Have you heard of Young Stage? It’s an international circus festival and competition in Basel, Switzerland that focuses on kick-starting the career of young, emerging, circus artists. If you fall into that category, and are looking for a stepping stone into the professional circus industry, this opportunity might be for you! Although I am writing this article to give emerging performers advice on how to apply to for this festival in particular, the wisdom from one of the judges, a past performer, and the founder of the competition can be utilized for any type of festival application.
Nadja Hauser, founder and producer of Young Stage had this to say about their mission: “Our mission is to support young, professional artists from all over the world who have just started their careers. We give them a platform to present their performances to the public, but also to an expert jury and to professionals from the field of circus, show and entertainment. We also offer several workshops to our participants. Together we talk about the business aspects of being an artist. We organize Professional Session, a networking event for all artists and professionals that includes Circus-Speed-Dating, where artists and producers can get in touch in an easy and fun way. Another general mission is to boost and promote contemporary circus in Switzerland–in our country this kind of performing art is not very well known and supported. With this festival we have done a lot of pioneer work in the past 10 years.”
One of the exciting features of the competition is that there are many opportunities to win different types of awards. Four types of star awards come with cash prizes capping off at 5,000 CHF. There is an award determined by the audience which also comes with a cash prize. A few special awards are given out by international leading circus companies, such as Cirque du Soleil, and Cirque Éloize. Engagement prizes are similar to winning a contract with certain venues and circuses such as Circus Roncalli.
When: 11-15 May 2018
Where: Basel, Switzerland
Application deadline: February 9th, 2018
Who can apply?
- Qualified circus artists from any country under the age of 27
- Solo, duo, trio, or troupe acts
- Any circus discipline performed at a high artistic level
Interested in applying? Follow these 6 steps to get the most out of your experience!
Hone your act! Judge Philippe Agogué emphasizes charisma, elegance, and technique. He says that often both, creativity and originality are highly valued. Hauser agrees, and adds “Generally we are looking for contemporary acts. Of course, the artistic skills have to be on a very high level. We also search for new disciplines and innovation, new combinations of disciplines, performers who tell a story, who perform with a lot of passion, who compose their own music, and we always try to select one comedy act. You can also say that we search for artists who are real personalities on stage, who show us who they are, who are authentic and who catch the audience with a little something.” Both Agogué and Hauser stressed that light, music, and costume are a very important part of the package that must not be forgotten. It’s all about the details.
Record your act! Your act is now ready and it’s time to create a video that shows the judges who you are as a performer and what you plan to do on stage. It is very important that your video is a full version of your act. It can be cut and edited but be sure to show the full piece and not just create a trailer in the final cut. Another important aspect is the lighting. Make sure that there is enough light to show the judges clearly what you are doing and try to keep yourself in the frame. Felice Aguilar, winner of the Cirque du Soleil prize at Young Stage in 2017 advises, “I would say don’t be shy or hesitating, just take the chance and apply and see what happens. As there are a lot of applicants it might be that you are not accepted the first time, so try again. You really have nothing to lose at all. I applied twice and was lucky, but it is never a bad idea to show your video around and just take the chance.”
Submit your application! This step is about using words to describe who you are as a performer and what your act is like. First, you will need to categorize your act with a genre and discipline. The next step in the application is practical information like your name, contact info, and education. If there are multiple performers in your act, there are slots for up to 8 performers to provide information about themselves. You will need to provide your technical requirements for the act, the link or file for your video, and some information about where you have performed in the past. When your application is done, make sure you submit it earlier rather than later! The closing date for registration is February 9th, 2018.
If you got in, congratulations! You are going to Switzerland, so it is time to book your flight or train. Meals and accommodation are provided by the festival, so you won’t have to worry about those costs! Artists that are minors can bring one adult as a chaperone, and the festival will cover their costs as well. You will also get subsidized travel costs. Try to book a flight as early as possible to avoid a rise in cost. Make sure you contact the festival to speak with them about how the subsidies will work for you.
Get in the right mindset! Don’t be intimidated by the fact that Young Stage is a competition, Aguilar says “I felt that it is not like a usual competition atmosphere where you compete against each other. Show business in general is about working together and creating an unforgettable evening for an audience, rather than just winning.” Aguilar says Young Stage is a very welcoming environment, “Backstage you will find a whole lot of support from the other artists and crew members who are all in the thrill with you. Even in the audience you can sense the feeling of support and honest appreciation for everybody.”
The competition spans an entire week, so get in the right frame of mind to perform each night. Aguilar explains how she prepared, “As you also perform a full week of shows and not only one you have the chance to make yourself familiar with the situation and the pressure that you will in fact be judged in the end. But it is really about presenting yourself, your art and your idea rather than competing against each other.”
Show up, do your best, and have fun! It’s all about the experience, so although you are going to try your hardest to win, remember; if you learned something about yourself or your circus career while on this journey, you have already made great strides. Aguilar says, “It was very exciting and I learned a lot, for example how to deal with pressure and to be in control in the right moment. But even if the performance is not perfect every day, you learn how to deal and even to play with it. In the end, for me it is not all about the highest level tricks but about showing your personality on stage.”
While you are in a new city and preparing for your performance, don’t forget to take advantage of the Professional Session, networking opportunities, and workshops they offer. When it comes time to get on stage, heed the advice of Hauser “Please show us who you are, put as much passion and emotions into your performance as you can. You have to ‘activate our goosebumps’ when we watch.”