It was most likely out of sheer and perhaps excessive enthusiasm that I decided (voluntarily in all meaning of the word) to undertake a trip to discover the contemporary circus of the North last summer. I identified the Norwegian capital as the most promising Scandinavian contemporary-circus destination owing to a piece of information I had discovered while researching the scene for the Cirqueon web site: every year, Oslo is one stop on the route of The Circus Village traveling circus festival which is organized by Circus Xanti as the first step towards a systematic support for the development of contemporary circus in Norway (as opposed to other Scandinavian countries where contemporary circus is very well established already). Thus, the touring festival mostly presents acts and artists from other countries. In the three summer months of 2012, the festival visited Sarpsborg, Sandvika and Oslo. Each destination offers a different version of the festival program prepared by the same organization team with the help of both local and visiting volunteers.
My Oslo experience was thrilling in many ways but I was most excited by the way the small festival operated in a literally family environment. The two festival circus tents (seating 300 and 50 spectators respectively) and the trailers were set up in the middle of a small park near the city center and everybody involved took part in the day-to-day operation of the event – the management, the performers, international volunteers (from The Czech Republic, Serbia and The Netherlands) and local enthusiasts who knew the festival from the previous years – a total of about 20 people would meet every morning before breakfast, discuss whatever needed to be discussed and then happily went on to do their part in the organization. In retrospect, it seems almost too idealistic to say so, but these morning meetings and the way the work was shared very much influenced the atmosphere in the organization team. Us international volunteers mostly dealt with running the bio café, cleaning up, selling tickets, promoting the festival in the neighborhood and other minor tasks which helped us become a part of the group despite our lack of knowledge of the environment and understanding of the local language (even though the organizing team was very international so we all spoke English to each other).
The actual program of the festival had two parts: a main section consisting of more prominent, professional artists and groups (Cirkus Aikamoinen, Finland; Karl Stets; Tumble Circus, Ireland) and an “open-call” section for artists selected by the organizers based on received applications. The latter section presented less known but often very interesting young artists and groups from Spain, Venezuela, Lithuania and other countries.
The actual audience turnout during the 10 days of the festival can definitely be attributed to the imperfect promotion of the event and perhaps also to a degree of distrust the Norwegians have for this growing phenomenon of contemporary circus. However, it is apparent that the concept and the goals of the festival keep evolving and improving and that Circus Xanti is absolutely not quitting its quest to spread the virus called contemporary circus.