Hovey Burgess system (Circus)

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The Hovey Burgess pedagogy divides circus skills into 3 categories, each with 3 skill groupings.

Hovey Burgess pedagogy is widely praised for being a well researched, compact system that still encompasses very large range of skills. Hovey Burgess pedagogy criticized for not expanding easily to accommodate new skills, for the general difficulty people have finding other pedagogical tools that match the system, and for the lack of depth the system presents. Many have argued that Hovey's system called for a second book to address these issues, however no such book was ever written.

Category Preliminary Essential Diversified
Juggling Balancing objects Toss juggling: balls, rings clubs Gyroscopic Juggling: Devil sticks, Diablo, plate spinning, etc
Equilibristics Headstands and hand balancing Balancing: on rolling objects (unicycle, rolla bolla, etc), on "stilting" objects (stilts, unsuported ladder, etc) and human columns. Rigging: Trapeze, horizontal bar, slackwire, tight wire, etc
Vaulting Jumping Turning the body along its long, medium and short axes Catapults

Burgess has been known to compare his system to Newton's third law: for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Vaulting is concerned with action. Juggling is concerned with reaction, and equilibrium is the intersection of action and reaction.


  • Burgess, Hovey (1974). "The classification of circus techniques". The Drama Review: TDR 18.1: 65–70.
  • Burgess, Hovey (1990). Circus Techniques: Juggling, Equilibristics, Vaulting, Rev. edn. B. Dube. ISBN 0917643062.