As an undergraduate theater student, I wasn’t assigned circus readings. I remember reading about physical theatre, live art, dance, puppetry, opera, new media arts and many other performing arts during my four years of study. But, although theater and circus have shared many historical milestones over the past 100 years, my theater training has not covered circus. Now I am a PhD candidate in theater and performance studies and I can create my own playlists. So, in the spirit of the start of the new school year, and to support other students who do not know where to start circus studies, in this article I will recommend some books on contemporary circus that have marked me in recent years. . For seven MORE book recommendations, you can watch my accompanying YouTube video.
But first, why read about the circus? In his 2021 article Circus Talk, Thom Wall writes that, as with all higher fine arts education, circus students need to understand “the history of their field, its notable participants, and how past efforts have helped shape the here”. He notes that the “backtucks before books” approach to circus education teaches students that “spectacular circus skills are themselves the end goal, rather than tools to be used for creative expression.” In other words, when a circus student reads circus history, they become a more creative and informed performer. However, reading the history of the circus can also give us the impression that our work has to fit into a particular box to be ‘circus’. Today, circus artists perform work that was unimaginable just 30 years ago, either because the technology and techniques were not yet advanced enough, or because it would not have been considered here…
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