Circus, In Crisis: Examining Care and Community in Circus Training

Laine Halpern Zisman


This paper is about care through kindness in recreational circus practice. I offer care as a category of relational kindness, where the connectivity of intimacy and trust construct modes of “being held” that do not – particularly in times of the Covid-19 pandemic – necessitate physical presence, but instead emotional support, healing, and accountability. Kindness and care are in this conceptualization how we relate to and treat ourselves, as well as our environment, and others. When in a crisis that distinctly necessitates isolation and distance our modes of care necessarily shift with our relationship to space and surroundings, requiring new forms of virtual spotting that are as much about safety practices for our physical bodies, as they are about strategies for supporting our mental health. Refusing a simplistic or romanticized attribution to care in crisis, this article moves to critique how care and kindness can be taken up and appropriated towards neoliberal aims that mask, rather than address systemic inequities. Through personal reflections on circus practices during the pandemic, alongside performance analyses and critical considerations of norms in the circus industry, I explore care and kindness as it mutates and adapts through our relationships with others, ourselves and the spaces we traverse.


Social circus; community arts; virtual support; social transformation; recreational aerial fitness

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