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17 Circuses That Are Changing The World

Circus arts is being used as a tool to boost outcomes for at risk youth. Get to know these amazing and diverse organizations that are a part of the American Youth Circus Organization's Social Circus Network.

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2. Circus Harmony

Sébastien St-jean / Sébastien St-Jean / Agence QMI / Via

Circus Harmony in St Louis, MO

Melvin Diggs, graduate of Circus Harmony, says: “Circus didn’t change my life. It saved my life.” Diggs grew up expecting to join a gang, deal in drugs and face a life of violence. Instead, he found somewhere to belong, to be challenged, and to excel. Today, he tours the world performing circus arts.

4. International School of Louisiana Circus Arts Program

Meret Ryhiner

The Circus arts program at the International School of Louisiana fosters the School’s mission of celebrating diversity and community responsibility and provides an exciting way for students to experience international awareness. 56% of ISL’s students are on free and reduced lunch programs. As a comprehensive movement program it follows the National Arts Standards for Dance and features Circus arts skills

5. Fern Street Circus

Fern Street Circus / Via

Fern Street Circus in San Diego, CA serves families and transforms neighborhoods through performance and teaching of circus arts. Professional artists collaborate with learners and their families in neighborhood settings. Circus transcends barriers between people of varying cultures and languages, combines physical and theatrical skills, and merges the magnificent and the everyday

6. Trenton Circus Squad

Jenna Lowery

Trenton Circus Squad in Trenton, NJ builds "squads" out of diverse groups of teens who perform and teach circus skills to other young people in the community free of charge.

7. Bindlestiff Family Cirkus

The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus After School Program in Hudson, NY uses the arts of the big top and the vaudeville stage as a medium through which youth in a small town of 7000 people can explore creative expression.

8. Circus Smirkus

Circus Smirkus / Via

Circus Smirkus Ringmaster Residencies in Greensboro, VT bring circus arts to school children in rural Vermont. Every summer, Circus Smirkus produces a professional level traveling circus show in a tent - and the entire cast is kids!

11. Prescott Circus Theatre

Prescott Circus / Via

Prescott Circus Theatre, Oakland, CA has been teaching circus in the Oakland school district for over 30 years. Participants develop physical circus skills such as juggling, acrobatics, improvisation, balancing, unicycling, stilting, hip hop dance, hambone body percussion, and clowning. The program is rooted in a belief that the basic principles to succeed in circus (and in life) are: hard work, teamwork, practice, believe in yourself, and never give up.

12. The Circus Project

Jenna Lowery/American Youth Circus Organization

The Circus Project in Portland, OR has award-winning outreach programs that provide specialized training to homeless and at-risk youth with a therapeutic approach, free of cost, by utilizing the unique appeal of circus arts to impart essential life skills such as self-care, discipline, communication, and accountability.

13. Wise Fool New Mexico

Wise Fool New Mexico / Via

Through their "Circus Comes to School" programs, along with afterschool, camps and community performances, Wise Fool in New Mexico "changes lives one circus at a time" by encouraging youth to shine brighter, feel stronger, and believe in themselves.

14. Salida Circus

Jenna Lowery/ American Youth Circus Organization

Salida Circus Outreach Foundation, Salida, CO has collaborated internationally many times, including performing with young artists from the Belfast Community Circus.

15. School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts

Jenna Lowery/ American Youth Circus Organization

The School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts in Seattle, WA is the largest circus school in the USA and its Social Circus Program focuses on creating long term partnerships with local community organizations such as the YMCA, schools, and social service organizations.

16. Zip Zap USA

Zip Zap / Via

Zip Zap USA, Washington, DC partners with Zip Zap Cape Town to offer social circus programing and support in both the USA and South Africa. The organization has a particular focus on youth at risk and children living with HIV/AIDS in underserved communities.

17. Circus Mojo

Circus Mojo / Via

Circus Mojo is the is the first training center in the USA dedicated to teaching adults circus techniques, team building skills, and social work principles for the purposes of training, educating and meeting the social service needs of the disabled or hospitalized as well as disenfranchised youth and youth in detention or in other institutionalized settings.

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