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  • COMMUNITY WORKERS GUIDEWhen Circus Lessons Become Life Lessons


  • Bibliothque et Archives nationales du Qubec and Library and Archives Canada cataloguing in publication

    Lafortune, Michel

    Community workers guide: when circus lessons become life lessons

    (Formation Cirque social) Translation of: Guide de lintervenant social. Includes bibliographical references.

    ISBN 978-2-923847-09-2

    1. Circus Social aspects. 2. Circus Study and teaching. I. Bouchard, Annie, 1972 . II. Cirque du Soleil. III. Title.

    GV1815.L3313 2010 791.3 C2010-941350-4

    Created and directed by: Michel LafortuneWriters: Michel Lafortune, Annie BouchardProduction coordination: Carla MenzaProduction assistant: David SimardLinguistic coordination for English version: Cludia Marisa RibeiroArtistic direction: Pierre DesmaraisGraphic design: Emmanuelle Sirard, Maria MasellaGraphic production: Eric SauvPhotographs: Lyne Charlebois, Ier Ferreira, Sarah Bdard-Dub*Revision and manuscript standardization of original version (French): Stphane Batigne, Jacynthe TremblayTranslation from French to English: AsiastisReading committee for original version (French): Hlne Brunet, Lino de Giovanni, Jean-Marie Richard,Mlanie Lavalle, Julie Thberge, Emmanuel Bochud, Lise Cadieux, Mariano LopezReading committee for English version: Karina Gregory, Andrea Ousley, Philip SolomonLinguistic revision: Cludia Marisa RibeiroProofreading: Veronica Schami Editorial ServicesEditing and layout: Karine Raymond

    Legal deposit: Summer 2011

    *The photographs on pages 11, 25 and 41 are from Sarah Bdard-Dubs portfolio. After a rich career path as a social circus instructor in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Honduras, Lebanon and Canada, Sarah Bdard-Dub is now a trainer and Regional Development Coordinator at the cole de cirque de la Gaspsie. Sarah Bdard-Dub has a certificate in journalism and has worked as a freelance photographer since 2005. Her pictures have been published in the newspapers Le Soleil and La Presse, as well as in the magazines Makivik and Africalia.

    **The masculine form is used in this text generically and for readability purposes only.

    Any reproduction is strictly prohibited without prior authorization of the copyright holder. Any infringement is subject to civil or penal sanctions. All rights reserved

    Produced in Canada

    2011 Cirque du Soleil

    Cirque du Soleil is a trademark owned by Cirque du Soleil and used under license.

  • 3Community Worker s Guide 2011 Cirque du Soleil


    Cirque du Soleil is an international company from Quebec dedicated to the creation, production and distribution of artistic works. Our mission is to invoke the imagination, provoke the senses and evoke peoples emotions. Ever since it has had the resources to follow its dreams and to present shows around the world, Cirque du Soleil has chosen to be involved in communities, and, more particularly, with youth at risk. Currently focusing its attention on more global issues such as the fight against poverty, the Global Citizenship Service of Cirque du Soleil, in collaboration with its partners, is involved in nearly 80 communities worldwide.

    The beginning of the 1990s saw the emergence of the idea of creating an intervention approach by using circus arts as an educational alternative to help at-risk youth, an approach that today has come to be known as social circus. As part of this trend, Cirque du Soleil and the international cooperation agency Jeunesse du Monde set up the Cirque du Monde program, offering its first workshops in 1995. By 2009, more than 50 communities spread over five continents were involved in this program.

    Over the last 15 years, social circus has met with ever increasing acceptance. We are now witnessing a profusion of initiatives aimed at different groups facing a wide range of problems, from youth with mental health problems, women survivors of violence, prison inmates and refugees to the physically disabled. These projects are attracting growing interest from more traditional sectors, such as education, mental health and the courts, which see them as a creative and dynamic form of social intervention. Finally, the academic community, through their various university research groups, is also showing interest in exploring and building a knowledge base around this emerging approach.

    In an effort to assist and abet this development, Cirque du Soleil created a social circus training program in 2000 aimed at circus instructors and community workers. Since the beginning of the program, these training courses have enabled hundreds of instructors and community workers to familiarize themselves with the social circus approach.

    Faced with such widespread interest and in response to the many expressed needs of our collaborators and partners, it became necessary to provide trainers, community workers and instructors with training material suited to the expanding role of social circus. This guide is part of a new series of educational tools to enable the numerous organizations interested in social circus to benefit from the expertise developed by Cirque du Soleil and its partners over the last 15 years.

  • 5Community Worker s Guide 2011 Cirque du Soleil



    Michel Lafortune is interested in helping young people develop their full potential and take their place in society. Psychologist, guest speaker and trainer, he was drawn very early in his career to the use of the arts as a new social intervention approach for reach-ing out to at-risk youth.

    From 2006 to 2011, Michel Lafortune has been the Social Circus Director at Cirque du Soleil. In this role, he is responsible for social circus training programs as well as social circus knowledge development. Of particular note is his current involvement in the publi-cation of a broad spectrum of related educational manuals with a far-reaching impact. He co-authored the Community Workers Guide: When Circus Lessons Become Life Les-sons and also acted as Executive Producer, Creator and Director of Basic Techniques in Circus Arts, a multimedia educational kit. He is also the Co-author and Director of the Trainers Guide (publishing in progress), an educational tool devoted to training social circus instructors and community workers.

    Michel Lafortune has been with Cirque du Soleil since 1999. He began as the Coordina-tor of the Cirque du Monde program at Cirque du Soleil for the regions of Canada, Cen-tral America, South America and Africa. During this period, he created and produced the first social circus instructor training program, which he taught on five continents. He also co-authored the first charter of the International Network for Social Circus Training.


    Since 1993, Annie Bouchard has been working in the community helping disenfran-chised youth and adults on the fringes of society. Her experience combines intervention and helping relationship skills, street work, supervision and human resources manage-ment. Moved to action by the marginalization of youth, she began searching for neigh-bourhood solutions to ensure every persons right to citizenship and dignity.

    The design, production and coordination of innovative projects have been a major focus of her professional career. She was won over by the social circus approach and in 2001, she assumed responsibility for implementing the Cirque du Monde project in Sherbrooke and became part of a group of instructors consulted by the National Circus School in Montral to develop a training program for social circus instructors. Co-author of the Community Workers Guide: When Circus Lessons Become Life Lessons, she has also been active as a consultant and community worker for Cirque du Monde, since 2002.

    In 2007, Annie Bouchard was named Director of the Coalition sherbrookoise pour le travail de rue, a position that she has held for three years. That same year, she garnered the prize Coup de cur individu for her work in the fight against homelessness, a prize awarded by Sherbrookes Nuit des sans-abri.

  • 7Community Worker s Guide 2011 Cirque du Soleil

    The purpose of this guide is to offer community workers, regardless of which organization and social environment they work in, a specific tool adapted to the social circus particular intervention context. This document is a summary of social circus approach as well as a practical guide, and will help community workers with the fundamentals and guiding principles of this mode of intervention, as well as support them in organizing, planning and evaluating social circus sessions and workshops. We hope that it will help commu-nity workers from all over the world to discover and adopt this innovative approach, to have a better understanding of their role and thus to improve the circumstances of thousands of individuals, by turning circus lessons into life lessons.

    The Community Workers Guide is composed of four large sections. The first section high-lights the evolution and the fundamentals of the social circus approach by outlining its objectives and guiding principles. The second explores the roles and responsibilities of local organizations, and deals with assistance for community workers, as well as the actions that they need to undertake to ensure the programs continuity. The third part empha-sizes the central concept of the social circus approach developed by Cirque du Soleil, the intervention tandem. It describes the qualities and skills required for the circus in-structor and the community worker so that they can create the synergy and cohesion so vital to the success of their intervention. Lastly, the fourth section describes in practical terms the running of a social circus session, from the