APATA Member Spotlight: Circus Stars
Posted by Team APATA | Jul 5, 2021
Almost everyone in the arts has one or six “aha moments” when a switch in their brain [and heart] flips and they become laser focused on what they want to do in life.
For Kristy Seymour, circus artist and Founder of Circus Stars [A circus school for kids with autism], her “aha moment” came while studying theatre, creative-writing and physical theatre at Griffith University.
An introduction to acrobatics during her final year had Kristy addicted, signing up for whatever circus training she could find. Undertaking holiday adult workshops with Rock & Roll Circus [now known as CIRCA], and Vulcana Circus [Brisbane’s women’s circus] Kristy eventually started training full time with Master Aerial trainer, Rodleigh Stevens.
Discovering the strength of the substantial circus community in Brisbane, Kristy had found her tribe and life’s work.
- 2004-2010- Kristy was Head Trainer and Artistic Director of Flipside Circus
- Writer, Director, Choreographer, Creative Producer and Tour manager for Flipside shows for the Brisbane Powerhouse, State Schools on Stage, Adelaide Fringe Festival and Woodford Festival.
While head trainer at Flipside Circus Kristy worked with an occupational therapist to deliver circus workshops to children with autism which achieved amazing results. Parents were blown away with the developmental achievements they were seeing in their children. However, without researched and peer-reviewed evidence, Kristy received little love from the clinical and autism communities.
In her 2012 Honours thesis: How circus training can enhance the well-being of autistic children and their families Kristy explains:
I set out to demonstrate the practical value of circus to children with special needs and their families; that the environment of creative chaos developed in circus is particularly beneficial for children with autism; that the practice philosophy of circus values both difference and inclusivity, helping to build community; that philosophy and cultural theory can provide insights into how circus “works” for autistic children and their families; and that participation in circus can change how people understand the world and each other.
My aim as a circus professional is to encourage us all to re-think how we approach physical therapy for children with special needs and to provide some theoretical frameworks that support the exceptional work of youth circus schools around Australia.
At times children and young people with autism are often in a state of controlled chaos. Self-regulating to fit in. Circus Stars practices creating a safe space where children are allowed to be their chaotic selves, within a safe range, so they don’t have to apologise for that chaos. Taking that chaos and creating positives out of it or allowing them to find the calm out of the chaos in their own time. In the APATA Podcast Kristy says,
2017 Tedx Talk – Circus and Autism- difference, creativity and community can be found at the bottom of this page.
2018 Kristy completed her doctoral research “Bodies, Temporality and Spatiality in Australian Contemporary Circus.” FOUND HERE
Kristy currently teaches culture, philosophy and academic writing at Griffith University and Griffith College while also being a Mum and heading the Circus Stars Program at the Labrador Community Hub on the Gold Coast.
- Teacher and mentor Dr Reg Bolton, “an enthusiast who became enthusiastic about the possibilities of using circus for education, self-fulfilment and community development” had a great influence on her. The youth circus champion and academic emphasising often to Kristy that – “Anything is possible and to keep breaking the rules.”
- Scott Maidment – Creative Director of Strut & Fret Production House began as Kristy’s mentor in the field of creative directing and producing and still today is someone Kristy goes to for guidance.
- Associate Professor Patricia Wise, from Griffith University, has been Kristy’s mentor throughout her academic career. Patricia’s community outreach and arts advocacy has greatly influenced Kristy’s directive for creating evidence for the value of arts in society. Their 2017 research paper: Circus Training for Autistic Children: Difference, Creativity, and Community is a testament to that collaborative relationship.
‘Risk and defiance’ are central to how participation in circus can enhance the creative, emotional, and physical well-being of children with autism, encouraging them to break out of the labels, boxes, and constraints that they are all too aware of in their daily lives, and experience a kind of confidence that is not made available to them in many other circumstances, if any.
This series is open to circus trainers, social workers, occupational therapists, physios, speech therapists and practitioners of all kinds working with the autism community.
It provides both theoretical and practical knowledge in best practice for using circus training techniques to achieve successful outcomes in the physical, socio and emotional development of kids with autism. Check this out
What we love about Kristy and her work with Circus Stars is that her own love of circus – the rebellious, adventurous spirit of circus – embodies everything that she does and infuses her belief that children of all abilities, but especially autism, should have access to the skills, risk and freedom that circus provides.
To listen to Dr Kristy Seymour discuss her journey: Let me hear it
Find Kristy at circusstarsasd.com