Foto: Sara P Borgström

Circus Transfer

Walk, talk and act like a circus artist

We transfer the methods and approach of the circus from the bodily and physical - to the mental, the artistic and to society. For an increased awareness of what it is to be human.

Circus Transfer is what we call the awareness of what, for example, tightrope walking can teach me about life. Balance in life is the ability to *manage life's imbalances. The transfer takes place between the physical experience (tightrope walking) and the mental (balance) and through the impact it has on art and society.

*The tightrope artist finds their balance by constantly moving in and out of the balance point.

Circus artists do what we all do in everyday life: Collaborate, fail, control, theorize and put their trust to the test. But they do it 10 meters up in the air without a safety line. Everything becomes more tangible when it is life and death.

Tilde Björfors, founder and artistic leader at Cirkus Cirkör

I take the risk and stand up and say something that I have never dared to say before, then it becomes an opportunity and then I dare to do it again. The risk has turned into an opportunity.

Fifth-grader

Trust is an ongoing topic within our company but experiencing it from the perspective of a circus artist was really special. We were asked to do little tricks where we were of course meant to fail at some point. But doing so together showed us impressively how failing together can be a strong base for future trust.

Hanna Brunner, teamleader Service design, Försäkringsbolaget Allianz

Circus disciplines as workshops

In the circus world, we talk about mainly seven disciplines (although of course there are many more). We have developed workshops for each disciplines, to highlight what you can learn from them. These workshops are, right now, only available to read in Swedish. Do you want to learn more about the contents? Get in touch!

The links below lead to our Swedish website.

CLOWN – Miss-Lyckad

”För en clown är misslyckandet en möjlighet. En clowns liv går ut på att vända floppen till en topp.”

Luftkarobatik – Tillit

”Tillit är något som måste erövras igen och igen.”

Parakobatik – Samarbete

”Där finns ett Jag och ett Du och så finns det ett Vi som vi skapar tillsammans.”

Akrobatik – Allt är möjligt

”Jag fokuserar inte på riskerna utan på möjligheterna. När jag står på språngbrädan och ska skjutas upp är det bara möjligheterna som gäller”.

Jonglering – Närvaro

”Det är inte hur jag fångar som räknas, det är hur jag kastar som avgör”

Cirkusdirektören – Entreprenörskap

”För mig handlar cirkus om att se disciplinen som det den kan vara, lustens försvarare och viljans genomförare!”

Lindans – Balans

”Balans är en ständig rörelse in i och ut ur balanspunkten. Försöker man hålla fast den så faller man”.

We are a group that uses words a lot, hides in words, problematizes with words, sets limits to our ability with words. The circus' work helps us widen the horizons of possibilities and embody the knowledge of what trust really is. I think I notice a very concrete difference in the approach in the group. A lightness I had not known before. Spontaneity and laughter take a bigger place. But also depth and dialogue. To get involved and to take seriously.

Pernilla Conde Hellman, kulturdirektör Malmö stad
En deltagare testar att jonglera
En grupp kastar lådor till varandra
En grupp kastar och tappar lådor
Två personer håller tillsammans i en låda
En grupp står samlade bland lådor
En cirkusdirektör ger instruktioner till deltagarna

The pictures in the gallery above were taken during a workshop with the City Building office at Malmö municipality.

What a circus!

We use this expression to describe something chaotic. Chaos is an intrinsic part of all creative processes, but once on stage, circus is all about discipline and controlled, deliberate risk-taking. Anything can happen while bungee jumping from a hot air balloon, like in Cirkör's show PUST, or when you find yourself 30 m ft (10 meters) up in the air without a safety line. This is life and death art. The lessons of the circus can be applied to society, worklife and life in general – by exploring the limits of what it means to be human. We call this Circus Transfer.

Becoming a more creative boss

“As a manager, you have to be a fiend at juggling and balancing, at being present, here and now. That’s what circus teaches me,” one of the managers with whom Cirkör collaborates explains. "We hired Cirkör to enhance creativity and the importance of leadership in innovation processes," recounts the global company Pinault Ricard, which documented this process in the book Leadership of Creative Business Workbook.

Their experiences clearly illustrate the degree to which leadership is an art of its own, where actions, plans and processes are constantly adapted to the needs of the specific context, assignment and team and where problem-solving works best when it is a co-creative process with clear steps: divergence (opening up and saying “yes”), emergence (remaining in chaos) and convergence (funneling insights, concepts and ideas). This is circus as opposed to linear thinking. By testing and practicing the disciplines and leadership dimensions of circus – and reflecting on the insights acquired – Pernod Ricard was able to improve their performance and results.

Changing society through the art of circus

In Landskrona and Järfälla municipalities, Cirkör's educators have supported children who use wheelchairs in going where they have never gone before, for example up on a rope. Moreover, some circus projects evolved into gender projects once it became clear that the girls participating initially felt they “were not allowed to be” or would not allow themselves to be physical.

The city of Malmö has begun introducing circus as part of an educational experience for both city employees and citizens. The main objective here is to use mental and physical circus exercises to make visible and begin to employ the many capabilities of civil servants and indirectly also of citizens. Important target groups are children and seniors in underserved areas that the municipality has difficulty reaching through other programs.

Management groups from three of Malmö’s municipal administrations have invested in Cirkör's concept “Teeter Trust”, among other reasons because their services rely on trust-based governance both internally and vis-à-vis citizens. Which way of working, which attitudes and approaches generate maximum trust in society?

Non-verbal, embodied knowledge

With the help of educators and coaches from Cirkör, school principals used physical exercises to embody knowledge about leadership. Once they dared to try this, the playfulness involved helped them learn to fail together and through this to grow stronger together. The knowledge gained through circus is often non-verbal. According to those who participated, holding the experience in one’s body is key to success. Afterwards, they asked themselves, “What flips do I do in my daily life?” Something happens when the body holds experiences of balancing slightly above the ground, or after a simple exercise in partner acrobatics based on cooperation between two people. This makes it easier to transfer that knowledge to the office.

Come join the Cirkör!

For 25 years we have worked with a great many teachers, students, children, young people, seniors, managers and employees. We give inspirational lectures, interactive presentations, hold workshops, take over schools and shape leadership programs. Circus educators, artists and coaches are often told that we are both tender and bold. We have faith in your ability to make the impossible possible. Regardless of who you are, we know that you are curious about using this art form to better understand what you need to grow as an individual and in a group. As one of the managers in our network put it: "I’ve had too much intellectual fodder”. Circus goes straight to the heart and does not shy away from our biggest challenges.

If we push inner and outer boundaries together – Cirkör's artistic vision – we can create social change.

Join us in Circus Transfer.

Emma Stenström, docent och direktör för Arts Business & Culture Handelshögskolan i Stockholm.

Cirkus Transfer ur ett samhällsvetenskapligt perspektiv

This article is only available in Swedish.