“Look at Me!” The circus approach: working with
children and young people through the circus arts
By Steven Desanghere
English translation by Steven Desanghere and Translation Kings
Published 2016 by Steven Desanghere
This copy is from Lottie’s personal collection.
This booklet is not specifically written for circus-folk… We will not delve/dive deep into the inner workings of specific circus techniques, but rather take a look in to the successful methods applied by circus schools when it comes to dealing with people in the margins… and how this can inspire you in your method of working.Desanghere, p.12
I love this booklet, because it aims to teach the skills of master community circus teachers.
And I don’t mean that it teaches how to spin plates, walk a wire, or fly through the air– on the contrary, it teaches the really important stuff, like how trust and self expression help youth grow into resilient adults, how to balance complicated group dynamics, how to celebrate and teach to different abilities, how to orient lesson plans for optimal learning and experience. These are the sort of rare and powerful skills that a master teacher acquires from years of teaching, learning, and dedication to their students; they’re rarely taught in circus schools or workshops for young coaches due to their complex nature.
Furthermore, this booklet isn’t even intended for circus folk, as Desanghere points out in the above quote, and this is what I really appreciate about it.
So often, circus is treated as purely entertainment by noncircus folk. As many of you have likely experienced as well, whenever I’m introduced as a ‘circademic’ in noncircus circles, I find I am always prepared to launch into an explanation of how circus has played an important role in American and European history, and is both an effective development tool for working with youth of all kinds and a therapeutic tool for adults of many kinds. It’s exhausting after awhile. Somehow there’s a persistent information barrier between the serious study of circus arts and the rest of the world. This booklet is one of the few bridges between those worlds.
Community circus teachers have to be endlessly creative and intentional about how they teach, and this booklet brings that breadth of study into the open for teachers of all disciplines. The lessons of flow, proximal development, risk taking, the rhythm of differentiation (individual work) and integration (group work), among others– these are useful skills for all educators.
An inspiring and deeply useful booklet for anyone interested in a different perspective; densely packed with a little circus history and a lot of lessons learned from community circus teachers working with diverse youth.
Also, if you’re looking to find it / more information: I was fortunate to receive this booklet from Steven back in 2017 when we were presenting at AltroCirco in Italy, and I’m not sure if it’s for sale anywhere. I recommend checking out and supporting Circusplaneet where he has worked as a community circus teacher, and also the EYCO youth worker resources, where you can find a PDF copy.
How do we decide which books to review? These book reviews are not paid by either the authors or publishers. We do sometimes receive a free book though, which is pretty great. We love books. We are not obligated to post any review, positive or otherwise; we post reviews because few others seem to be doing so and we wanted to read circus book reviews. We hope they’re helpful to you as well. Some books were already part of our collection and we wanted to show them off. Some books we found in a small free library or the thrift store or bought for ourselves like capable adults. If you’d like us to review your book, or a book of your choosing, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.