The Starfish

What We Do

Starfish Circus offers students a life-changing experience through active participation in a theatrical event that fits into their available time and your school's space and arts budget.

In just two weeks, our highly trained coaches cast and rehearse 50-100+ students, training them in aerial skills, partner acrobatics, comedy, juggling and showmanship as well as proper stretching and conditioning.

Student performers work in small groups, exploring 21st-Century Skills (Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking, Creativity) through circus arts. They prepare and present an original, safe, and exhilarating 60-minute circus show for their family, friends and community.

The Starfish Circus method teaches students to break big goals into achievable steps, allowing mastery of core skills quickly and safely.

The Starfish approach is full inclusion. All ages and abilities are cast and work together. Starting with simple yet impressive stunts, students learn to set and achieve personal goals, conquer their apprehensions and shine as part of a team.

We’ve seen so many students gain a sense of accomplishment lasting far beyond the final curtain call, and we would love to share our passion with your students.

Three shows.
Four coaches.
Ten days.
Fifty (or more!) performers.
...One starfish at a time.

SOME OF OUR MEMORIES

Our Achievements

10,000+ Kids

In workshops, camps, shows like Pippin, Tarzan, Barnum! and Midsummer Night's Dream, and full Starfish Circus productions, we've worked with thousands of students across the USA.

500+ Acts

High school and junior high students learn aerial acts, acrobatics, parkour, comedy, poi-spinning or hula-hooping. Elementary-age Midway Kids sample two or more skills. Very young learners are our comedy-acrobat “lions.”

14 Years

Every show is different. Students choose themes, write scripts and choreograph acts. Students, teachers, parents and coaches leave with new friends, new skills and new confidence.

One Starfish at a Time

There's no universal metric. With a low student-coach ratio and lots of individual attention, our focus is on each participant's personal growth in ability and confidence. Every student gets their moment to shine.

The Starfish

Why We Do It

The tide goes out, leaving thousands of starfish stranded on the beach. A little boy walks down the beach, picking up starfish and throwing them into the ocean. A man approaches and says, " Why bother? You'll never get them all. It won't matter." The little boy picks up a starfish, flings it into the water and says, "It matters to that starfish."

At a 2003 gathering of circus performers, a politically-charged actor scoffed at our school workshops, saying, "Maybe you teach them a cartwheel or something, but it doesn't make a real difference."

First we got irritated. Then we got thinking. Does it make a difference to a child to learn a simple skill, maybe even one that 'everyone else' already knows?

We say it does.

We say that cartwheel is a gateway to a whole new world. The kid on the bottom of the pyramid learns they're strong enough to support the group--and the kid at the top wouldn't be up there without that same group's support.

Starfish Circus grew from a half-serious vow to "Change the world, one cartwheel at a time!"

Drawing on our professional circus training, performing and teaching experience, we created a program any child can participate in and every school can afford.

Students are empowered to create their own theatrical vision. Audiences enjoy a spectacular and delightful show. Kids interested in arts careers are encouraged and challenged. All performers develop 21st-Century skills and self-confidence.

We're about facing fears and new experiences in a safe environment, creating meaningfully together, supporting teammates, exploring new elements of the arts and encouraging every kid to appreciate their bodies, abilities, and achievements.

It's a big dream. But we're ready to create big things from small actions, and we know you want to do that, too. Let's do it together...

One starfish at a time.

Our Ethos

We are committed to reaching the students, schools, camps and communities who need and want to be part of Starfish Circus.

OUR MISSION

...helping kids develop skills for healthy, active and enthusiastic lives through circus & performing arts.

OUR VISION

Students cross social boundaries and face their fears in an environment of support, encouragement and teamwork.

OUR VALUES

Respect
Inclusivity
Kindness
Hard Work
Joy

OUR OBJECTIVES

Increased personal confidence, collaboration skills, and faith in the students' own creativity. And parents saying, "Wow, that was a real show!"

What It Costs

Our two pricing plans allow schools, camps and communities to choose set fees or payment based on ticket sales or tuition.

STARFISH RESIDENCY

Our average residency fee is $4000-5500, depending on number of coaches and number of days.

More coaches means more student participation, and more days means greater skill achievement. Our suggested residency period is two weeks for schools or one week for camps, with four coaches.

Most schools break even through a combination of grants/budgeted money and ticket sales to the final shows. Some schools show a profit. Typically, 4-6 tickets are sold per participating student.

Summer camps and special programs cover costs through tuition. We ask that scholarships be available. Some groups do revenue-sharing in lieu of a set fee; contact us for details.

STARFISH FOR FREE

Each year, we choose three schools with severe budget challenges or located in disadvantaged communities. For these schools, we ask only that our actual travel costs be guaranteed, and that the school work as our partner to publicize the show. Instead of an up-front payment, the Starfish Staff remit 10% of the ticket sales from the final performances to the host school, keeping the balance as our fee.

If you're interested in this option, please contact us with a brief explanation of your school and community's budget situation and how you feel we can work together to bring Starfish Circus to you.

Starfish Circus is also committed to working with your local merchants and community organizations to arrange sponsorships of the program in your school.

Get To Know Us

FAQ's

If you've got a Question... We've got an Answer!


Frequently Asked Questions
  • Advance PR materials including audition press releases, posters, and letters to share with students, parents and fellow teachers.
  • 3-5 professionally trained circus coaches.
  • Aerial equipment, ground skill equipment, props and some costume pieces.
  • One or two weeks of rehearsals on weekdays and Saturdays, technical and dress rehearsals.
  • Two or three shows in your performance space.
  • Advance distribution of PR materials, including email blasts and printed posters.
  • Performance/rehearsal space at least 25 feet wide, 15 feet deep, and 15 feet high. This space must have usable points above the playing area to hang aerial equipment. Points can be catwalks, I-beams, a lighting grid or dead-hung battens. We will discuss this with you at the time of booking.
  • An additional rehearsal space with a ceiling at least 12 feet high.
  • Mats: at least eight 4X8 folding mats, or a cheerleading or wrestling floor.
  • Stage management support (student, volunteer or professional). We send a handbook with their responsibilities.
  • Access to sound system during rehearsals.
  • Lodging for coaches: host housing or AirBnB with one person per bed, up to two people per room, for the duration of the residency. All coaches in the same house (we have production meetings over dinner).

Workshop-style auditions are a fun chance for every kid to try every act. After warm-ups, groups rotate through coaches and skills. There are no "cuts"--all students are cast unless there's a behavior issue that would endanger other students.

After the audition, our coaches review any questions or special situations with the host teacher, then cast students based on ability and inclination. School residency students are in one act. Camp students are in two or more acts.

Each session starts with group warm-up and stretching, and finishes with conditioning and strength-building. During rehearsals, coaches teach basic skills, choreograph routines, and help individual students master each step.

A typical school schedule is two, 2-hour rehearsals daily after school. Aerial acts mostly rehearse in one block, and ground acts in the other. For example:

  • 3:00-5:00PM Partner Acrobatics, Parkour, Poi Spinning
  • 5:30-7:30PM Aerial Silks, Aerial Hoops, Triple Trapeze, Hula-Hoops
  • Saturdays are also rehearsal days in two-hour blocks.
  • Main cast comes every day to ONE act for two hours + dress rehearsal/shows
  • Elementary-age Midway Kids come to 3 rehearsals at slightly different times + dress rehearsal/shows
  • Lions ages 4-6 come to two rehearsals + dress rehearsal/shows

Often, an advanced drama class becomes the "comedy squad." Under a coach's guidance, they use in-class time to write, direct, and act the scenes that connect the circus acts together and tell the story of the show. We've also done shows with student ringmasters as emcees.

Camp schedules run the full camp day, with students rotating through acts in multiple rehearsal blocks.

We've included Deaf, blind, and autistic students in previous shows, as well as students with physical disabilities or behavioral disorders. Aides and caretakers are welcome to stay close, though we encourage as much independence as the student is ready for. While we're not trained in special education, we've worked with enough different challenges to adapt our teaching to the student's needs while challenging their abilities.

It's easy to advertise your Starfish Circus auditions and shows with high-resolution publicity photos, professionally designed posters, and press releases. You receive print-ready files:

  • Letter to parents
  • Letter to teachers
  • Letter to students
  • Audition poster
  • Show poster
  • Program design

Our teaching, training and performance experience includes Cirque du Soleil, Disney, Big Apple Circus, New England Center for Circus Arts, San Francisco Circus Center and more. Our coaches taught us safety techniques, and we pass those on to our students.

All skills are learned low, slow, and under supervision. Circus is safer than most school sports, and students participate as they would in any afterschool or camp activity.

The low student-coach ratio ensures plenty of spotting and individual attention. Students learn to protect themselves and their partners as they learn each new skill.

We carry a $1M liability policy. Certificates of named additional insured will be provided for the school and venue at no additional cost. All students must have signed liability releases to participate.

We cast kids in areas they're naturally drawn to, keeping them challenged but not discouraged. We draw on our teaching and performing experience to help them learn basic circus skills fairly quickly, choosing clean, safe, well-executed skills (often in unison) instead of tricky or complex sequences.

We take advantage of size and age differences that let performers lift, hold and balance each other more quickly than adults of the same size can. And we encourage personal interpretation and discovery of new moves, as well as incorporating students' existing gymnastic, comedy and physical skills.

The number one comment we get from parents after the show is that they thought it would be like a recital, where they would enjoy watching their own child and tough it out through the other acts, but instead, they say, "It was a great show and fun to watch the whole time!”

We’ve done Starfish Circus programs on as little as a month’s notice, but we recommend planning 6-8 months in advance for a full Starfish Circus and 3-5 months in advance for workshops or for circus/movement training as part of an existing musical or play you’ll be presenting.

It’s also possible to reduce your costs by hosting back-to-back residencies with another school in your state, and early planning makes that more feasible.

GET IN TOUCH

Questions? Want to bring a Starfish to your school? Need help selling the program's safety and value to your administration? We'd love to talk.

Starfish Circus is based
in Kalamazoo, Michigan
and travels everywhere.