths and discover their hidden talents.” ~Cirque du Soleil

Sometimes we forget why we do what we do. We get bogged down in day to day tasks and forget that children or young people sometimes just need to be given the space to realise that they actually want to learn. It’s takes some effort and intention to keep present to the bigger picture, to the future that you are creating for them.

Walking out of the Apollo Theatre I was reminded why I teach; not just social circus but everyone – why I started Airborne Circus, why I teach adults, kids and team building workshops. Circus has a special ability to allow you to not just learn a skill but to reinvent yourself along the way; to go from shy to outgoing, self-concious to confident, to become creative, clear, focused and proud.

Without A Net captured that journey. Watching Djeferson, a huge guy who you would not expect to be able to lift himself, turn himself into a trapeze artist while taking care of his family, and hearing Bárbara talk about her journey to becoming his friend was moving. Regardless of whether they continue their journey with circus, their lives will be forever changed. They trained, they grew and they performed. They cannot go back to who they were and they cannot forget who they can be.

Circus can give you direction, purpose. Circus can make you overcome your fears. Circus can make you patient, committed and hard-working.

Circus can set you free.

If you’d like to try a circus class or workshop please visit Airborne Circus.

If you’d like to support a social circus I recommend Sapana and Circus Kathmandu.

Smash fear, learn anything

Over the last couple of years I’ve become a bit of a fan of Tim Ferriss. In this TED talk, he asks the question “what’s the worst that could happen?” and shows that that may be the only thing you need to ask to be able to learn anything.

Learning Circus – Part 2: Circus in the UK

This post was originally written for Circus Geeks but I thought it might also be useful for my readers here.


Many people these days want to learn circus, whether it’s just for fun or fitness, or professionally because they want to be a performer.

Regardless of why you want to learn circus, the circus arts are a fantastic set of skills to have and to learn. Training in circus skills is great for strength, flexibility, stamina, dexterity and coordination, and is also incredibly social. Circus skills are used to develop physical, mental and social skills in young children are used around the world as a tool for social change with disadvantaged youth.

Depending on your age, experience and your intention (do you want to be a professional performer or do you just want to do it for fun/fitness?) there are many skills you can learn and lots of places you can learn them. Continue reading