While the other two members of our CIRQUEON Wires Crossed 2020 team went to Berlin in July for a week with one half of our training group, I, as the sole representative, attended an alternate Wires Crossed week in early August with the other half. This time, our host was Cirkus Cirkör in Stockholm, Sweden. I joined the three-member team from Cirkör and 2 colleagues from Ecole de Cirque de Bruxelles. Cirkör had advertised an intensive funambulism training, and 12 students with a wide range of skill levels had enrolled. We would spend the next three days teaching them under the keen gaze and helpful personage of our wonderful instructor, Bruno Frenette.
Sweden features dramatic natural scenery. We were lucky enough to enjoy it up close, housed for the week in beautiful cottages just by a lakefront, from which we could walk 40 minutes through the forest straight to Cirkör. Upon our arrival at Cirkör, we had a tour of the unique and impressive facilities. Cirkör is not only a studio offering circus classes to the public, but also a professional circus training school, as well as a thriving production company for circus performances, some of which you may have seen at Prague’s yearly Letní Letná festival or elsewhere. Cirkör is situated in an enormous warehouse, and has a number of training halls, costume design and set design spaces, a building workshop, and more. We were in awe of the amount of space and equipment available, and warmed by the family-like community: circus students, professional circus artists, management, creatives, carpenters, production and marketing people all buzzing around the Cirkör kitchen or at picnic tables in the garden. With its fascinating history literally laid out everywhere – graffiti, posters, drawings and photographs, banners and props decorating the walls and the ceiling – whoever enters Cirkör is enveloped in the bright and magical atmosphere of a place where amazing things happen!
And they did! Once we were introduced to the space, our group got together and organized the course, focusing on maximum safety and fun, as well as maximum potential technical growth over the three days, which would be broken up into six 2-hour blocks. Knowing that people often face a lot of fear when encountering the tightwire and holding the heavy balancier (or balancing pole), we pledged to make the work as fun as possible and be super aware, supportive and encouraging while we designed a progressively more complicated training.
An important part of our planning was to figure out the rigging. Thanks to the size of Cirkus Cirkör, we were able to put up 4 funlines (slacklines which are tightened to become less bouncy so that they are more like tightwires, specifically for practicing funambulism) at varying heights, and then we had 3 portable tightwires to work with, two at less than one meter high, one 1.5 meters. This meant that our students had the luxury of moving back and forth between the slacklines and the tightwires, giving their brains great integration training while deepening their competence on both! Over the three days, the heights and lengths would change to challenge the students a little more during each teaching block, and some lines would remain low for practicing difficult moves.
Each block of our training was led by one teacher on our team and had a particular focus. Each teacher, after consultation with the group on the general content, chose what and how they would teach and how to involve the other teachers. We got to know the materials, played creative and technically-oriented games, prepared our bodies and practiced tactics for overcoming fear and anxiety. The students were happy to experience many different teaching styles. Over the three days our students, spanning in age from 11 to 62, became more and more proficient and daring. Each of them worked very hard to ease their own fears, and all of them saw impressive results in themselves!
We had very nutritious food, provided by a local vegetarian restaurant, which sent us over 15 delicious dishes each day for lunch to share amongst us. The recipes were inventive, surprising us with their unique tastes, which caused us to play guessing games as to which spices and herbs had been used. During the week, we also went into the city twice in the evenings to other tasty restaurants, and did a bit of sightseeing of Stockholm’s islands. Yet one highlight of the trip was already on the first day of our workshop – we got to see a preview of the newest Cirkus Cirkör performance, Bloom! This truly breathtaking show was a great inspiration to all of us, and on the second workshop day, we saw the students dedicate themselves in earnest to their funambulism skill-building!
On the third day, the final day of the workshop, our highest funline measured 2.5 meters off the ground, and our longest was 20 meters long. Our students had learned walking forwards, walking backwards, kneeling, standing on one leg, manipulating the balancier (removing one hand, putting it on the shoulders, dropping and catching it behind the body, stepping over it), turning around, sitting down, lying down, walking in twos and walking blindfolded… they had also made up some of their own tricks! Today, the students were paired up and, after two days practicing technical work, they now had their chance to create a small presentation of their new competencies. They relatively short time for their creative process and a few simple directions as to how to create their “shows”. You can bet that the last two hours were incredibly rich, as we closed the workshop with imaginative, brave and fun student presentations showing each person’s funambulist journey, boasting versatility and mastery that none of us had imagined possible just 72 hours before!
On our last day, the team evaluated the workshop and discussed the next Wires Crossed 2020 project plans. Leaving Cirkör was hard, but it was lovely to return home, where we got to host a week of funamblism open workshops at Letni Letna! If you didn’t manage to walk the lines with us there, be sure to be on the lookout for our next funambulism workshops!
foto: Christina Simpson, Cirkus Cirkör
Wires Crossed projects are supported by Erasmus+ programme.