Leading up to BNCN’s upcoming digital workshops for ARTiculate 1.0, we’re reposting Latvian circus artist and teacher Aleksey Smolov’s experience with the first version of ARTiculate from last year.

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Aleksey Smolov, 2019:

I think it’s important to see the whole picture of one’s journey and establishment – from the beginning to the current state. That’s why I’ll provide a short introduction of my background, to set a starting point in the journey of a circus teacher. I’ll mention the doubts and problems (internal mostly) I had to deal with at the beginning, about the opportunity of participating in the ARTiculate pilot workshops, and how I use the knowledge obtained in my daily work as a circus teacher nowadays.

In the summer of 2017, I took a proposal of joining the new-born team of Riga circus school and starting the ambitious journey to gradual development of the circus education system in Latvia. As a self-taught in circus arts, coming from the fire spinning background and street performing, I had big doubts regarding taking the responsibility to teach Circus in the historical Riga Circus. It was a question of belonging and associating myself with this name and this art – Circus – which in our region is synonymous to such words as a “virtuosity”, “extraordinary”, “since young age”, “dynasty”, “mastery” and “secrets” (to mention some).  Luckily, other words have been found and heard and many incredible circus people have been met. And as a result – another fateful decision of my life.

 By that time the Spectrum of Circus appeared – I learned that it’s sooooo variative and proposing soooo many ways to interpret and use it – from performances for the Cirque de Demain to the inclusive circus activities. And, what is most encouraging, there’s a place for my life experience as well.

Soon realization came that there are many skills we – pedagogical core team – can teach to a certain level – technical, creative and personality-forming. But what are the most effective tools to do this? How to implement those and when is the most appropriate time to do this? How does the short-time and long-time planning of the learning process look like for the circus? These were some of the questions we as a team faced and were willing to find the answers by that time.

Luckily teachers had a possibility to educate themselves participating in various workshops and exchange programs devoted to circus pedagogy. I had an opportunity to join ARTiculate pilot workshops in October 2018 in Riga and February 2019 in Helsinki. I was eager to have any kind of information that could help in my work and fulfil knowledge and skills, that’s why I was so happy to use the chance. The techniques (tricks) and methods of teaching were in the focus for me by that time, but now I can appreciate a lot the experience I’ve obtained in the workshops and the way it was delivered, although it wasn’t about tricks at all.

In my opinion the ARTICULATE CIRCUS EDUCATION PROJECT 2018/19 REPORT covers pretty much the structure, content and the way information was delivered in both workshops, so I’d like to share the personal outcome and further implementation in the daily work. 

I had a chance to use the tools and methods gathered straight away in the circus school to see how they work for the students, how the students like them and what we can obtain. But the real purpose of many exercises came only after months of teaching as well as a realization of the exact moment to use them planning the class or series of classes. Realization of how to combine the exercises in order to receive predictable/preferable results came after as well. 

One of the most important gains of the workshops is the philosophy and vision of the teaching process, in the way we facilitate students to learn, the way we create the environment safe and accessible for learning , the way teachers assist the students in their studies. Having this mindset, the exploration of the methods and tools is more intensive, effective, goal-orientated and in the way more systematic for teachers. The participation in both workshops allowed me to understand this teaching philosophy deeper, thanks to the wonderful moderators/teachers and participants.

I think it’s necessary to provide various possibilities of pedagogical education in the Baltic-Nordic region, especially for the teachers working in the areas where the circus community isn’t so consistent/strong or is in a developing stage. I feel also that the points of interest are slightly different from country to country because of the state of the circus community, personal backgrounds and goals. I’d propose the workshops to be more specific group orientated in order to achieve more effect, if the structure will be kept the same. On the other hand, I see a possibility to make the workshops task orientated where different experiences, different current states and backgrounds of circus teachers meet each other in order to share their opinions on the specific questions/problems/tasks with a mentor/moderator directing the process.  What I’d ask for in such a case is a longer period of being and working together in order to create the atmosphere (which often takes time in our region 😊 ), understand the task, work on the solutions, simulate the appliance in the practice and analyse the possible outcomes.

Looking forward to the ARTiculate program to blast in full power to dive into it with current experience and teaching goals!

OL' THAT | Aleksey Smolov (Latvia) -