GRAND RENDEZ-VOUS DE L’ENSEIGNEMENT EN ARTS DU CIRQUE: EN PISTE BRINGS THE SECTOR TOGETHER
Montreal, October 2023 — On September 9, Montréal’s National Circus School held its first-ever Grand rendez-vous de l’enseignement en arts du cirque. This free event drew over 40 circus arts instructors and industry members from various locations: Quebec, Alberta and the United States. On October 14, a similar one-day event was held at the École de cirque de Québec, also drawing nearly 40 attendees.
Organized by En Piste with the aim of developing a circus arts education community, the professional gathering was facilitated by Nadia Drouin, the organization’s Executive Director. Montréal’s National Circus School and the École de cirque de Québec, École de cirque de Verdun, École de cirque des Îles-de-la-Madeleine and École Horizon-Soleil de Saint-Eustache worked with the alliance to organize both gatherings. The event was supported by the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications du Québec.
The highly educational day was a stimulating step in a process that began in 2018, was delayed by the pandemic and will continue in the months and years head. It began with a presentation on the Plans-cadres du développement de la filière de formation loisir et préparatoire [Framework Plans to Develop the Recreational and Preparatory Training Sector], followed by a discussion. In the afternoon, the Guide d’aménagement des espaces de formations et des lieux circassiens [Training Space and Circus Equipment Layout Guide] and the Plan de certification des enseignant-e-s en arts du cirque [Certification Plan for Circus Arts Instructors] to promote the recognition of prior learning and acquired competencies were presented and sparked further discussions. These publications are tools and references that will now serve as a theoretical and support framework for advocacy work with various ministries in order to implement circus-study programs and establish and develop recreational training.
Structuring the recreational training pathway in preparation for higher education was an issue addressed in a brief submitted to the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications (MCC) by Montréal’s National Circus School (NCS) in 2016. The NCS was tasked by the MCC with forming a representative consultation group and a steering committee and worked with the Centre de recherche, d’intervention et de transmission en arts du cirque (CRITAC) to lay the foundations for these plans. A colossal achievement by many passionate stakeholders, the Plans-cadres du développement de la filière de formation loisir et préparatoire cover a period ranging from early childhood to professional training. The product of five years of work, these plans set common targets for Quebec and address the needs of the training sector, particularly in terms of graded intensity. For elementary and secondary schools and community recreational facilities, they offer two tracks: a recreational and academic track (ranging from intermediate to advanced) and a performance track in preparation for higher education. These tracks were described in detail by Liliane Bourgouin and Claude Berthiaume, Caroline Franc and Fanny Laneuville-Castonguay, and Mélanie Beby Robert and Marilou Cousineau.
With health, well-being and safety already firmly ingrained in the Quebec school curriculum, these plans place a strong emphasis on physical literacy and its potential for skills transfer. They also focus on psychological, social, creative, physical and artistic development. In addition, they contain a detailed analysis of the disciplines and their specific characteristics and effects. The framework plans also consider basic techniques, teaching guidelines, types of intervention and learning progression, which vary by recreational or school program and involve different types of evaluation.
The framework plans provide trainers with the tools they need, such as adjusting timetables to account for obligations or structuring and improving their teaching by level, taking the execution of figures or movements into account. The student’s profile at the beginning and end of the training program is taken into consideration, as is the importance of academic success. While there are of course many different ways of teaching the circus arts, the idea is that everyone should start from the same foundation to produce acrobats who excel both in terms of their creativity and artistic skills and the high-level technical skills they acquire.
Download the Plans-cadres du développement de la filière de formation loisir et préparatoire (in French)
Safety, space, apparatuses, anchor points, rigging and equipment are key aspects of the circus arts. Circus venues are creative spaces that require significant technical support. While certifications and training for aerial work exist, they vary from province to province. Currently, there is no degree program for circus rigging in Quebec. Until now, circus schools and training venues have not had a reference tool that is tailored to their specific needs for basic safety and rigging standards. Although one already exists in France, this is a first here. From now on, the Guide d’aménagement des espaces de formation et des équipements circassiens, proudly authored by Fred Gérard, will guide them both in terms of rigging devices and installations and in terms of equipment and suitable technical materials.
The guide was produced with the help of a large team of contributors who assisted with the writing, editing, graphic design and publishing, as well as experts, specialists, educators, readers and other key members of the community. It covers premises and buildings, the layout criteria for each discipline, and facility set-up, take-down and maintenance. This guide fills a gaping hole that project developers were confronted with and aims to provide teaching staff and technical teams responsible for circus facilities, primarily in the recreational sector, with the tools they need. It does not include disciplines such as flying trapeze or tightrope, which are considered professional. A tool for evaluating costs and cost ranges is also available, with a list of equipment suppliers. Visuals make it easier to understand how anchoring and rigging systems work, and the Guide d’aménagement des espaces de formation et des équipements circassiens is now an accessible reference to practise the circus arts responsibly and safely.
Download the Guide d’aménagement des espaces de formation et des équipements circassiens (in French)
Circus arts instructor certification
As there can be no instruction without instructors, Daniela Arandesova’s presentation on the Plan de certification des enseignant·e·s en arts du cirque is in keeping with the aim of developing the recreational and training pathway in preparation for higher education in Quebec. The process drew on the expertise and advice of stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds. Lack of qualified staff, limited access to quality training, a lack of support and recognition, geographic isolation and an absence of support networks are all obstacles to circus education. In addition to mastering techniques, circus trainers have to perform a wide variety of tasks: planning, support, analysis, ethical decisions, safety, etc. While the teaching process is complex and rewarding, it requires skills beyond circus disciplines that involve physical preparation, mental preparation, psychological and motor growth and development, cognitive skills and safe practices, to name but a few examples. The importance of not prioritizing one context over another was stressed, as different individuals’ profiles require specific skills.
In order to boost the number of trainers and get them qualified, the plan includes the Recognition of Prior Learning and Acquired Competencies (RAC) for experienced practitioners. Martine Picard presented on the benefits and structure of this process and the bodies responsible overseeing it. With a mission to qualify more instructors to promote standardization and better-quality learning, the RAC embraces the values of reaching your full potential, safe practice, pursuing artistic projects, collaboration and well-being.
An inspiring event
Among attendees, the collective mood was: “finally!!”
En Piste is proud to have put together an inspiring and collaborative gathering that sparked exchanges between practitioners with a broad range of experience. Participants spoke of the importance of human development and social values, the need to take technical considerations into account when developing new venues, the specific skills required by social circus and their concerns about technical standards and the cost of certifications required by municipalities.
One of the day’s great successes was uniting the various educational institutions around a common goal of broadening horizons in the recreational and preparatory training pathway. The quality of the content and the consistency of the publications presented were commended, and the next step is to share them and have the documents translated for the other Canadian provinces.
We would like to extend our sincere thanks to experts Liliane Bourgouin and Claude Berthiaume (École Horizon-Soleil de Saint-Eustache), Caroline Franc and Fanny Laneuville-Castonguay (École de cirque de Québec), Mélanie Beby Robert (École de cirque de Verdun) and Marilou Cousineau (National Circus School in Montréal), Fred Gérard (CRITAC), and Martine Picard and Daniela Arendasova (consultants) for their informative presentations, as well as the Ministère de la Culture et des Communications for supporting the project.
 There are five families of circus disciplines: floor acrobatics, balancing, juggling and manipulation, aerial acrobatics, and acting and movement (including clowning).
 France also offers a state diploma to become a circus technician.
Source : Françoise Boudreault
Information : Francine Arsenault, Communications Director
[email protected] / 514 812-7068
Left to right: Claude Berthiaume, Liliane Bourgouin, Fred Gérard, Marilou Cousineau, Daniela Arendasova, Martine Picard, Fanny Laneuville-Castonguay, Caroline Franc, Mélanie-Beby Robert