Cirque Hors Piste

Using the circus to break down social isolation

Cirque Hors Piste (CHP, literally ‘‘off-road” circus), an organization that is part of the social circus movement, offers an alternative and inclusive creative space for young people who are marginalized or at risk of exclusion. It utilizes the circus arts to offer them a pathway to personal development that includes both artistic and social guidance, helping them move forward and flourish as citizens. Social circus is an approach that has proved its worth over the years and is a part of the global movement of art for social change. Recognized as a unique centre for intervention, mobilization and innovation, CHP is a Canadian leader in the social circus movement. It draws on expertise acquired over many years to mobilize the scientific, social, institutional and artistic sectors in fostering the development of this discipline in Canada.

The Foundation of Greater Montréal, through a matching grant of $1,500, supported Cirque Hors Piste in 2022 as part of the Giving Tuesday campaign, taking place on World Generosity Day. Thanks to this contribution, the organization will be able to pursue its work with young people who are in precarious situations, and further the community’s overall well-being.

Impact of the pandemic

Since the start of the pandemic, young people’s mental health has become a growing concern, and the need for quality intervention has been acute. Feedback from participants and CHP’s observations point to the same problems: increased anxiety and misunderstanding, increased isolation, disappearance of existing social bonds and places to go for support, loss of income, more brushes with the law, increased drug use, sleep problems, heightened levels of depression or even suicidal tendencies, a feeling of exclusion and injustice, etc.

In a context where venues were limited, CHP offered a space where young people could move, release tension, relieve stress through movement and reconnect with their bodies. And while social relationships were limited, CHP offered a safe space to talk and be vulnerable, to open up and meet people, a place to laugh and share advice, a place to break down isolation and become aware that others were experiencing similar situations.

“With the circus, you feel that you can be yourself even if you’re a kind of marginal individual, and not be judged ─ which is pretty rare.”

Montréal participant

Visit Cirque Hors Piste’s website