Circus is… circus

Planning a contemporary circus festival is an exercise that combines experiences, memories and concepts, to give us a glimpse of what’s new in this art scene. There are many stages before the shows are performed, before knowledge is shared in educational activities. Curatorship is the first of these steps. This year it began with a conversation between SESC’s team and a group of Brazilian artists. They voiced their concerns about contemporary circus arts and helped bring the institution closer to what is currently being produced in Brazil.

In its four previous editions CIRCOS – Sesc International Circus Festival explored themes that are relevant to the art form – such as circus dramaturgy; risk and virtuosity; paths for the circus in Brazil; and concepts associated with boundaries, such as the edge, the center, and identities. In our fifth edition we took on a challenge: what are the most important reflections right now? What is circus, after all?

The body of selected works points to a complex and evolving scene, representative of one of today’s main artistic trends. Music, theater and dance, which have always been associated with the circus, are now regarded as structural elements of the shows, and have become fundamental in many Brazilian and international productions. We foresee new aesthetic possibilities that stimulate creation from such mixtures, combinations and interdisciplinary: the circus beyond its borders.

For the opening of the Festival, for example, we selected a British show whose gestural concept is inspired by the work of Pina Bausch, a famous German choreographer. This production displays striking synchronicity between typical circus acts – such as juggling – and choreographic elements. One of the Brazilian clowning performances included in the program simulates a 1920s movie, reproducing costumes, makeup and lighting effects and creating the illusion that the audience is watching a live silent film on stage. These are examples of an important trend: the integration of the circus with other artistic languages, which is undoubtedly enriching. What is the circus, if not a space for integration, where all people and all art forms are welcome?

Renewing the circus community in today’s world requires it to open up even more: not only to accommodate all who wish to run away with the circus, but also to include new knowledge that can expand its position as the greatest show on earth. We hope CIRCOS will promote a powerful gathering of audiences, artists and works, contributing to establish new collectives – in and out of the ring – as well as new thoughts about circus arts. After all, the circus is… the circus.


Lúcia Nascimento and Marina Zan
Circus assistants at the Department of Cultural Action of Sesc São Paulo


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