What is Social Circus?

Social Circus is the application of the art and culture of the circus to help address social issues such as social isolation, impact of trauma, violence in communities and/or lack of access to arts and cultural activity.

Check out this inspiring presentation by Jo “Amy” Christian, Wise Fool’s co-founder and former Director, about how theatre has the power to ignite social change:

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How does Social Circus "change lives"?

Circus presents adaptable challenges for everyone, leading to a greater understanding of the capabilities and limits of their bodies. Students with all different body types and physical abilities can identify and work toward realistic, ambitious personal goals leading to feeling of confidence and success.

In the circus we must rely on each other to keep us safe and supported often through scary and challenging moments. Thus circus students learn to ask for and give help, developing positive relationships and communication skills.

Circus provides a safe container for the repeated practice of risk taking, failure and recovery. Students experience the rewards of focused work towards a personal goal, developing perseverance and enabling them to transcend their own and society’s assumptions.

By supporting ongoing creativity, invention, and effort, circus teaches us to reach beyond what we thought possible.

Circus works in a circle, where everyone has a voice, diversity is affirmed, and everyone has an important job to do. The work of creating circus mirrors constructive engagement in community. Participants learn how the group succeeds or fails by the actions of each person. The experience of performing, of being seen, of giving of themselves for their troupe and audience, raises our understanding of our own power to do good, as well as the community’s perception of individuals as contributors of unique and valuable gifts.

Social Circus Programs

In 2016, the American Youth Circus Organization (AYCO) announced a network of recognized Social Circus programs. Jo "Amy" Christian, former Director of Wise Fool New Mexico, was one of the national consultants that helped shape the program criteria. Wise Fool was among the first four companies recognized for their Social Circus programs.

Other Resources

Interested in reading more about Social Circus? Click through the links below to articles and websites with more info!

Clowns Without Borders

Can Clowning Combat Xenophobia? In Ecuador, We Give It Our Best Shot.

Read on to learn about xenophobia, how it affects communities in Ecuador, and how CWB clowns responded (including pictures and a video).

Juggling the timetable: Why every school should teach circus skills in PE lessons

PE courses involving circus skills – such as acrobatics, trapeze work, diabolo and even being a clown – are going down a storm in rugby-mad Wales, reports Matt Pickles

American Circus Educators

Over the past two decades, AYCO has learned about the power of circus arts to play an effective role in accelerating youth and community development. We call this work Social Circus..

Research on Social and Emotional Learning in Youth Circus.

Circus Works!

American Youth Circus Organization: A case for using circus arts as a tool for social change.

The common thread? These people are harnessing the power of circus arts to accelerate social change. Why? Because circus works.

What Social Circus programs does Wise Fool offer in Santa Fe?


Circus Comes to School

 We bring our Circus Comes to School Program into public schools reaching over 600 youth annually.
Youth participants from Circus Comes to School at EJ Martinez, 2016
Circus Comes to School at EJ Martinez

Wise Fool currently offers Circus Comes to School at:

  • El Camino Real Academy
  • Amy Biehl
  • Community School
  • Capital High School
  • EJ Martinez Elementary
  • Carlos Gilbert Elementary
  • Monte del Sol Mentorships
  • Masters Program at SFCC
  • New Mexico School for the Deaf
  • Santa Fe Indian School
  • Ramirez Thomas Elementary


Our TeenBUST program is a two week summer intensive for underserved middle school girls.

TeenBUST is free to participants and teaches circus skills along with workshops designed specifically for the social issues faced by 12 to 14 year old girls. The intensive creates a path to discovering strength, voice, and connection in a time of life that presents great physical and emotional challenges. 



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