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Presenting Contemporary Circus

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Yohann Demazis

on 24 May 2017

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Transcript of Presenting Contemporary Circus

Circus Arts
An emerging artform?
Today circus
Urban Circus
3 phases
1/ Traditional – family circus: succession of numbers, acts based on same dramaturgy as well as the whole 'performance', ‘prouesse’ and spectacular, animals, tent, round stage…
Composition of evening -
3 phases
In the 80s: contemporary circus came to free itself more and more from its traditional roots, and for example mono-disciplinary shows appeared:
e.g. Vent d’Autant, Les Arts Sauts, many juggling shows…
Idea of répertoire
Just like dance, opera, music or theatre, all the forms of circus coexist today in Western Europe. The big difference with other forms is that circus doesn’t have ‘répertoire’, i.e. pieces that could be presented again (e.g. 30 years after their première, by the same company or other groups)
2 reasons
> In a way, traditional circus used to play this role, presenting numbers and ‘prouesse’ from generation to generation,
> Authors are interpreters (collective writing of the pieces) and didn’t consider so far the possibility to propose past works / that some other group present it.
From the year 2000 onwards circus engaged in abstraction, visited intimate territories, and began to collaborate with playwrights, new media, etc. Like in other fields, we observe a multiplication of experimentation and trends.
Today, some artists don’t recognise themselves as working in circus anymore – they feel uncomfortable with this genre because their work is ‘interdisciplinary’ (and because of prejudices from performing arts presenters…)
Many influences
> Inside the circus field of course (all trends are alive)
> Influences from the 'outside', i.e. visual arts, performing arts, mainstream culture, the world (!)...
> Different contexts / companies produce works that we could (try to) put into ‘boxes’ and see in which movement(s) they belong and why… Interesting never-ending game!
Urban Circus
Urban Circus
These works to the aesthetic 'street' and gathers around it a wide audience as could do the traditional circus with its animals and numbers in the first part of the 20th century. It's a circus less self-centred and more steeped in the notions of collective work, cultural diversity, where social considerations are never far away.
Urban Circus
Entertainment and prowess are back, which was no longer the case in recent years in many artistic productions, as two elements to create a popular circus in every sense of the term.
3 phases
2/ In the 70s: change of dramaturgy, introduction of realism and social reflection, research into an ideal, nomadic way of life, into big tops and the idea of freedom, use of narratives and theatrical characters, evolution close to other fields (e.g. ‘happenings’, theatre…). But the big top, an integral symbol of the circus for many people, gradually became less prevalent as traditional circus numbers were abandoned in favour of a theatrically denser dramaturgy that went beyond pure entertainment in order to integrate social context.
e.g. Cirque Bijou, Cirque Bonjour, Cirque Invisible, Archaos, Dromesco…
Presentation by Yohann Floch
Ola Kala by Les Arts Sauts
3/ More and more, the idea of the ‘prouesse’ was replaced by discourse and concept, and the circus invited post-dramatic theatre and contemporary dance to join in its play.
In 1995 – 1996: Choreographer (and ‘visual artist’) Joszef Nadj directed the CNAC school students show. Worldwide success, introduction of abstraction, cross-gender work to create new vocabulary, no narrative as such nor characters…
3 phases
Le Cri du chaméléon by Anomalie
Cuisine & Confessions by
Les 7 Doigts de la Main
e.g. Camille Boitel, James Thiérée,
Aurélien Bory…
I propose you entries to navigate in the large amount of shows available, not aesthetic movements as such, that are not country related and are in my opinion good examples of re-appropriation by local actors of contemporary circus in the context of globalization
A circus form that includes the codes of street art ('casual dress', hip hop music and R & B, acrobatics mixing smurf, break dance, incorporating the graph sets, video ...). This urban circus, regardless of which this "urbanity" is crossed, is found in many productions
Super Sunday by
Race Horse Company
Traces by 7 Doights de la Main
Circus at the margin
Circus at the margin

We could call this trend “outer circus” like French director Jean-Michel Guy. There is a tendency to work on blending disciplines and genres – which is not something typical for circus.
Circus at the margin
Circus is no longer the main or defining element of the production – and many artists are flirting with the margin.
Capilotractées by Capilotractées
L'Après-midi d'un Foehn version 1
by Phia Ménard, cie Non Nova
Stripped-Off Circus
"Pure" Circus
"Stripped-Off" Circus

After years of cross-genre initiatives and mixing disciplines, etc., a new generation of circus seeks to strip their practice off other performative elements, focus on their circus technics and convey their message only through intimate exploration. So back to fundamental elements: prouesse, circus numbers having intrinsic values and strength to reach an audience, no costume, no flashing lights, no set design – simplicity and sensitivity.
A young generation of artists want to “go back to basics”, explore the roots (even if artistically speaking, this aesthetic never existed). The main idea is to put out of their research and practice the theatrical and choreographical elements.
Urban Rabbit by Arpad Schilling/
Kretakor & CNAC students
A Simple Space by Gravithy
and Other Myths
This trend is interesting in that it responds more or less consciously to a desire for recognition of circus arts: they are sufficient unto themselves and do not need the assistance of text, dance, music or video to assert themselves. The circus has intrinsic value (as well as “theatricality”, “choreographicality”…), an artistic legitimacy, and the use of other artforms is ornamentation.
by Casus Circus
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Trapeze artists, in lithograph by Calvert Litho. Co., 1890
Totem by Cirque du Soleil
Only Bones by Thomas Monckton
The Toad Knew (La Grenouille Savait) by James Thierrée
Meaningful dialogue with other forms
How to label?
These shows defy categories: dance/circus, theatre/circus, music/circus... The "slash" aethetics!
4 x 4 Ephemeral Architectures
by Gandini Juggling
Some productions are full hybrid work mixing circus disciplines with other artistic expressions.
Circus and other art forms
Triptyque by 7 Doigts de la Main
Timber by Cirque Alfonse
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