Cirque Hors Piste

Using the circus to break down social isolation

Cirque Hors Piste is a Montréal organization dedicated to intervention using social circus. It employs the circus arts to help homeless youth, generally between 15 and 30 years of age, live out experiences that let them flourish and express themselves. It also encourages them to stretch their limits both physically and socially. Cirque Hors Piste was created in 1995 through Cirque du Soleil’s social action program. It was then named Cirque du Monde Montréal.

In 2011, the organization became an independent entity. Cirque Hors Piste uses its unique social circus know-how both in its own work and in partnerships. It is currently active on many levels, among others in collective creation and workshops, including mobile workshops.

Impact of the pandemic

When the COVID-19 crisis forced Hors Piste to suspend in-person activity, staff had to adapt. They found ways to keep in touch with their young clients. In some cases, they were very much isolated and hard-hit by the pandemic. When the organization was able to start up again in a more normal way, Cirque Hors Piste submitted a request for funding from the Emergency Community Support Fund (ECSF), managed by the Foundation of Greater Montréal, to set in motion a project called “Cirkonstances”.

This initiative, which received more than $40,000 in funding, involves reconfiguring  the nave of the Sainte-Brigide de Kildare church. Youth could then come and use the space twice a week. In a safe environment, they would get a good hot meal, some circus-focused activity, and a place to relax.

Each participant will have a designated colour on their personal space, so as to keep in line with the rules. The new project will help break down their social isolation, and offer them a bit of a breather from the street. As well, it will give them a chance to be listened to and accompanied by the social intervenors of Cirque Hors Piste. And if they find new passions, too…so much the better!

“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