...One starfish at a time.
In just two weeks, our professional coaches cast and rehearse 50-100+ students in aerial skills, partner acrobatics, comedy, juggling and showmanship, plus stretching and conditioning.
In small groups, student performers explore Collaboration, Communication, Critical Thinking and Creativity through circus arts. They present an original, safe, and exhilarating circus show for family, friends and community.
The Starfish Circus method teaches constructive failure en route to success. All ages and abilities are cast and work together. Starting simple and building to impressive stunts, students set and achieve personal goals, conquer fears and shine as part of a team.
"When you made your first visit to Dowagiac I expected parents to comment on how much fun their child had. But every comment that I get from parents after each event is much more than that. They are talking about life-changing experiences. Thank you for helping us turn our kids into confident young men and women." Jim Benedix, Dogwood Fine Arts Festival, Dowagiac MI
We've worked with students across the USA, in Starfish Circus productions, camps, workshops, and skills for shows like Pippin, Tarzan, Barnum and even Hamlet!
Middle and high-school students learn aerial acts, acrobatics, parkour, comedy, poi-spinning or hula-hooping. "Midway Kids" ages 7-10 sample two or more skills. Ages 4-6 roar as comedy-acrobat “Lions.”
Every show is unique. Students choose themes, write scripts and choreograph acts. They gain new friends, new skills and new confidence.
Low student-coach ratio gives focus to each participant's personal growth in ability and confidence. Every student gets their moment to shine.
The tide goes out, leaving thousands of starfish stranded on the beach. A little boy walks along, throwing them back into the ocean one by one. Another kid asks, "Why bother? You'll never get them all. It won't matter." The little boy picks up another starfish and flings it into the water. "It matters to that starfish."
In 2003, a politically-charged actor scoffed, "School workshops don't matter. 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 of self-belief and courageous action.
Starfish Circus grew from a half-serious vow to "Change the world, one cartwheel at a time!"
Drawing on our professional training, performance and teaching experience, we created a program any child can be a part of.
Students are empowered to create their own theatrical vision. Audiences enjoy a spectacular, delightful show. Everyone surprises each other (and themselves!) with new skills.
Starfish Circus creates a safe environment for creating meaningfully together, supporting teammates and exploring the arts. Every kid is encouraged to appreciate their bodies, abilities, and achievements.
It's a big dream. But we're ready to create big growth from small steps, and you want to do that, too. Let's do it together...
One starfish at a time.
We are committed to reaching the students, schools, camps and communities who need and want to be part of Starfish Circus.
...helping kids develop skills for courageous action and self-belief through circus & performing arts.
Students cross social boundaries and face their fears in an environment of support, encouragement and teamwork.
Students with increased personal confidence, collaboration skills, and faith in their own creativity. And parents saying, "Wow, that was a real show!"
Our two pricing plans allow schools, camps and communities to choose a set fee or payment based on ticket sales/tuition.
Our average residency fee is $4700-6000, depending on number of coaches and number of days.
Our suggested residency period is two weeks for schools or one week for camps, with four or five 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.
For limited budgets, we offer revenue-sharing with a set minimum; contact us for details.
STARFISH FOR FREE
Each year, we choose one school with severe budget challenges or located in a disadvantaged community. For these schools, we ask only that our actual travel costs be guaranteed. The school works as our partner to publicize the show. Instead of an up-front payment, the Starfish Staff remit 10% of ticket sales 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 we could work together to bring Starfish Circus to you.
Starfish Circus can also work with your local merchants and community organizations to arrange sponsorships of the program in your school.
Starfish co-founder Allison Williams trained at the Toronto School of Circus Arts, New England Center for Circus Arts and San Francisco School of Circus Arts, as well as working with coaches from the Chinese National Circus, Ringling Brothers and Cirque du Soleil. She has performed in 23 countries and taught thousands of students over twenty years.
Trained at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts and the New England Center for Circus Arts, Marina performs full-time. Favorite shows include M. Night Shyamalan, The Avenues Kuwait, Busch Gardens, and The Prince of Egypt. Marina has worked with over 20 Starfish Circus productions, coaching aerial acts, poi and acrobatics.
A hula-hoop specialist and poi-spinner originally from Michigan and based in Los Angeles, Shani says, "I love teaching circus because it's amazing to see students walk away from the experience with confidence in themselves and in their ability to learn new skills." She loves trying out new choreography with eager students. Shani's also a trick roller-skater!
Aerialist and acrobat Richard Oaxaca was four times America's Number-One Male Cheerleader, and you'll definitely see why! A trained classical and modern dancer, he's performed with Carnival and Royal Caribbean Cruises, Disney, the Martha Graham Dance Company, and featured as Magic Carpet in the Disney musical Aladdin.
A dancer-turned-aerialist, Michelle is now a full-time ProTrack student at the New England Center for Circus Arts. At Starfish, she coaches aerial silks, aerial hoops, trapeze and acrobatics. "I love seeing the fire ignite in the students' eyes of her students, and learning from them just as much as they learn from me."
Emily's love for circus began when she performed with Starfish Circus (four times!) in high school. Since then, Emily has been training in aerial arts including hoop/lyra and silks for three and a half years. In that time, she has developed a love for the trapeze and all things circus, and hopes to spread that love and joy by acting as a Starfish Coach.
"In my awkward adolescent years, I was as anxious and apprehensive as a freshman could be. My theatre director urged me to join Starfish Circus, and I nervously agreed. Whether flying head-over-feet into a 360 or learning to invert in high-low angel, I learned to love pushing myself to experience new things. Now I delight in teaching others how to push themselves to grow as well!"
"My love for circus arts started at Kalamazoo College with Cirque du K. After graduating I took over the college's circus arts classes and continue to work with the club. Teaching brings me so much joy! Circus is a huge part of my life and something I hope to do forever--I'm passionate about training and performing alike."
"From juggling to aerial acrobatics, I've trained with, and now teach for, Kalamazoo College's Cirque Du K. I've been so proud to see my students blossom in their performances. Along with circus, teaching has become a passion. Starfish Circus presents a truly great opportunity to share my love of circus and pass on knowledge and life skills attained in putting together a show.
If you've got a Question... We've got an Answer!
Fun, workshop-style auditions let kids try every act. There are no "cuts"--all students are cast unless there's a behavior issue that would endanger other students.
After the audition, coaches review any 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. Acts then rehearse in small groups. Coaches teach basic skills, choreograph routines, and help individual students master each step.
Schools have two, 2-hour rehearsal periods daily after school. Aerial acts rehearse in one block, and ground acts in the other. For example:
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 tell the story of the show. Past show themes include Steampunk, Pirates, Under the Sea, 80s Time Machine, Big City and Movie Monsters.
Camps are scheduled 9:30AM-3PM, with students rotating through acts in multiple rehearsal blocks. Each student is in at least two acts. Camps may provide their own early- and aftercare.
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're experienced at adapting our teaching to a 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:
Circus is safer than most school sports, and students participate as they would in any afterschool or camp activity. All skills are learned low, slow, and under supervision.
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.
Coaches' teaching, professional training, and performance experience includes Cirque du Soleil, Disney, Big Apple Circus, New England Center for Circus Arts, San Francisco Circus Center and more.
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. Students are able to learn basic circus skills fairly quickly, and coaches choose clean, safe, well-executed skills (often in unison) instead of complex sequences.
Size and age differences help performers lift, hold and balance each other. We encourage personal interpretation and discovery, as well as incorporating students' existing gymnastic, comedy and physical skills.
The number one comment from parents after the show: "I thought it would be like a recital, I'd enjoy watching my own kid and tough it out through the other acts, but it was fun to watch the whole time!”
We’ve done programs on as little as a month’s notice, but we recommend planning 6-8 months in advance for a full Starfish Circus, 3-5 months for workshops or circus/movement training for a scripted show you're presenting.
It’s possible to reduce your costs by hosting back-to-back residencies with another school in your state/region, 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.