With global nationalism and hate crimes on the rise, social circus programs will continue to provide events and spaces throughout 2020 for conversations about uplifting the vulnerable, such as children and refugees.
In 2008, six European circus schools joined in Brussels to create the nonprofit Caravan Circus Network (CCN) as an international youth and social circus network. Currently, the 35 circus school members come from 23 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East, and produce youth festivals and exchanges, as well as support seminars, training, research and volunteers.
The fifth annual Social Circus Conference: Another Resource (Conference Circo Sociale: un’Altra Risorsa)will hold workshops, roundtables, keynote lectures and spaces for discussions and reflections about the theme of participation on April 4-5. Theweekend event, presented primarily in Italian, will reflect on how circus arts can be an active participation tool, and ways that circuses can cause upheaval in the status quo. Tools to involve participants and the public from different social and cultural backgrounds and experiences will be explored too.
The four breakout sessions include:
- Passion and participation from creation to staging
- Social circus and inclusion: How to break down barriers to participation and give voice to the marginalized
- Methodologies and participation strategies: The participant-centered approach
- Circus and audience development: Practices and projects for development of the circus public
Circus educator and social circus researcher Ilaria Bessone calls the conference “ParticiPassion,” where the passion for circus becomes a driving force for participation.
Erin Go Bragh
Galway Community Circus (GCC), in partnership with Galway 2020 and the European Funambulism Network, is presenting Wires Crossed between August 6 and 9. The largest, most ambitious circus spectacle to be staged in Ireland, Wires Crossed will bring 400 people from all ages and walks of life to cross Galway’s river Corrib and the Claddagh Basin on high wires over a period of 2020 minutes, about 34 hours.
‘‘People try the art of funambulism (tightwire walking using a balancing pole), not believing that they can do it, but then they make it to the other side of a wire or slackline, and become surprising heroes,” says GCC Executive Creative Director Ulla Hokkanen.
“This is the true magic of circus arts, unlocking personal potential and finding talent, resilience and a sense of empowerment,” she added.
GCC gives opportunities to young people to live their best lives by supporting physical, mental and social well being, including via social circus for all ages and all levels of ability and disability. Beginning in 2016, thousands of people have been trained, working with nine European youth and social circus schools. The Galway crossing site was chosen to acknowledge the loss of life to suicides over that river in recent years. Wires Crossed will provide solidarity, courage and hope to those grappling with mental illness.
The Flying Carpet Children’s Festival will hold workshops from June 1 through August 22, culminating in a festival August 23-29, as part of Sirkhane’s social circus work with vulnerable children affected by conflicts and war. The group believes that all young people have the right to access cultural experiences by first class artists. The work takes place on the Turkish-Syrian border where millions of refugees are settled.
About 30-40 performers per year, including musicians, circus and visual artists, magicians, storytellers, designers and visionaries are brought in to produce a one-hour show and become catalysts for positive change in the lives of children. Over the past two years, the group has provided 15 concerts and 250 workshops by 75 artists, reaching 3,000 children and over 7,000 audience members.
In the past, they linkeda Brazillian circus group, Circo No Ato, with Iranian musicians to create a 20-minute set that combined circus and classical Persian and Western music. In 2019, the festival hosted David Rimelis, a New Jersey jazz musician, who performed with a fire dancer by live-looping on his violin and guitar. They also featured Collin Edouard, a classical singer from New York, who collaborated with a Russian pianist from San Francisco and a Turkish dancer from Istanbul at the 1500-year-old Dara Mesopotamian ruins.
Doe Het Goed!
CCN has also begun the “Circus as Intercultural Encounter” research project to discover a set of skills and dialogue practices for effective anti-racism and social inclusion interventions to use when working with communities of refugees, asylum seekers and new migrant youth. Funded by Erasmus, participating circus schools include Zaltimbanq Zirkus(Luxembourg), Caravan (Belgium), University College Dublin (Ireland), Altro Circo (Italy), Sirkus Magenta (Finland), Circus Planeet (Belgium), Skala (Slovenia), and Palestinian Circus School (Palestine). Project progress will be shared from November 12-15, with the final results being presented in April 2021 in Italy.
Feature photo Altro Circo 2018, courtesy of Caravan