cursus | 

pedagogical and artistic vision










To form an artist who is an author and creator, who can pinpoint his or her research and development in the evolving discourse of the contemporary circus. He or she will contribute to the growth of this art from, either by creating new forms alone or by integrating into a collective creation.

a contemporary art form

Over the past 20 years, circus been revolutionized by « interbreeding » with the other performing arts. The rebirth of circus—and the form’s subsequent growth and evolution—has produced work which attests to the nobility of the circus arts and has led to its recognition as a contemporary art form in its own right. This sea change has led to a demand for university-level educational programs to train future artists. Based in Brussels, ESAC is one of the only higher-education facilities in the world with a diploma program in the circus arts.


The main focus of the course of study at ESAC is artistic.  This artistic education is complemented by highly technical training that rests on a resolutely contemporary vision. The training, which is necessarily tailored to each student’s needs, is given by professors that are specialists in their respective domains. Students are subjected to a sustained, intense training schedule that is without parallel in terms of other university programs.

The contemporary circus artist is perpetually confronted with urgency, and this urgency is carried over to the institution in charge of training these young artists. The school must ensure that students can sit at the top of the professional pyramid as soon as their training is completed.

pedagogical and artistic principles

Apprenticeship in the circus arts implies not only the mastery of a circus speciality but also a multi-disciplinarity that integrates theatre and movement. This fusion allows students to define their original voice by drawing from any or all of the performing arts.

The understanding and progressive integration of the other artistic disciplines (music, voice, scenography, stage techniques, sound and light) nurture expression with a view towards creative and inventive research. These disciplines are fundamental to the circus arts and have participated in the creative processes of all forms of circus since its inception.

It is essential that students first learn how to understand these elements, and later master these elements themselves, in order to be able to integrate them into their own creative propositions.

All individual and collective performance propositions depend on a dramaturgical construct that, in some way, seeks to express meaning or intention. In order to develop and build the subject matter, the dramaturgy can assume all the dimensions and directions inherent to art. The circus artist can find his inspiration in the visual arts, music, architecture, theatre, literature…..

The newness of today’s circus eduction, staunchly turned towards a contemporary vision of performance, must not obscure or distort our vision of the history of circus. ESAC’s training program is part of a rich and esoteric historical development. The History of Circus and History of Art classes recall this wider context and trace the discourses within which the students must innovate or invent.

Faced with an art form that is constantly striving for the new, students must stay in tune with the most innovative, avant-garde contemporary circus. But they must also remain connected to every other type of circus performed today. The school’s mission is to make as much circus accessible to its students as possible, so as to encourage a wide variety of artistic voices to emerge from its program.

The program ensures that each student is technically versatile : dynamic and static acrobatics, trampoline, and hand-balance are all part of every student’s required classes. This versatility permits a rich and diverse vocabulary: these skills are all part of the palette of tools indispensable to the development of a personal circus language.

In a field where the body is the primary means of expression, the school must give the student the opportunity to acquire the highest possible degree of mastery. Courses in anatomy, biomechanics and nutrition help students get to know their body and take care of it over the course of three intensive years of circus training.

Physical preparation is the indispensable touchstone of the training practice and is complementary to the circus specialities. In addition, the students’ state of health is constantly monitored by a medical expert.

The circus arts program must provide its finishing students with a clear understanding of the professional milieu in which their careers will develop. Thanks to a familiarity with the structures that facilitate original creation and production, as well as a good knowledge of career management, the school prepares students for success in the professional world.


methodology and means

Over three years at ESAC, each student discovers a working methodology. In our closely-guided training program, through an insistence on the quality of execution, we first establish good training routines and and a technical base that emphasizes confidence and stability. This base permits progress toward the high level of mastery that the students will require to fluently realize artistic propositions, setting the stage for the development of creative autonomy.

The progressive technical mastery of the circus specialization allows students to develop their artistic research and fine-tune their personal project during the three years of study. Each student directs his or her own personal project and is accompanied throughout its conception by artistic advisers. Numerous presentations to the advisers, and two presentations to an internal jury, help bring the personal project to its final stage, which is a presentation to an external jury of professionals in the circus arts. This is external presentation is the culmination of the ESAC program.

In guided research workshops, the students experience different methods for performance creation. These workshops focus on the construction of creative performance through improvisation and composition exercises. The students work with choreographers and directors who are chosen for their artistic excellence and their ability to guide newly formed artists through a creation process. These immersive workshops provide a strong basic vocabulary that the student can later use to express his or her creativity. They are publicly presented, giving students access to all facets of contemporary circus work. Although the students are ultimately at the service of a director’s vision, they take part in all aspects of the conception, construction, and staging of the work.

general elements of the program in circus arts

The university-level program is of the « short » type, comprising of 3 years of study. As with all higher level artistic programs, the circus arts education is one of multidisciplinary research and creation, in which the arts and their pedagogy continually prompt each other to transform and evolve.

The art engendered by this ceaseless innovation is not only a social product but also a social agent, helping society gain knowledge of itself and thus evolve and change.

In view of the lessons of the art of today and the art of yesterday, of philosophy and of science, arts education is, above all, an investment in our future. It stimulates a spirit of openness to the unknown.

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The program also encourages a wider reflection on the arts and their multiplicity. There is an emphasis on coming to understand the different practices and attitudes that define different artistic disciplines, and through that understanding encouraging cross-disciplinary work. ESAC requires that students mobilize the full breadth of their knowledge in a critical way. They must be fully aware of the place of their work in the context of the arts in general, of physical practice, and of their historical and socio-cultural environment. The program in circus arts encourages students to develop creative autonomy. They must not only explore their own personal artistic pathways, but also remain in close contact with their social responsibilities.

Maintaining the highest academic level, the program ensures the acquisition of a working methodology and of the skills and attitudes required for that methodology to function. It transmits theoretical and technical knowledge to the students as well as the practical skills they need to realize their own artistic goals in a tangible way.

By means of collaborative exchanges with institutions outside of Belgium, the program in circus arts reinforces the international dimension of the practice and its research, facilitating the mobility and exchange of teachers and students.

The program prepares students for their role as artist-citizen, creating work that interacts directly with their society. Furthermore, it prepares them to teach in their artistic disciplines, to take cultural action, to undertake professional activity, and to fully utilize the techniques of artistic creation that they have been immersed in. The program in circus arts brings in practicing professionals and researchers in artistic education and favors the active implication of the circus teachers in the practice of their disciplines.