A New Strategic Partnership!!
Our Kick-Off Meeting, in Brussels, Sept
L-R: Alice Feldman, Zef Berisaj, Ilaria Bessone, Ophelie Mercier, Olga Sorzano, Silja Kyytinen; Matthias Vermael (centre), Shadi Zmorrod (front)
However, critical analyses and international reports highlight a gap in intercultural, reflective skills and awareness about power sharing dynamics that shape the relationship among circus trainers, the managing staff of circus organisations, and the communities and participants with whom they engage.
This is an Erasmus Plus Cooperation for Innovation and the Exchange of Good Practices project funded by the European Commission, that convenes a Strategic Partnership in the field of education, training and youth. The project aims to promote intercultural dialogue, cultural diversity and social inclusion by expanding the skills of social circus trainers working with youth from migrant, refugee and ethnic minority backgrounds. Through the engagement of practice-led and arts-based research, it will develop and disseminate a training programme of innovative skills and best practices of intercultural dialogue necessary for effective anti-racism and social inclusion interventions, for circus youth workers, trainers and organisations.
Social circus is an innovative field of youth work, whereby social circus trainers operate as youth workers through the tools of circus arts. The positive impacts of social circus on participants’ development and well-being, on community empowerment and social transformation have been highlighted by extensive research.
Zaltimbanq, (Coordinating Partner, Luxembourg), Altro Circo (Italy)
Caravan Circus Network (Belgium), Circusplaneet (Belgium),
Sirkus Magenta (Finland), Skala (Slovenia), the Palestinian Circus School (Palestine) and
MA Race, Migration & Decolonial Studies in association with the UCD School of Sociology
Embodied Intercultural Research Training
One of the main contributions made by UCD to this project was developing a week-long residential training workshop on research methods for the 6 circus trainers who were undertaking the fieldwork in their respective schools. This component was designed and delivered as part of a collaboration between Alice Feldman, Coordinator of the MA Race, Migration & Decolonial Studies and Rajinder Singh, a movement artist and choreographer and Artist in Residence on the MA.
Pictured: standing left to right: Alice, Nadine, Ilaria, Petra, Abu Sakha; seated left to right: Olga, Raj, Ophelie, Julian, Hanne, Masa
We approached the design of the researcher training based on the following overlapping premises:
Social circus is an inherently intercultural practice. At its best, interculturality involves critically reflexive, performative & transforming encounters, so circus work also requires strong skills in observation, reflexivity and social analysis.
Because researching intercultural circus practices involves an eye for capturing these dynamics as they pertain to ‘difference’, experienced circus workers actually already have advanced ‘research’ capacities and skills.
So we designed the training to flow from the researchers’ embodied, practice-led knowledges – that is, their own experiences of circus work, of social researches and other related work. Essentially we combined elements of our respective practices – Raj’s ‘body workshop-as-aesthetic practice’ and Alice’s ‘pedagogy-as-art form’.
We used various forms of body-based and sensory learning, from performance and Boal's Theatre of the Oppressed, to visual arts, journaling and collectively mindful practices, alongside research methods instruction that would create opportunities to individually and collectively critically explore, analyse and ultimately repurpose key intercultural principles, debates and practices for use in the research process itself.
(Feldman 2019; Singh 2019; Singh and Feldman 2019)