In 2021, no matter what has happened in the circus world, I can always say I did a thing–and that thing was to watch over 60 circus shows in the span of one month from my living room. It is a far cry from two and three years ago when I saw as many or more shows during the course of a whole year in my capacity as editor at CircusTalk. In those days, I counted the local circus shows in my hometown that recurred every month as well as the big-ticket shows that came to town, and of course, there were the festivals we’d have the privilege to attend. For a couple of years at these festivals, a three-show-a-day diet with colleagues was the norm. Even though this year’s circus viewing experience was a vastly different one, it was also still a joyous one, because instead of rewatching a Netflix series or perfecting my bagel recipe, I was engaging with new circus creations–ones that had been devised, created and performed during the pandemic for people to see.
This award was envisioned as a way to recognize the contribution circus makes to society
The shows ran the gamut of possibilities for performances–some were recorded with live audiences, some were films, and some were recorded in empty theatres and even apartments. But whatever the method and production value, they were a sign that the art form persists and is being made by companies of all sizes around the world. Thanks to the International Circus Awards (ICA), as editor of CircusTalk, I was invited to join 31 circus colleagues from around the world on the voting committee to assess the productions for the first-ever contemporary circus award show, and also to present the CircusTalk Critics’ Choice Award. We created this special award particularly for the circus sector back in 2019, when CircusTalk awarded our first Critics’ Choice Award to Marco Motta at The Iberoamerican Circus Festival (better known as FIRCO). This award was envisioned as a way to recognize the contribution circus makes to society, particularly circus that has a special impact and social relevance in today’s arts environment (see our original press release for more details).
It may be true that my couch was a more comfortable perch to view the vigorous and varied gyrations of circus from than narrow theater seats, but it is also true that not having the company of the circus sector at these events to discuss the shows with took away some of that comfort and replaced it with longing for a return to live performance around the globe–a process many are working on restoring in one way or another every day. For example, our CEO Stacy Clark is on her way to St. John’s International Circusfest this week in order to be a panelist in their live, in-person workshops and to see their live, in-person performances.
Until such festivals and shows are restored everywhere, fortunately, we have the ICA awards digital ceremony (October 9th, 2021) to help us celebrate all that has transpired in the past year and a half of circus! Of course, someday too the ICA event will be live and in person, but 2021 was a good year to launch an initiative in a time when the circus sector could use a little boost and CircusTalk was delighted to play a part in that initiative.
So, 60 plus shows it was…and what great shows they were! Deep, soul searching solo shows, giant joyous explorations of humanity through acrobatics, intimate casts that explored loneliness, fear and isolation, shows that questioned the status quo, shows that modeled the healthy rediscovery of simple joys and pleasures, artists that innovated and connected their movement work to big patterns and ideas–all for the love of performance and human connection! Brazilian director and performing arts creator Augusto Boal once said, “…theatre is the capacity possessed by human beings–and not by animals–to observe themselves in action.” And circus is a type of performance that can reflect the human experience back to itself in perhaps the most engaging of ways–through action itself–mirroring our resilience, tenacity and persistence in a way that the theater of words rarely can echo. I hope you get to see some of these circus shows of 2020/2021 in your town or on your screens and that you continue to support circus in any and all forms!
Stay tuned to this blogpost for an update on the CircusTalk Critics’ Choice Award after the ceremony!