The Starfish

What We Do

3 shows.
4 coaches.
10 days.
50-150 performers.
...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



STARFISH MEMORIES

Our Achievements

10,000+ Kids

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!

500+ Acts

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.”

14 Years

Every show is unique. Students choose themes, write scripts and choreograph acts. They gain new friends, new skills and new confidence.

One Starfish at a Time

Low student-coach ratio gives focus to 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 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.

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 courageous action and self-belief 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

Students with increased personal confidence, collaboration skills, and faith in their 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 a set fee or payment based on ticket sales/tuition.

STARFISH RESIDENCY

Our average residency fee is $4700-5500, 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.

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, including a certified aerial rigger.
  • 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, with usable points above the playing area to hang aerial equipment. Points can be catwalks, I-beams, a lighting grid or dead-hung battens. We bring a qualified rigger.
  • 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: 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).

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:

  • 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 rehearsal period + dress rehearsal/shows
  • Midway Kids ages 7-10 come to 3 rehearsal periods 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 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:

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

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.