We are starting a new series called “Meet a Circus Grad” to give a voice to recently graduated or graduating circus artists, to learn about their experience at circus school, and to get a clearer picture of how circus schools around the world operate and prepare their students for the circus workforce.
In the first edition of “Meet a Circus Grad” we spoke to Noora Pasanen, a 27-year-old Finn, who recently graduated from Centre National des Arts du Cirque (CNAC) and is currently on tour with Atelier 29 for the professional integration year. CNAC is the only circus school that is “completed by a professional integration year, which includes the creation of a performance in Châlons-en-Champagne (every December) of the graduation show, and the following tour, as well as individual help with personal projects for the graduating students,” according to the school.
Home country: Finland
Specialty: Aerial rope
Fun fact: Studied ethnology before changing careers
CNAC–Centre national des arts du cirque
Location: Châlons-en-Champagne, France
Degrees offered: BA equivalent, CNAC Graduate school and certificate in circus dramaturgy
General Director: Gérard Fasoli
Applications due: Spring
Fun Fact: CNAC has a documentary resource center in association with the French National Library (BnF). It is open to the public (professionals, students and researchers).
Take a virtual tour of CNAC.
Fiona Bradley: What lead you to your choice between schools? Why did you choose CNAC?
Noora Pasanen: I had the possibility to choose between DOCH and CNAC. Since my origin is from Finland, I chose to come to France to broaden my perception with a new cultural atmosphere and language. Also, I chose it for the school’s artistic goals and France’s contemporary circus field, and overall the field of performing arts and the fact of institutional support for the development and maintenance for those fields aroused my interest to learn how it works.
FB: What do you think makes CNAC different from other circus schools?
NP: I suppose it’s the possibility to work with a well-organized professional project/creation and to tour with the show. The repetition of a touring show is another phase of learning, allowing each artist to hone their performance and to develop as artists.
NP: I feel that the school has provided numerous amazing possibilities and I found myself very impressed over and over again. For me, I would say that the possibility to go and see the performances of other artists, and the artists who have visited and lectured about their work at the school has provided a vast range of revolutionary moments of admiration and multiplied over and again my passion for art as a direction for life. I would like to mention also our teacher Karine Noël who did amazing work with us throughout my school time. I found her methods for teaching provided a personal revolution when approaching the body schema.
FB: What lead you to change from studying ethnology to becoming a circus artist?
NP: Actually, I consider it a logical progression since I find the thematics and symbolism behind circus culture and performing arts is just getting into the same researching and observing of human life and experience, just with a different approach.
FB: Why do you believe graduation comes first before the tour of the final show?
NP: The graduation happens just at the moment of the general performance. For the final show, we are already well prepared by all the school time to be ready to take the responsibility to work for the tour as professionals. It creates a kind of rite of passage for the students to become professionals.
FB: What is the difference to you between being a student at CNAC and participating in this show?
NP: Regulating my own timetable for training and keeping up the variability and way to inspire and refresh my work.
FB: As I understand it, the performers do tasks such as put up the tent, and drive the trucks, as well as being a big part of creating the show. Do you believe there is value in learning these things while on tour?
NP: I believe it gives us the real picture of one type of how working as a circus artist works and could really happen after leaving school. So yes, I believe there is a great value.
FB: Tell us about the show. What is Atelier 29 about? What inspires it?
NP: The show is not constructed over any particular story. We as the performers had a lot of the responsibility for providing our own propositions for the creation and the director then considered our intention and the authenticity of our choices. The director and his colleagues also provided us with some texts, poems, music and workshops for sharing some points of departure for the atmosphere or themes.
FB: Can you tell us about the inspiration for your solo act? What was it about or what was the underlying idea?
NP: I find it important to present the paradoxical nature of human experience: chaotic but maybe tender and gracious, sometimes immoderate and frenzied, but fragile. And I also wanted to illustrate the counterpart of the superhuman artist that is traditionally presented in circus. I find it important to speak the alternative story for what is considered ideal or a norm in our society, revealing the reality that is actually never coherent, including the lapses, distortions, and ambiguity held together by a lust for life, and finally–the sense of humor that keeps it all glued together.
FB: How is the experience of Atelier 29 helping you grow?
NP: We have had all the freedom and responsibility for planning and constructing the show, at the same time learning to cooperate with each other. The work has demanded enormous autonomy, proactivity and responsibility. We have needed to learn how to adapt our personal work within the context of the show, the scenography and the universe of the performance.
FB: What insight have you gained from the creation process of this show?
NP: I have been lucky to observe the strategy of Mathurin Bolze–how he delivers an artistic process within the given conditions (time, us as the interpreters, etc.). On the other hand, it has been helpful to have had the chance to work in a real production that has been very similar to a professional one. This way we have had an invaluable experience of developing the performance before and after the premiere, which enabled us to develop our individual work as performers with precision and intention over many repetitions of the show. It has been very enriching and in many ways gave me confidence about my professional identity.
FB: What advice would you give a circus artist who is about to go on tour?
NP: Take care of having rest and physical preparation for keeping up your condition. Eat well. And pllan how you can get your thoughts away from the work when needed.
Feature photo courtesy of Patricia Hardy