Ecole Supérieure des Arts du Cirque

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The Ecole Supérieure des Arts du Cirque (ESAC - college of circus arts) is an official, subsidised school of the Fédération Wallonie Bruxelles of Belgium whose organising authority is the Commission Communautaire Française (COCOF). ESAC is a school located in Brussels, Belgium, she became the 17th institute of Higher Education in the Arts en 2003. To be accepted at this college, candidates must have a diploma equivalent to that of higher secondary education in Belgium, the baccalaureate or a corresponding level. This is a short-cycle course, comprising three years of study, at the end of which the student obtains a Bachelor’s degree (Bologna) in the performing arts and broadcasting and communication techniques, option: circus arts. The ESAC is one of six European colleges of circus arts that provide this type of training leading to a diploma. Through multidisciplinary training based on research and creation, the teaching of circus techniques and other art forms is devised as integral aspects of a single whole. The basic disciplines are: specialised circus skills, dynamic and static acrobatics, trampoline, specific physical preparation, dance and theatre. The aim is to train artists who will be able to integrate their research and creation into the contemporary evolu- tion of circus, creating new forms and new approaches to collective creation.

The skills sought

A high standard of proficiency in the specialised skills taught, based on artistic pluridisciplinarity. Integration of acting and movement into the students’ basic vocabulary in order to encourage an original form of expression within the performing arts. An understanding and historical perception of the circus art, which is constantly changing and evolv- ing, so as to promote the emergence of the most varied styles. Give the students the opportunity to develop their creative autonomy and cultivate the distinctive nature of their approach. They must acquire the theoretical, technical and practical knowledge essential for the integration of these skills in their art form. Prepare the students to take an active part in so- ciety as artists through the concerted study of the functions assigned to art, to artists and to their role as citizens.

Methodology and means

Thanks to the proficiency acquired in the circus arts and an individualised path, the students will be able to enhance their artistic research and refine the development of their personal projects during the three years of study. The students will develop working routines, whereby acquired skills will become automatic, with a view to ensuring stability and assurance. This is achieved through a learning process aimed at attaining the highest possible standards in the quality of execution. This progress towards proficiency will serve the students’ artistic proposals. The students’ vocabulary will be developed thanks to exercises in individual and collective research. To provide the tools needed for the students’ integration into the professional world, the curriculum includes courses in stage management for circus, circus engineering, law, arts production and structures of creation, science and applied science in the circus arts (anatomy, biomechanics and dietetics). Complementary disciplines aim to promote creativity and innovation: dramaturgy and stage techniques, history of circus and history of art.

Collective creations

The students will be exposed to different approaches to creation resulting in public presentations. In the first year, the students participate in a collective research workshop (presented within the school) based on the search for a gestural language around a particular circus apparatus. In the second year, the students contribute their specialised fields to a process of collective research led by a professor of the school together with other teaching staff. This second workshop gives rise to public performances and places the students in a process that explores each stage of the creative process. The students lend their performance skills to a production that fully integrates the constraints of circus apparatus. The third-year creative workshop is led by a director, a choreographer or a professional circus artist from outside the school. This person is the motor and the inspiration for the group, guiding the proposal and its consequent research towards a public form.


Each student’s final project involves tak- ing responsibility for a project at both technical and artistic levels. Guided by various collaborators throughout the proc- ess, the students present their ‘know-how’ for an audience. The resulting act is a work based on personal reflection and applies resources from the dramatic and movement arts, as well as “scenographic” and technical tools (sound, light) and costume.

Selections and Schooling

Students applying to take the entrance exam must be in very good physical condition, have an advanced level in acrobatics and be proficient in a specialist field of the circus arts. They must also have attained an appreciable standard in acting and movement. They will also be assessed for their potential to successfully formulate and realize a personal project as well as for their aptitude to integrate into collective projects. This course of studies requires daily presence at all classes (artistic, technical and general) and calls for sustained physical and intellectual investment. The selection process usually takes place at the end of the school year, in late June or early July. Registration forms and other information are available on our ESAC website The policy adopted by the medical unit is based on two funda- mental axes: Curative to deal with potential accidents inherent in the day- to-day work of each student Preventive based on general and specific physical preparation and stretching techniques, as well as on guidelines for good health and hygiene (diet, physical and mental balance).

Networks and partnerships

The Ecole Supérieure des Arts du Cirque de Bruxelles is one of the four main colleges in the world to provide circus training leading to a di- ploma, along with the Centre National des Arts du Cirque de Châlons-en-Champagne, the Ecole Nationale de Cirque de Montréal and the Circus Space in London. International cooperation agree- ments between the schools enable exchanges of skills and experience which contribute towards the creation of a real network of knowledge and accomplishments in the field of circus. The ESAC is involved in international projects promoting exchanges of skills and experiences that contribute towards the creation of a real network of knowledge and assets. In its own region, ESAC develops and strengthens collaborations with the other Ecoles Supérieures Artistiques (ESA - art colleges), as well as with the principal actors in the circus sector in the Wallonia- Brussels French-speaking Community.

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