There are some schools where it's OK to clown around, classes are supposed
to make you dizzy and you really can learn to fly. It's all part of circus
Circus arts training programs are available all across North America. They can
be a workshop of one to two days or a three-year diploma program.
Full-time circus schools start with a broad education. Eventually, you
will choose an area to master. That could be clowning, acrobatics, flying
trapeze or contortionism, for example.
The National Circus School has a diploma of collegial studies in circus
arts. It's a three-year program.
Students are accepted on the basis of an audition. The guidelines
for the three-minute routine are strict and the competition is tough.
Courses involve hands-on training and classroom courses, but most teaching
takes place in a gymnasium. Students practice their circus arts under
the watchful eye of an experienced professional.
The San Francisco School of Circus Arts operates in much the same way.
"You'd spend the morning doing basic Chinese acrobatics, and then in the
afternoon you might take contortion, or Chinese pole, or teeterboard -- whatever
your particular discipline is," says program director Peggy Ford.
The San Francisco school has no specific diploma programs -- you pay by
Ford says her school is focused on professional training. "What you're
working toward is a career."
Living expenses are not included at full-time circus schools. But
all major equipment, such as trapezes and balancing poles, is paid for.
Textbook costs are minimal. But expect to buy some personal items (like
trapeze shoes), depending on your program.
Most other training programs in the circus arts fall under the informal
heading of circus camps. A camp might be a week-long course in clowning,
a month of learning how to juggle or a day's session on the flying trapeze.
Wondering what to take in high school to get you to the circus? Most schools
suggest a well-rounded curriculum, with a focus on physical activity outside
While the San Francisco School of Circus Arts accepts all applicants, Ford
says experience is important to succeed.
"Gymnastics would be great. Dance class, theater class, music class
-- all these things are really useful."
Occupational Outlook HandbookFor more information related to this field of study, see: Actors,
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