Dear Stav, and all other Interested Individuals,
I have been working at the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain for nearly three years organising the Club PRO events. I am a woman, a passionate lover of circus and a supporter of creation, circus innovation and equality in all of its forms. I am not in any way involved in the selection process of the acts we present but being a part of our tiny team (there are only three employees at the Festival, of which only one works full time… the rest of the Festival team is made up entirely of volunteers) means that I did have the opportunity to see a large number of the application videos, so I feel that I can speak a little about this subject.
Before addressing the core subject of your article, please allow me to address the question of racial equality in the Festival. We recognise that this year was a particularly ‘white’ Festival. While it is true that we try to showcase the best international talents in our shows, many of the applications we receive are from artists coming out of training facilities in predominantly white areas of the world. It is perhaps not surprising that artists who graduate from these excellent training programmes are able to reach such high levels of artistic and technical skill in their acts and that in other parts of the world, artists who do not have access to these wonderful resources can not compete at the same level. There are certainly related questions that need addressing within our community about rectifying this disparity within the global circus education system, but that’s a bit beyond my purview, I must admit. Please believe that the Festival is passionate about providing a stage for talented young artists of any colour or nationality.
Now, please permit me to address your principal subject. First, you should know that we had two acts with female artists that had to cancel at the last minute due to injury, thereby tipping the balance of women to men even more into inequality. Second, the ratio of male/female applications that we received was similar to the ratio represented on stage at the 39th edition. Third, as a woman who is passionate about innovative circus, I would say that within the selection of applications coming from women that I saw personally, the stereotypes of women in circus were strongly represented and original acts with women of different builds and ideas were sadly under-represented. We cannot present what we do not receive. Perhaps circus women with original ideas feel that there is no point in applying as they assume they will not be selected? Perhaps some contemporary female circus artists are making a statement of boycotting the Festival by choosing not to apply?
I cannot personally speak to the reasons behind this lack of diversity in the applications that we receive. On a personal level, I love new circus works that surprise me, works that respect and promote the ever-evolving role of women in circus, and that innovate in this art form which I am passionate about. I am as frustrated as you that we are not able to fully represent this side of circus on our stage! I would encourage any female artist, and any artist of non-white origin with an original idea or a new way of presenting circus to apply to the Festival so that the organisers have the possibility of representing this side of circus at the 40th Festival next year! That being said, I have huge respect for the wonderful women that we were lucky enough to welcome on our stage this year, in all their shapes and forms, who owned the stage and who, from memory, didn’t have one diamante crystal anywhere to be seen between them.
At the end of the day, I believe we have the same goal. We want to narrow the gaps of gender and racial inequality in circus. It is easy to look at big organisations that have been around for decades and accuse them of not doing a good job. Please understand that being a big, established festival does not mean we are infallible. We too have our problems to face, and the future of the Festival remains as fragile as it has always been for the last 39 years; financial resources are limited and intermittent even on a good year and we rely heavily on the goodwill of our partners. What is sure however, is that the Festival will not survive, and will not be able to fulfill its mission of showcasing the ‘tomorrow’ of circus, without the support of circus community.
With that in mind, help us to fulfill your expectations. With your support, we can encourage more talented young women, who are out there breaking gender stereotypes, to apply to be a part of the Festival. You can help us to discover incredible new acts coming from every country of the world from artists of every race and religion so we can bring them to Paris and show them to the world.
The Festival is open to all. Help us explain this to the world.
Yours in friendship,
Club PRO Manager, Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain
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