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The American Youth Circus Organization promotes the participation of youth in circus arts!

“Youth Circus” means kids, teens, and young adults who practice or perform circus arts. This includes young people who are learning circus skills at home, at a circus school, through an organization, at camp, school, college, or in a professional circus setting. There are about 10,000 youth that we know of doing circus all around the USA—and hundreds of thousands of others around the world with the numbers growing.

JAN 15, 2017
A note from our Executive Director
Dear Community,

With the news of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey today, it feels important to assert our our deep belief and understanding that the circus is alive and well.

Like all art forms, circus will evolve – and is evolving. While it does, we must be aware of the incredibly rich 2000 year history of circus disciplines and performance existing in a myriad of contexts and forms. It is important to grieve the loss of institutions that we have known and loved in our lifetime – especially the ones we have been dedicated to performing on US soil like RBB&B and Big Apple Circus. These institutions have sparked a generation of circus people and communities in our country, many of whom have laid the foundation for the a new and different golden age of circus education and opportunity. This new wave is still unfurling – we have only just begun.

Currently we are experiencing new models of circus viability – in the form of educational institutions that teach circus arts at a variety of levels and circus in new performance venue contexts like proscenium theatres, cruise ships, and site specific locations. We are seeing recognition of circus as an art form for the first time from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Smithsonian Folk Life Festival. Performing arts festivals in the USA are producing more circus shows than ever before. We are in the midst of conducting the first and only study about Social Circus as a tool for developing social and emotional learning skills.

The circus education community is growing in the USA – and around the world. There are over 250 circus schools in the USA at present, and we estimate 10 new programs open each year. Our or organization – a network of circus schools, educators, and young artists – has grown from 40 to 400 members in the past 6 years. Circus schools teach circus arts to virtually every age group and have a variety of different missions – from using circus as a tool for social change, to encouraging fitness and healthy lifestyles, to training a next generation of circus artists, producers, and innovators who will usher the art form into the future.

Our organization is looking forward to a 2017 full of programming and impact. We will be hosting the 2017 American Youth Circus Festival in Trenton, NJ and expect hundreds of young circus artists, parents, and educators to attend. Each attendee represents dozens more individuals and groups who believe in and devote their lives to the circus.

We are in community with innovators and entrepreneurs who are moving forward with both respect to our circus history, and a sense of urgency for a viable and visible circus sector in the present and future. May the circus always grow and change with the times, and may the show go on, in it’s diverse and varied forms.

In the spirit of Circus,

Amy Cohen
Executive Director
American Youth Circus Organization
American Circus Educators Association

Interested in circus?

We would love for you to join our circus community!

Join AYCO Now!

What’s included?

Here are some of the skills included in youth circus:

  • Acrobatics—including tumbling, partner acrobatics, group pyramids, handstands, and hand balancing.
  • Aerial techniques such as fabric, trapeze, aerial hoop and corde lisse
  • Juggling
  • Object manipulation skills such as plate spinning, diabolo, devil sticks, poi spinning, hooping, and contact juggling
  • Balancing skills such as rolling globe, rolla bolla, tightwire, unicycling and stilt walking
  • Clowning
  • Contortion
  • German gym wheel, teeterboard, chinese pole, and wire walking
  • Acting, dance, and choreography
  • Puppetry, Street Art, Magic, Parkour, and Capoeira
  • And more!

Circus arts can be performed with almost any type of equipment in any setting. Many people invent their own tricks using whatever they can find. Circus is a worldwide tradition and there are many different names for the same thing. If you are interested in learning about circus apparatus and terms, check out the World Circus Association Terminology Database. It’s also a fun way to learn circus words in other languages.

Circus is Good for You

  • Promotes self-esteem
  • Creates community
  • Helps you do better in school
  • Helps you stay fit
  • Offers an opportunity for self expression
  • Promotes a life long commitment to fitness and self-discipline
  • Welcomes all types of individuals
  • Encourages non-competitive and collaborative approaches
  • Can provide a rewarding, exciting career opportunity

AYCO History

Once upon a time eight circus innovators got together, put on clown noses, and decided to start an organization dedicated to promoting the participation of youth in circus arts and supporting circus educators. The rest is history.

Circus History

Circus has a rich and inspiring history both in the USA and abroad. Everyone practicing circus today is encouraged to learn about the rich traditions that have paved the way for our present and future circus practices and creation. Check out this Short History of the Circus by Circopedia, a project of the Big Apple Circus.