Journeys Through Queer Circus--Deep Explorations of Queerness, Materiality, and the Body

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Pro Exclusive: Journeys Through Queer Circus–Deep Explorations of Queerness, Materiality, and the Body

CircusTalk is pleased to present Journeys Through Queer Circus with Charles Batson, a series revolving around the culture and concerns of the LGBTQIA+ community in the circus environment. This series is dedicated to creating a space for queer voices to be heard and for queer art to flourish. Join us for a four-episode deep dive into queer circus as part of our continuing dedication to improving equity and inclusion in the arts, hosted by Dr. Charles Batson. In this episode, guest Phia Ménard speaks about combining queerness, natural elements, and her own body to communicate an empathy her audiences are called to absorb and reckon with.

Known for his writing and directing, Dr. Charles Batson is a circus researcher and professor of French and Francophone studies and past president of the American Council for Québec Studies and also the Florence B. Sherwood professor of history and culture at Union College where he also co-chairs the LGBTQ+ Affairs committee. In the circus world, Charles Batson is best known for his writing (Cirque Global, Quebec’s Expanding Circus Boundaries) and of course for co-directing the academic seminar titled Circus & its Others.

Phia Ménard (she/ her)

Juggler, performance artist, and director-France

circus performer
From Contes immoraux – Partie 1 – Maison mère © Jean-Luc Beaujault

Watching Jérôme Thomas’ show “Extraballe” in 1991, Phia Ménard realized she felt a strong desire to train in the performing arts and in particular in the art of juggling. She began training in modern dance, mime, and acting. She trained with the juggling master Jérôme Thomas and went on to join his company, performing numerous shows up until 2003. 

She founded the company Non Nova in 1992.  In 2008 her artistic career took a new direction with the project “I.C.E” – “Injonglabilité Complémentaire des Eléments” (“Complementary Unjugglability of the Elements”), with the aim of examining the imaginative aspect of transformation and erosion through natural matter and the elements.  

Multiple award-winner across multiple disciplines, she is affiliated, among other places, with the Théâtre National de Bretagne in Rennes, France. Her work has been performed in over 60 countries.

queer circus
From Contes immoraux – Partie 1 – Maison mère © Jean-Luc Beaujault

In this second episode of “Journeys Through Queer Circus,” I’m terrifically honored to present Phia Ménard. I caught up with this ground- and genre-breaking artist in Belgrade as she was working on a project there, and our conversation takes us on a wide-ranging, provocative, and stimulating walk around queerness and her sense of her work-self-art as queer.  

Phia Ménard’s generosity and candor in this exchange take us from her background in juggling and the creation of her company to her experiences as a performing trans individual. We explore, along the way, questions of queer/mixed audiences, gender expression, shared physicalities, and the trauma of shuttered performance spaces in our time of Covid. The interview closes on what she suggests it might mean to transmit queer into the queer, as we live and create.  

You will not want to miss this frank and provocative discussion with a queer maker of images, of movement, of plasticity, of art. She delivers deep and frank connections, resonating with a touch of hope and exhibiting potential for joy.

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Charles Batson

Circus academic! Co-convener of the Circus and Its Others research project and involved with the Montreal Working Group on Circus Research. Co-edited, with Louis Patrick Leroux, Cirque Global: Quebec's Expanding Circus Boundaries (McGill-Queens Univ Press, 2016). Research also involves queer, dance, and performance studies.