Jackie Davis - Flying Gravity Circus Executive Director
Jackie holds a master’s degree in Human Development and Psychology from the Harvard Graduate School of Education where she coined the term developmental circus arts (DCA) to identify programs in which circus skills and performance serve the physical, socioemotional, and cognitive development of young people.
In 2012, Jackie began her doctoral studies at the University of British Columbia to study the impact of circus arts on children’s physical, social-emotional, and cognitive development. At the beginning of her 3rd year, Jackie’s husband Rick was diagnosed with cancer and she returned home to care for him. Following his death in 2015, Jackie withdrew from her PhD program and is now authoring children’s books and young adult novels. The subject? Circus, of course!
Jackie’s exploration of developmental circus arts began in 1995 at the Pine Hill Waldorf School in Wilton, NH, where she founded the annual curricular Hilltop Circus in collaboration with the seventh and eighth grade students. In 1999, she co-founded a high school touring company, the Flying Gravity Circus which, through performances and community workshops, helped schools in the United States and Canada launch their own developmental circus arts programs. Flying Gravity is now a non-profit organization with Jon Roitman at the helm. Jackie also created the Silver Lining Circus Camp which she ran for many years with Rick Davis.
Jackie is a founding member of the American Youth Circus Organization (AYCO) which advocates the participation of youth in circus arts through biennial national festivals. She also teaches and contributes to the American Circus Educators (ACE) biennial conferences. The focus of Jackie’s advocacy work has been to draft and operationalize a set of core competencies for youth circus practitioners to inform best practices and program evaluation. Jackie represented AYCO at the First International Congress of Children and Youth Circus Organizations in Berlin, Germany, and she was the keynote speaker at the First Annual New England Regional Youth Circus Instructor’s Round Table.
Jackie has presented circus workshops as a member of the Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (AAHPERD) as well as its New Hampshire chapter (NHAHPERD) which, in 2007, named her the Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year. Jackie has taught circus arts to adult students and teachers at the Spacial Dynamics Institute in Saratoga County, NY.
Jackie received her B.A. from the University of New Hampshire, and prior to her academic career she trained as a classical mime with Marcel Marceau and performed for several years at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center
"Developmental Circus Arts"
What Is "Developmental Circus Arts"?
Developmental Circus Arts (DCA) is a term coined by movement and circus arts teacher, Jackie Davis, to describe the philosophy and practice of using circus-making as a vehicle for physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development in young people.
What Are the Benefits of DCA?
While the benefits of circus arts for youth have barely begun to be investigated much less measured, anecdotal and academic evidence is growing and shows general agreement regarding positive outcomes for youth.
For example, circus skills develop bimanual coordination, balance, and postural control. Research has found a correlation between coordinative exercise and executive functions; therefore, circus skills like juggling may also foster the executive function of attention. This is noteworthy because the ability to concentrate is a predictor for academic achievement while attention deficits are linked to poor academic performance.
Meanwhile, preparing a circus provides an arena for positive social interaction and increased self-efficacy for boys and girls alike, and students in a circus program can experience increased motivation toward attending school. A youth circus shares many of the qualities of a team sport with one major difference: everybody wins the game.