Movement and the arts have long been part of the pedagogy of Waldorf schools. Whether circle activities accompanied by singing in the classroom, the intriguing art of Eurythmy, or games and gymnastics, the curriculum initiated by Rudolf Steiner in the early twentieth century, and consequently developed by many others, has always recognized that children must engage in physical activity throughout the day to allow for a complete and effective education. Current research, most interestingly in the field of neurology and the developing brain, is beginning to uncover the benefits intentional movement can offer many of the integral aspects of learning such as memory, attention and executive function. Complimenting such physical activities, a Waldorf school education is also infused with the arts as they weave through and permeate both the curriculum- from painting to organic chemistry- and the very manner in which the teachers attend to their tasks. Enter the circus arts, an artistic form of movement with potential for social, therapeutic and pedagogical applications that are just now beginning to be discovered- and Waldorf schools around the country have taken notice.
There are many circus skills, talents, tricks and daring feats, but in our schools we have the opportunity to maintain the ideals and values that permeate our teaching whether in the classroom or the gymnasium. The circus is such an attractive activity for our schools because it provides an elevated and demanding type of physical activity and discipline while simultaneously demanding that it be artistic in the highest sense. The circus truly must be fueled by the imaginations, the living pictures, of both the directors and the performers. There must be the element of the archetypes of humanity and the cosmos in the stories that guide us through the movements as well as in the movements themselves; this has been and still is an essential element of what makes the circus not merely tricks and stunts of human physicality. It is, and must remain for our purposes, a form of artistic expression which enhances the capacities of children to succeed in the academic arena and become productive members of society. Our circus must be brought with a mind toward developmentally appropriate content, full of joyous, sometimes risky, truly creative acts representative of the full human being and engaging and utilizing our utmost capacities in thinking, feeling and willing-head, heart and hand.
It is to this end that in the fall of 2016, Boulder Valley Waldorf School will join the fray and begin its own humble circus program. Though the program will begin small, we are confident that the community of both the school and the greater Boulder Valley area will nurture this initiative. Once the children and parents witness the joys of tumbling and juggling, costumes and music in even a minor performance, the growth in the program will be exponential. Movement teacher, graduate of the Spacial Dynamics Institute and recent class teacher from Brooklyn, New York, Charles Orphanides, is looking forward to bringing his experience in pioneering the circus club at the Brooklyn Waldorf School to Colorado and raising the circus tent (though metaphorical for now) at the Boulder Valley Waldorf School.