Social Circus: Developing Structures for Program Efficacy in the United States


  • Amy Cohen American Youth Circus Organization


This short piece aims to provide context about the unique situation of social circus in the US as well as the ongoing work of the US-based not-for-profit American Youth Circus Organization (AYCO). In August 2014 Cirque du Soleil called a meeting of select AYCO members with whom it had “partnerships.” This gathering produced a core question that would inform the future actions of the AYCO: what kind of action in the circus sector will enable social circus growth within the unique United States context? A clear call to action for AYCO to take the lead on mobilizing the growth of social circus in the US surfaced.  This led to the first study commissioned to research the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) outcomes of youth who participate in social circus programs, as well as a commitment to defining the often-debated term “social circus,” with the intention of galvanizing the sector to bolster growth and development.

Author Biography

Amy Cohen, American Youth Circus Organization

Amy Cohen is the executive director of the American Youth Circus Organization, a twenty-year-old nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the participation of youth in circus arts and to supporting circus educators. She is also the founder and director of Circus Culture in Ithaca, NY and an instructor of Circus Arts at both Ithaca College and Cornell University. Amy holds a BS in arts management from Ithaca College and an MA in “circus as a tool for social change, education, and creative expression” from NYU's Gallatin School of Individualized Study. She was a Fulbright Scholar to the UK, researching contemporary circus culture and education in London.






Is Social Circus the Other of Professional Circus? (Section Editor: David Fancy, Brock University)