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Contact: William Raillant-Clark
University of Montreal

Science for circus performers

Partnership between the Canada's National Circus School and the University of Montreal aims to inform and enhance research in kinesiology.
Credit: Roland Lorente

With the hope of one day performing their daring feats "with the greatest of ease," students from the National Circus School in Montreal must spend countless hours training. So much so that it is hard to imagine asking more of them without risking injury or exhaustion. Yet this is exactly the ambitious challenge taken up by the National Circus School and the University of Montreal's Department of Kinesiology, who are partners in the cooperative university-professional college program set up by the Quebec government.

An Olympian schedule

The three-year professional training program for circus performers has a pace and intensity that, combined with academic work, puts enormous physiological, cognitive, and psychological strain on students.

"We want them to be well-rounded—dance, juggle, play music, sing—and to be both creators and performers... If we could improve what we do by 10-15%, it would be no small feat," says Patrice Aubertin, Director of Research and Teacher Training at the NCS.

Aubertin, who also holds the SSHRC Chair in Industrial Research in Colleges for Circus Arts notes that "the aim of the project is—in a safe environment—to push the limits of circus instruction and learning."

Partnership between the Canada's National Circus School and the University of Montreal aims to inform and enhance research in kinesiology.
Credit: Roland Lorente

Research in the circus arts: enhancing a science

The project has three main objectives: identify evaluation criteria for best practices in training programs for circus performers; develop optimization protocols for practices that help to improve student performance; conduct a descriptive and correlational epidemiological study of student injuries to better prevent them.

By the end of the project, the university and the circus school hope to have an internship structure in place for students of the University's kinesiology program. The cirus students and teachers will also benefit from the specialized services of the university's kinesiology clinic to manage complex situations such as certain injuries or overtraining.

"The unique relationship between the university and the NCS that helps us to develop in terms of research is due in no small part to the importance that Patrice Aubertin has always given to teaching and science," says François Prince, Director of the Department of Kinesiology at the Universiy of Montreal.

"Our relationship with academic experts is based on dialogue, which helps to mutually guide us in our practice areas. It is a true bridge between training and scientific research, between professional college and university," adds Patrice Aubertin.

Transfer of knowledge to the community

The project includes the development of training programs and services for companies specializing in the circus arts, as well as conferences and documentation for the community. "Schools with at-risk youth and circuses with social mandates will also benefit from the training tools and protocols that will emerge from the NCS-UdeM partnership," says Aubertin.


This article is a translation of a document originally published in French. The University of Montreal is officially known as Université de Montréal.