After doubts, anticipation, and COVID-19 cancellation, the 2021 edition of FIRCO, Festival Iberoamericano de Circo, is set to take place at Teatro Circo Price de Madrid from October 1-3. Showcasing Ibero-American talent, this year’s festival is a celebration of art, expertise, and the return of the circus industry. On the rebuilding of the festival, artistic director Carlos Such said, “We tried to reformulate our lives without fear but with caution, being aware of the fragility that defines us as a human species.” The festival is one of many setting up the industry’s “new normal” as the circus community figures out what shows might look like in the coming years.
FIRCO is founded on the need to unify the different worlds of circus that exist in each Ibero-American country. The festival completes this mission throughout a weekend of intercultural exchange and a gathering of all ages. They aim to situate circus in a position to receive creative acclaim, cement the circus arts as a critical part of Ibero-American culture, and foster young talents.
The festival is comprised of eight primary participants that form a repeated gala. The gala is showcased in the Teatro Circo Price, where the public and a specialized jury will watch with critical eyes. FIRCO culminates on the last day with a Circus Professionals Meeting. Rafa Peñalver, FIRCO Jury & Programer Coordinator, offers the following words on FIRCO as an exhibit of cultural activity:
“We consider circus a major art form, like dance or theatre. FIRCO was born with the aim of showing the world the potential and creativity of Ibero-American circus. In the festival, we choose some of the best artists from these countries and put them together to make an unique event at the highest artistic level. We also focus on young talents and new artistic proposals and put the artists in contact with different circus agents (producers, directors, etc.) as we want the festival to become a good impulse to their careers.”
One hurdle circus organizations have been facing this year is talent sourcing. With travel restrictions and a need to limit person-to-person exposure, local talent seems to be taking the lead in 2021. Rafa Peñalver gave some insight on what planning the festival looked like for their team:
“Due to the pandemic situation, we decided to make a simplified version of the festival, with less artists and giving preference to Ibero-American artists who live in Spain or Europe. But when you open an application form you don’t know what proposals you are going to receive and which fits better at your festival. So we are happy to announce that this year about 50% of the artists will come from Latin America and 10 nationalities will be represented at FIRCO.”
Giving preference to nearby artists seems to be a theme post-COVID, but the appearance of performers from so many different countries is promising for international festivals. As more festivals play out, we will continue to see how pandemic implications have changed the circus landscape. Like the ever-increasing demand for digital literacy in artists, we may notice a shift in casting based on geography.
In the spirit of pandemic adaptions and resilience, Rafa Peñalver went on to say, “This year is so exciting because it is the ‘after pandemic’ edition. We had to cancel the 2020 edition, but we tried to keep active and show that Ibero-American circus won’t stop, so we made a documentary with five artists called ‘El Vuelo Circular‘ (you can enjoy it on YouTube). We were thrilled when we met with Circus Price and we agreed to have the 2021 edition in its normal format: with an enthusiastic audience and an international jury.”
In lieu of a traditional festival last year, Circontinentes and Teatro Circo Price teamed up to produce “El Vuelo Circular,” a circus documentary. In this process they were able to spotlight Ibero-American talent without an in-person festival. The documentary focuses on five circus artists sharing their pasts and personal struggles while traveling throughout Madrid. This aligns with FIRCO’s mission of elevating Madrid as an epicenter for the circus arts. On the prominence of Madrilenian circus, Rafa says:
“Madrid is one of the cities of the world with the most cultural references and activities. Some of the best museums and theatres are here. Also, Teatro Circo Price is the biggest steady circus in Spain, with more than 2,500 seats. It has an agenda full of the best circus companies and also with some of the more contemporary creations. The only thing Madrid didn’t have was an international circus festival and that is one of the reasons that FIRCO is placed here, to place Madrid and Ibero-America as an epicenter of circus arts.”
The FIRCO 2021 Lineup
Andrea Ramírez – Mexico
An École National de Cirque de Montreal graduate, Andrea Ramírez has always believed in superpowers – which she ultimately has found through circus performance. She considers the Cyr wheel a companion, and has a habit of naming hers. Her latest act is titled Identidad Rota. The creation focuses on her search for an ever-elusive personal identity.
Miguel Gigosos – Spain
After trying a multitude of media, Miguel Gigosos has found juggling to be perfect for the art of self expression. Initially self-taught, Gigosos went on to study at École de Cirque de Lyon. His style can be described as energetic and explosive. He proudly confesses to frequently hitting himself in the face with his leg while training. His piece is titled Básico #2.
Omkara Inc. – Colombia
Former trapeze artist Oskar Mauricio is bring his act Vacío to FIRCO this year. The act speaks to what is essential, personal reunion, and the connection between people and the planet. The act also features more than 150 liters of soil on stage, signifying a closeness with nature.
Soif Totale Inc. – Costa Rica
Soif Totale is made up of three École Supérieure des Arts du Cirque graduates: Marco Tulio Solís, Beatriz Duarte, and Julian Blum. These artists will be showcasing their act Dive In, a merging of three bodies into one on stage, guided by the hand of intuition. Soif Totale centers on thirst, and their performance is an invitation to drink.
Serena Méndez – Argentina
Originally a flying and static trapeze artist, Serena Méndez encountered dance trapeze by accident. After being forced to rig her usual trapeze on one point, and fighting off months of dizziness, Mendez fell in love with the unique discipline. Her latest act was forged in isolation, and is a direct reflection of the emotions she encountered.
MIDA Inc. – Mexico
Hand to Hand
Frida Velasco and Michael Carter met while auditioning for École National de Cirque de Montreal. The pair quickly realized they would have to overcome a Spanish to English language barrier to be successful at hand to hand, an act that demands communication. Today, their strong connection lead them to success at Les 7 Doigts de la Main.
Michelle de Andrade & Daniela del Mar Díaz – Venezuela
These friends met at circus school in Miami, later reconnecting to create a hair suspension act. The discipline by its nature is described as quite spiritual, creating moments of intense self-awareness. Their act, Ubuntu, translates to “I am because we are,” and emphasizes the close union between the two women.
Duo NoAr – Brazil
Former athlete Olavo Rocha and former gymnast and environmental engineer Denise Torres are graduates of Escola Nacional de Circo de Brasil. After finding themselves unemployed in April, Olavo asked Denise to develop a duo act with him. After a few short months of dedication, and pure force, the two are ready to present their act in FIRCO 2021.
You can find FIRCO Festival on the CircusTalk event page.
All photos provided courtesy of FIRCO. Main image features Soif Totale.