The Contemporary Circus Handbook

a guide to creating, funding, producing, organizing and touring shows for the 21st century

A new book by Eric Bates

Coming in July 2023

ISBN: 978-1-958604-03-8

“This book is an invaluable contribution to the development of contemporary circus.  It gives shape and structure to a process that, to most emerging circus artists, feels impossibly amorphous at the beginning.  Circus needs to be an ecosystem, and right now the components of it (artists, schools, residency spaces, funders, presenters, directors, etc.) are not well-connected in the U.S.; this book is a step towards helping us all to find each other.  A beautiful resource for those of us who are determined to move contemporary circus forward.”
– Shana Kennedy, Executive Director, Circadium: School of Contemporary Circus
“Drawing upon the knowledge of the worldwide circus community, Bates’ compilation of experiential successes and failures demystifies one of the most nonsensical processes ever: creating a circus show. This book will hopefully be a sigh of relief to those promoting the understanding of circus as a legitimately distinct art form. I sure could have used this and probably will for my next show.”

– Joseph Pinzon, Founder, Short Round Productions

“Eric has put together a detailed and comprehensive book filled with insights that anyone with a vision can use to bring it to life. Eric’s extensive experience as a performer, creator, and producer is obvious in the questions he poses and the insights he articulates. This book is a must for those with the desire to bring their shows to life.”

-Zander Howard-Scott, Founder, Creative Sovereignty 

“Having navigated the complexities of contemporary circus performance and creation himself, Eric’s book fills a much needed space in circus literature and pedagogy by sharing the obstacles he’s encountered – both from his individual perspective and from that of the collective of a circus company, giving the reader guideposts to what can so often feel an illusory process of seeing a show through from conception to funding to creation to premiere to tour – and highlighting clear practices and ideas around handling psychological and emotional health as a group of individuals living, creating, and performing together. Through interviews with experienced performers and directors from around the world Eric shares multifaceted approaches to creation in different countries, companies, and contexts, and demonstrates how to find creativity within and freedom from the systems that contemporary circus is entrenched within. This handbook is sure to inspire an entire new realm of possibilities to the next generation of circus creators.”

– Luther Bangert, Juggling and Movement Instructor, Circadium: School of Contemporary Circus

“An easy conversational style leads the reader through the book — full of interesting ideas and tips from practitioners, as well as Eric’s own observations and experiences. I like the way Bates leads the reader to think with him — how do I solve a problem? How do I think about this? Eric helpfully shows there are many ways to skin a cat… or make a show — which is true!

It’s really important for people to think about what they are doing as well as being fired-up by the idea of what they want to create. It’s a complex process!”

– Di Robson, Producer, Di Robson Events and Arts Management (DREAM)

“Students and professional performers interested in the basics of assembling a modern circus show will find no better guide than the new book How to Create a Contemporary Circus Show.

From budgeting to overseeing team efforts, Bates covers all aspects of organizing a circus, using the experiences of his team and their successes and pitfalls to identify common areas of challenge involved in crafting a successful show…. How to Create a Contemporary Circus Show may focus on the circus’s unique environment and requirements, but its wide-ranging production experiences, illustrations, exercises, and formulas for success makes it a top recommendation not just for circus reference libraries, but any performing arts collection, and for those who would put together a winning production.” (full review)

– Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review