What does the word diversity mean? And what does it have to do with circus? It turns out that both of these questions have multiple answers depending on who you ask! Here I have collected three examples of such diversity in the circus arts, one that explores diversity of the human body and how each individual is unique, one that focuses on the diversity of culture and background, and a last one which uses the profits of circus performances to address issues of diversity and acceptance.
Diverse City (http://www.diversecity.org.uk/)
This organization, from the UK, unites deaf, disabled, and non-disabled circus artists to perform together. In their show “Extraordinary Bodies”, the artists amaze their audience as they overcome barriers caused by their disabilities by working together. Furthermore, this organization provides training in the circus arts, especially to those that are challenged by a disability. Diverse City also holds workshops to teach leaders and managers of companies to be more aware of how they operate and how they could develop or foster a diverse environment.
Bibi and Bichu (https://www.bibiandbichu.com/)
Bibi and Bichu, two Ethiopian brothers, address diversity in the circus arts by looking at their background and the stories that shaped them. Since they were young, both had dreams to become circus performers one day, despite the lack of a circus tradition in Ethiopia. Through their performance of Circus Abyssinia, they tell their story – how they dreamed, and how they succeeded. Aware of the lack of a circus culture in Ethiopia, the two brothers now sponsor a circus school in the country, Circus Wingate, and regularly hold workshops to spread the arts of circus to the next generation.
Circus Oz (http://www.circusoz.com/)
This organization approaches diversity at yet another angle, using multiple circus-related events and opportunities as fundraisers to address social issues. Based in Melbourne, Australia, Circus Oz offers circus classes and performances to involve their community. Although some show content addresses social issues, most of their social activism is done through the money they raise, which is used to fund women’s refuges, welfare agencies, homeless shelters, victims of domestic violence, families living on housing commission estates, the Red Cross, the Royal Children’s Hospital, and Anglicare Kids in Crisis. Funds raised are also used for organizing and holding workshops at detention centres and helping refugees and asylum seekers.
For sure, there are many, many more circus organizations which reflect diversity. Diversity cannot be pinned to one definition. Neither can circus, an art that involves creativity and a divergence from the norm. Perhaps this is why they fit together so well! How does circus reflect diversity in your life?