For more on this, read The Arts in a Time of Recession by Miringoff & Opdycke
 Note that this is in no way a rejection of the certificates given by American circus schools today. Certificates play a role in signaling to others within our industry about our network and training. When a student graduates from NECCA or Circadium and adds that to their CVs, employers “inside the circus tent” have an idea of their skill level. Outside accreditation–and the resulting diplomas–offer the rest of the world an idea of the level of training in the real world context outside of the circus community.
 From the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) Standards of Accreditation: Substantive Standards, section 7: “A learning resource system includes all materials that support a student’s educational experience and enhance a school’s program… [it] must include materials commensurate with the level of education provided… [and] be integrated into a school’s curriculum and program requirements as a mechanism to enhance the educational process… managed by qualified personnel… [with] written policies and procedures for [the resource system’s] ongoing development.”
 To paraphrase R.G. Collingwood, the 20th century British aesthetic philosopher: Crafts arise from step-by-step processes and do not necessitate reflection, introspection, or spontaneous choice to produce (baking cakes or building tables, for example.) These are utilitarian endeavours, often with a decorative quality of some kind. Arts, however, are a form of “imaginative expression” that arise from- and are shaped by- mental activity and preserved in some medium.
 In the theater, this would fall under the purview of dramaturgy. Dramaturgs “…contextualize the world of a play; establish connections among the text, actors, and audience; offer opportunities for playwrights; generate projects and programs; and create conversations about plays in their communities.” (Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas.)
Dramaturgs in the circus are few and far between, though their work offers important context for today’s performers. In his 2017 piece, “Dispelling the Myths of Circus,” Belgian circus dramaturg Bauke Lievens asserts “…that [today’s circus performance] is mainly about circus itself, and only rarely about the world,” and that this “over-identification with the romantic image of the circus” (read: a surface-level understanding of “the ghost of circus past”) “has made us start to believe in the myth of authenticity.” These are notes from a European denizen of the circus world — if these criticisms apply to Europe, where professional circus schools and organizations enjoy varied levels of governmental support… what could that mean for the state of circus at home?
 Or, to be blunt, are we a “fine art” because we say we are? Or, what other lenses can we look at our field with and to find faults that are holding us back?
 The best description we have of the legendary Enrico Rastelli’s act, for example, is a page of notes written by juggler Bobby May some 46 years after he saw Rastelli in the ring. In the papers, this extraordinary display of skill was often just described as non plus ultra and left at that.
 It was some twenty years into this writer’s own performance career that he read that both Bobby May and Gil Dova referred to the pro-juggling lifestyle as “living in the isolation ward.” It’s comforting to know that touring as a solo act has always been difficult, and there’s a kind of comfort and camaraderie to be found in that shared experience — even though our careers were shaped by different times entirely.
 Of these three performers, the “one-finger stand” is most associated with the legendary Unus, who performed through the early 60s.
 To be clear, different doesn’t necessarily mean better. In my opinion, audience members would be better served understanding that these disciplines are the result of centuries of development — not (at worst) a “gimmick” or (at best) a “ ‘new’ technique” that serves a single show. This book, which was the first to describe modern acrobatic technique, describes (and illustrates) a number of high-bar routines with qualities that fit the description of these shows’ “innovations”.
 My company, Modern Vaudeville Press, is currently working on an annotated English translation of this seminal text. The full version (in the original French) can be found on Gallica here.
 We can see evidence of this phenomenon happening with Cirque du Soleil’s Volta and the hair hanging act there. Once this “long-lost” discipline was “reintroduced” to the world by dint of its inclusion in a major show, it grew in popularity within the circus world. However, this discipline had never actually gone anywhere– the discipline has been a staple at traditional circus schools (such as La Universidad Mesoamericana in Puebla, Mexico, et al.) for ages. Is the issue that there are so few coaches who understand nuances in training the discipline? That’s just another reason why it needs to be written down in detail – so our shared history isn’t lost.
 For more on this, one need look no further than PT Barnum’s monograph, The Art of Money Getting. In the same essay, Barnum relays sound advice that might have come in handy before this industry-shattering pandemic: “Every man should make his son or daughter learn some useful trade or profession, so that in these days of changing fortunes of being rich to-day and poor tomorrow they may have something tangible to fall back upon. This provision might save many persons from misery, who by some unexpected turn of fortune have lost all their means.” Barnum and his legacy still inhabit the minds of the American public — and here, he indicates that the people of his day see “circus skills” as (at worst) not a useful trade or profession or (at best) applicable only to a fragile market… and his immediate market was far-and-away larger than that of modern times.
 For readers unfamiliar, the not-for-profit organizations they interact with on a day-to-day basis are likely 501(c)3 groups — apolitical organizations with a community-driven focus (the American Youth Circus Organization and the International Jugglers’ Association are examples of these.) 501(c)4 organizations tend to have a much narrower (and usually political) focus, and are allowed to engage in unlimited lobbying activities (MoveOn.org and the American Civil Liberties Union, for example.) Thanks to stipulations in the American tax code regarding charitable donations and tax deductions, things get really interesting when a 501(c)3 and a 501(c)4 partner up. If you’re interested in more on this, check out this article by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy.
 This is due in part to the advent of print-on-demand publishing, which allows small and independent presses to distribute niche titles without the need for significant overhead. Stewards of the Circus Arts have more tools at their disposal than ever before! This technology has eroded the power of traditional gatekeepers, such as major publishers who want to sell books by the million– not esoteric titles on circus spectatorship, lost disciplines, and long-dead acrobats.
 If you want to see what we’re up against culturally, I challenge you to read this press release from TGI Fridays without rolling your eyes. Does Circus mean “Fine Art” or “Amazing Blazing Pound of Cheese Fries”? In either event, the developers of this multi-million dollar marketing stunt explicitly refer to the Circus motif as an avenue for nostalgia. To them, Circus is something that was. And that message is going out to every strip mall in America. Today.