In 1982 Brazil joined the international movement inaugurating its official circus school. The decision came from the desire of some circus families who had been circulating within the Brazilian territory for over a century. There is no doubt that the emergence of the National Circus School, renamed in 2017 as ENCLO (Escola Nacional de Circo Luiz Olimecha) represents one of the major events in the long tradition of circus in Brazil. Considering the many achievements throughout ENCLO’s trajectory, we would like to highlight two of them: the deep renovation of its headquarters in 2013, providing an excellent facility for a professional circus education; and the recognition of the “professionalizing” diploma in 2015. It is also worth remembering that in 1998 ENCLO students won the Silver Medal at the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain (France). In its almost 40 years, ENCLO has trained more than 2500 artists, who performed in circus shows around the world, consolidating the institution as an international reference.
However, the importance of ENCLO was not enough to prevent its existence from being recently threatened. In an unprecedented action, the National Arts Foundation (FUNARTE)(1) was totally modified, with immediate effect on ENCLO as well.
In June 2020, in the middle of a pandemic, when everyone needs good governance, the management of the school was changed, resulting in a long period of silence and non-communication with students. Furthermore, in December 2020, Funarte announced that ENCLO’s facilities needed to be renovated, so the place would be used for another purpose and that the student’s circus activities would be transferred to a new location. Several non-democratic decisions were made, without any attempt at dialogue with the school’s community (teachers, students, staff…). This is an indication that the RED LIGHT has turned on: We are in CRISIS! ENCLO is about to close!
Contextually, this crisis needs to be understood as part of a federal government program. For the last two years, multiple decisions have been dismantling some of Brazil’s vital sectors: education, culture and science. A wide range of actions converge in the current Brazilian government in order to weaken, paralyze or even destroy some institutions, and ENCLO was yet another victim of this destructive policy. In short, Brazil’s young democratic system is under serious threat.
Although the pandemic is a moment that can lead to disarticulation, we saw the emergence of a huge movement in defense of ENCLO. A strong mobilization — involving the sixty current students, ex-students, circus professionals, managers and the national artistic community — gathered more than 16 thousand signatures in a few weeks, as well as more than a hundred videos of supporters advocating for ENCLO’s maintenance shared on the school’s Instagram (#ENCLOFica / Follow: @encviva). Other international circus schools, cultural organizations and scientific and artistic authorities sent dozens of letters of support, attesting that the circus school is not a bubble, but is intricately articulated with the cultural network inside and outside Brazil.
In a fast and positive way, social pressure made politicians and civil society stand in ENCLO’s favor and, consequently, the authorities waved in a new direction: to reactivate school activities (bringing teachers together, planning classes for an online environment due to the pandemic, etc.). In addition, they updated the payment of scholarships to students and disseminated notes on the “importance and commitment to keep ENCLO at its official headquarters intact”.
Despite the great campaign in defense of ENCLO, when it seemed that we had finally won a few battles, Funarte’s president was fired. As no substitute has yet been indicated, the students and teachers of ENCLO lack a concrete interlocutor with whom to dialogue. In addition, two major struggles still need to be faced: the bi-annual budget allocation only guarantees the student’s scholarships and the school’s maintenance until the middle of 2021. There is no guarantee of the next students’ selection (2022-2023 course).
Thus, there is no allocating of funds for ENCLO to continue existing. It looks like the government program concerning culture, which includes ENCLO, is close to deeply damaging art education in Brazil. For this reason, we need to remain attentive to these and other actions that seek to weaken art through undemocratic policies and which are unfavorable to culture and critical education. We need to remain united in order to claim for our national professional circus education program!
Circus Research Lab (UNICAMP – Brazil)
More about the CRISES at ENC-Brazil Hablemos de Circo (Podcast in Spanish) Support videos (in Portuguese) & Letters of Support (multi-language) More about FUNARTE and ENCLO By Mr. Marcos Teixeira, Former Director of FUNARTE and National Circus School (ENCLO) The National Arts Foundation (FUNARTE) is a Federal Government institution with the mission of elaborating and executing public policies for the arts. Created in the midst of the military regime, it was after the re-democratization that, paradoxically, it suffered the greatest threats. During the governments of José Sarney, Fernando Collor de Melo, Michel Temer and Jair Bolsonaro, Funarte suffered direct interventions that disrupted it and were responsible for its distancing from the artists and their original attributions, which are: to diagnose needs, elaborate and execute public policies so that workers from different artistic fields can live with dignity from their work; to balance, through these policies, the different stages of production between the different regions of the country and to spread artistic production throughout the national territory. In another unprecedented decision, the currently Brazilian president, Mr. Jair Bolsonaro, extinguished the Ministry of Culture. It is part of Funarte's mission to observe the market, correcting distortions, valuing the local culture, giving opportunity to the small artistic producer, enabling experimentation and enabling the development of artistic languages; regardless of the success achieved in the media or with the public. It is Funarte that reaches the most distant and isolated corners of the country, whether with resources, actions or just with its prestige and recognition, to transform the reality of local artists. No private institution, at any time, has had or will have this scope. Funarte is also the only public institution in South America offering a non-paid professional circus education. The ENCLO for over forty years has trained professionals who have spread throughout Brazil and the world, creating groups or acting in internationally known companies, such as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Cirque du Soleil, among many others. However, its importance goes beyond the training of circus professionals. Throughout its existence, ENCLO enabled the social ascension of countless students, from all Brazilian regions, or even from other Latin American countries, giving them an opportunity for an artistic career, helping their livelihood, and, in many cases, for their families also.