International Contemporary Circus Festival Cirkuliacija: from migration to circulation

  • 2023-04-24

The International Contemporary Circus Festival Cirkuliacija announces its programme for 2023, which will take place from 3 to 11 June in Kaunas, Vilnius, Prienai, Šiauliai and Varėna. The festival will drill down into its name and search for deeper, more sustainable and human ways of establishing circus circulation in Lithuania. The theme of this year’s programme – “From Migration to Circulation” – was born out of this need. 

While every time we hear the news about migration or migrants, we understand that we are talking about problems, since the ancient times, human travel, integration and the circulation of knowledge and experiences have been not only a fundamental means of knowledge and development, but also a daily routine of the artist – especially of the circus.

“In our region, circus performances are usually presented by bodies that are close and familiar to us, coming from cultures close to our own, and so the introduction to the art of contemporary circus is limited to contemporary circus. This year, Cirkuliacija will invite us to get to know not only the diversity of circus, but also cultures and traditions that are far removed from our rather privileged context. The theme of this year’s festival is revealed by the performances themselves – we will not see European bodies on stage. The performances will be very clearly dramaturgical, dealing with mythology (Senegal), tradition (Morocco), the pain of the last century (Palestine) and the current situation, with the change of contexts (Brazil, Chile),” says Gildas Aleksa, the artistic director of the festival, introducing the theme of the festival this year.

Political and social themes of performances

The festival will start in Vilnius with Ancrage, one of the first contemporary circus performances in Senegal. The initiator of the show, Modou Fata Toure, knew since he was a child that he would be an electrician. It was only thanks to social circus, a phenomenon we do not yet have in Lithuania, that he got to know the art to which he dedicated the rest of his life. Together with Ibrahima Camara, he set out to create a performance that would not be a copy of European shows, but would speak about the culture, traditions and mythology close to Senegal. And they do all this in the highly articulate and impressive language of contemporary circus.

The Moroccan troupe Colokolo will present two circus performances in Lithuania that transform everyday life. Qahwa Noss Noss tells the story of a local café in Morocco and the characters who sit there, while Chouf le Ciel will present a myriad of concepts that are unknown to us: Gnawa and Chaâbi traditions, the hamalate, music, a traditional wedding without a bride, and a lot of acrobatics performed by acrobats and street performers assembled by the troupe.

The aim of the Palestinian Circus School is to achieve, through circus, a free Palestine where cultural processes are dynamic, inclusive and open to all. The success stories of this school have long captured the attention of Cirkuliacija, and the organisers are very happy to join the audience in looking at political stories from a different angle. SARAB tells the story of the refugee state that touches every Palestinian. Starting from the creation of Israel in 1948, when all Palestinians in what is now Israel had to leave their homes, to the second Intifada in 2000 and all the problems, conflicts and challenges that have arisen since then. Nevertheless, people in Palestine are creating, and contemporary circus is a way of telling the world about their stories, whose narratives sometimes go unheard.

The troupe Doisacordes and their work Cá entre nós (It’s between us) speak about a safe space between two people when the outside world is not very friendly. Performers Thiago Souza (Brazil) and Roberto Willcock (Chile) met at the Brazilian Circus School, which is known for its strong training and very classical approach to circus. However, when Roberto Magro, a well-known director in Lithuania, came to teach there, their attention turned towards contemporary circus and Europe. With their extremely strong technical training, these artists set out to completely deconstruct the discipline of vertical rope. Almost everything we usually see in performances of this discipline is not used here. It is this unique approach that has led to the work being selected for the circusnext platform and to be seen by many European festivals.

“This year, Cirkuliacija lives up to its name, not only in its theme but also in the geography of the festival. Among the festival’s novelties is a performance in Vilnius. Although the capital city has its own contemporary circus festival, we will be stopping by for a short time to share the joy of circus and the work of artists who are rarely represented in our region. This year, we are returning to Prienai and presenting contemporary circus in Varėna for the first time. Šiauliai is also joining the festival map, as it is about to launch its own contemporary performing arts festival and will introduce the audience to the genre of contemporary circus as part of the programme of Cirkuliacija,” says Mr. Aleksa.

Educational programme and meetings of Baltic artists

In addition to the international artistic programme, Cirkuliacija also organises an extensive educational programme dedicated to the development of contemporary circus in Lithuania, the Baltic and Nordic region. After hosting the Circostrada network all over Europe last year, this year the festival will strive to create and improve the conditions right here in Lithuania. On 7 June, representatives of Lithuanian cultural centres and Baltic circus artists will meet at the Prienai Culture and Leisure Centre. Their meeting – facilitated by cultural mediator Ana Moraes (Brazil) – will not only introduce one side to the other, but also the latest projects of the artists, the peculiarities of the market and the aim of an independent circus in Lithuania. 

On 8 June, the Baltic Circus Grassroot Network and its members will be a guest of the festival and will hold their annual meeting in Kaunas. The network helps artists to travel, develop their work and present it to professionals abroad. 

The festival will also continue to develop a special programme for circus critics. Last year, after limiting itself to people writing only in Lithuania, this year, in response to the need of the neighbouring partners to improve the competences of their performing arts critics, they are inviting participants from all countries to the workshops. Participants from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have already registered for the workshop. The workshop in Kaunas will be hosted by Nina Jääskeläinen, a performing arts journalist and critic, and editor-in-chief of the magazine Filatelisti.

International Festival of Contemporary Circus Cirkuliacija, will take place on 3-11 June in Kaunas, Vilnius, Prienai, Šiauliai and Varėna. Full programme Tickets distributed by and The festival is partly financed by the Lithuanian Council for Culture and Kaunas City Municipality.