Circus Dreams

Movie review by
Tracy Moore, Common Sense Media
Circus Dreams Movie Poster Image
Docu about touring youth circus highlights friendship.
  • NR
  • 2011
  • 82 minutes

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Positive Messages

This movie shows the importance of hard work, friendship, endurance, discipline, and professionalism. Additional themes include courage, perseverance, and teamwork.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The kids here are incredibly passionate, hardworking, and driven to do a great job and put on an amazing show. They attempt to conduct themselves ethically in all situations, including being accountable to and respectful of each other.


Teen couples shown embracing; discussions of having relationships while on tour and how nothing is secret.


"Oh my god."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Circus Dreams is an upbeat, wondrous documentary about passionate young people age 12 to 18 who tour the country in a youth circus. It explores the work, training, auditions, and performance conditions as the young performers hustle for seven weeks out of the year, performing about 70 shows. There's much discussion of the hard work, friendships, and energy of a traveling circus company, with particular emphasis on the uniqueness of girl clowns, some of the romantic relationships that blossom (teen couples embrace and discuss being together), and friendships and bonds that form over the summer. Best for kids interested in performing arts or the circus.

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What's the story?

CIRCUS DREAMS tells the story of a group of young people age 12 to 18 try out every year to join the traveling circus group Circus Smirkus. There they learn to perform 70 shows, form lasting friendships, and experience the ups, downs, challenges, and successes of life under the big tent.

Is it any good?

This documentary offers an entertaining glimpse into a rare world of teen performers peddling a somewhat dying art of circus performance. Watching them discuss what drew them to clowning, the audition process, and the passion they have for the performance is a window onto the lesser-known extracurriculars, such as clogging, or live-action role-playing. Here, the teens are enthusiastic and committed to circus art, and though it's an unexpected foray into the lives of teens, the result is something like watching a summer camp on the road. They make friends, they laugh, they cry, and, overall, everyone is committed to keeping the show on the road.

Circus Dreams is a positive depiction of an unusual bunch of enthusiasts who feel a bit out of time from modern teens today, while demonstrating that even early teens are drawn to opportunities to be part of something bigger than themselves. There's a strong emphasis on the gendered aspects of the circus, such as the increasing presence of girl clowns.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about girl clowns in Circus Dreams. What makes them unique? Why do girls seem hesitant to clown around?

  • What are the biggest challenges these young performers face while touring in the circus?

  • Would you want to tour with a circus group? Why, or why not? What seems fun about it? What seems not so great?

  • How does Circus Dreams promote courage, perseverance, and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

Movie details

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