Macquarie University
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Running away to the circus: a pilot study for a national survey of Australian contemporary circus exploring the lived experience and motivations of practitioners

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posted on 2022-03-28, 10:09 authored by Jesse Jensen-Kohl
This pilot study begins to explore the motivations of Australian Contemporary Circus practitioners to choose circus rather than other forms of artistic expression by interviewing two practitioners from the five decades of its development. The thesis records and examines their lived experience and takes an ‘insider’s’ approach, drawing on my own twenty-year professional experience in Contemporary Circus. Australia has played a major role in the international development of the form which has had considerable artistic and social impact. This thesis lays some groundwork, records Australian experience, presents original research and points to the need for further investigation. The participants interviewed have all have worked for Australia’s premier Contemporary Circus company, Circus Oz, and their lived experience reflects the wider Australian cultural environment in which the form developed. This thesis identifies ten Key Motivations for the practitioners’ adoption of circus professionally and shows that circus is a unique form of artistic expression for them. This thesis creates an emerging taxonomy that leads to a preliminary new framing for identifying circus as a unique performance medium, and it provides agency to the practitioners themselves, giving them a direct voice within the emerging field of circus studies.


Table of Contents

Chapter One. The great stumble forward -- Chapter Two. Waiter, there's a circus in my soup -- Chapter Three. Appetite -- Chapter Four. Precarious -- Chapter Five. Barely contained -- Chapter Six. Party ghost -- Chapter Seven. But wait ... there's more -- Chapter 8. The three rings of circus -- Bibliography -- Appendices.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 139-151

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Jon Burtt


Copyright Jesse Jensen-Kohl 2018. Copyright disclaimer:






1 online resource (xiv, 196 pages) illustrations (some colour), portraits (some colour)

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