At the Parisian Théâtre de la Cité Internationale, the last weekend of April belonged to the laureates of the first annual CircusNext project (which is the 6h annual edition of the renamed Jeunes Talents Cirque Europe) which is partnered by Cirqueon – A Center For Contemporary Circus. The public performance of 30-minute excerpts from the work in progress on future circus productions presented a milestone on the creative journey of the participating performance groups.
126 candidates from 14 countries applied for participation in the project which imposes the only restriction that applicants must be working on their first or at most second contemporary circus production. For the first round, an expert jury chaired by Camilla Damkjaer, a professor at the Stockholm university who theoretically studies contemporary dance and circus, chose twelve artist groups: Oktobre, Cirque Kozh, Nicolas Longuechaud, Sisters, Collectif Martine Á La Plage, Compagnie Du Chaos, La Boca Abierta, Animal Religion, Nuua, Zendra, Iona Kewney and Kosm. Last November, these artists were invited for an audition round which took place at the Cirkus Centrum partner organization and at Theater Op De Markt at Neerpelt, Belgium. During this week-long residency, the groups presented a 20-minute sample from their planned performance. At the end, five projects were chosen and received financial support and the opportunity to continue their work in residencies in participating countries. The five resultant excerpts from upcoming productions were publicly presented in Paris at the end of April. The showcase of their work-in-progress provided the laureates an opportunity to receive feedback from the audience and attract the attention of potential sponsors or co-producers.
The Top Five
La Boca Abierta consists of two young women: Lior Shoov from Israel and Anne Kaempf from France. When the spectators settled down in the auditorium, the sounds of an accordion a ukulele and two voices came from behind them. Then two smiling figures – one in a red dress, another in boys‘ clothing – appeared on the stairs on the left side of the audience. Their short performance with elements of frivolous acrobatics and clown gags was joyful and energetic. For example while playing the accordion and singing, Annie rested her leg against a column in a way that left her standing in vertical side splits and continued her music production completely undisturbed. The musical numbers were very original: Lior started clapping a rhythm with her hands, then added slaps on her thighs and gradually on almost all her body, while adding various vocal sounds. In between the songs, the two actresses entertained the audience as two naïve and cute clowns. Their piece was based on conflicts, quarrels, teasing and reconciliation.
The Sisters trio consisted of Valia Beauvieux from France, Mikkel Hobitz Filtenborg from Denmark and Pablo Rada Moniz from Spain, all very contrasting types – a tall blond man, a swarthy muscular man and a curly-haired boy – whose acrobatic feats both enthralled and entertained the audience which rewarded them with a round applause almost after every trick they performed. Their great strength was the timing of all their actions and also the playfulness and apparent joy from movement and the pushing of physical limits they exuded. Whether they took to the poles, started doing somersaults, balancing in a ring or jumping over each other, they always resembled three little boys daring each other who can do better.
Iona Kewney and musician Joseph Quinby from the UK unleashed madness on stage – in terms of both music and movement. They covered the stage with dirt, suspended a ring in the air and set up a musician with a microphone and sound gear in the back of the stage. Iona Kewneys choreography was centered around the theme of the world of animals which was reflected in her dance which included metaphors of horse trot and chased prey. The dancer shaped her body like flexible rubber which she stretched, elongated, expanded, bent and then started over again. In the suspended ring, she worked in a similar way. Her sinewy, literally emaciated body fluttered in the air but despite the flurry of motion, stayed fully under its owner’s control. The performance hardly gave the audience a moment to catch a breath. The calm only came in the final scene of a hunter and his prey, when the stout musician carried Iona Kewney’s fragile body on his shoulders.
Nuua is a Finnish-Brazilian duo which introduced poetry and lightness to the stage. Rows of helium balloons anchored to the stage by strings with metal weights gently flickered with light in front of the audience. Suddenly, two men entered, one dragging the other. When they’d passed through the delimited area several times, they started rearranging the balloons and tying them in bunches. They took three of them to start juggling with and gradually kept adding more balloons. They went through different juggling styles, they moved in the space, altered the rhythm, juggled side-by-side and along a circle in perfect coordination. Above them, there were hovering balloons which they kept pulling back down by their strings. Between this and the final scene, one clown number took place during which one of the juggler tested, how long can a balloon resist the edge of a knife.
The Oktobre company based in France consists of Eva Ordonez from Argentina, Yann Frisch from France and Jonathan Frau from Italy. Their production was co-directed by Florent Bergal and Raphaël Navarro supervised their magic numbers. The performance was composed of three different circus genres: magic, trapeze and dance.
The show started with the stage occupied by a seated girl in a black wig and a long red dress with a inflated red balloon in her hand. Her calm presence was disturbed by a dynamic entrance of a dancer and the girl left to later reappear as a lady in black. The trio conjured the atmosphere of a mysterious castle in the Carpatians where an energetic, fun and perfectly concluded magic number only emphasized the fact that the audience had entered a world of mysteries and bizarre characters. The magic number included tricks with balls, a cup and a kettle which was originally filled with water. The water suddenly disappeared to make room for various appearances and disappearances of red balls. To a great surprise of the audience, the magician ended the number by pouring the water from the kettle over himself.
Eva Ordonez’s performance on the static trapeze was fascinating. The performer’s appearance was reminiscent of Elizabeth Báthory (a historical serial killer) while her flexibility was reminiscent of natural rubber. The dancer who contributed the final number had the looks of an Antic statue. However, the attempt to connect the unrelated scenes into a consistent story resulted in a chaotic impression. Apparently, this great ambition of the company is yet to be fulfilled.
CirkusNext showed the works of five laureates and all turned out to be on a professional level. The laureates‘ showcase travels from Paris to Strasbourg and Fossano: On June 10 – 15, the performances will be presented at the Melting Pot fostival and on June 19-23, they will be showing at the Mirabilia festival in Italy.
Written based on the CirkusNext showcase at Théâtre de la Cité Internationale in Paris, France in 2013. The article was written as a part of the How To Write OnContemporary Circus for future journalists by Cirqueon.