How the new circus differs from the traditional circus known to us?

The new circus roots in street culture where it is a necessity to attract spectator’s attention and to retain it. On the street there is no certain space for the play and maintenance of animals is impossible. The artist has to adapt to the urban environment laws, however, he has the ability to move, to choose a place and he has a chance to determine how will the audience’s point of view form.

As the hallmark of the new circus is searches, changes in it continue. Considering that the basic elements of the traditional circus and the new circus remain the same, the second one changes view on them.

First of all, the new circus keeps many traditional circus disciplines – acrobatics, manipulation of objects, etc. – and gives more theatrical nature to them, and highlights any artist’s contact with the audience.

Secondly, since the show develops as a whole story, it tends to address the spectators with a certain topic or problem, rather than just display unusual abilities.

Third, circus artists get special education. Even if the new circus company cooperates with circus families, most artists are professionally trained in circus schools or they are ex-professionals who have been specialized in other sectors (sports, dance, etc.).

Fourth, the circus involves and combines the most fantastic arts and sports. The canon of performance disappears – everyone can implicate more and more new shows in their presentations. According to the loss of this canon, new companies which develop and demonstrate a mastery of one particular discipline originate.

Fifth, music, lights and costumes are applied for each spectacle and create the atmosphere of the show. But the most important thing is that the circus do not merely demonstrates and admires human abilities, but creates an alternative world. The aesthetic approach has changed and it is important not only to surprise or scare, but also to provide an aesthetic and emotional experience. If traditional circus exceptionally allowed to involve some kind of  topic or especially designed costumes etc., it was mostly done to show the mastery of the artists. But the goal of the new circus is to use the artist’s skill to reveal the artistic and ideological concept of the performance in the most effective way.

Text by Māra Pāvula initially written for rereriga.lv

What is new circus?

What we are doing is not just theatre. It’s not just acrobatics. It’s not just circus. It’s a marriage between everything mentioned above.”1

The new circus as a direction of performing arts occurred in France during the seventies of the last century. It is characterized by formation of conceptual performances by synthesising traditional circus elements with other art movements. However, as artists and their shows tend to be so drastically different, the exact definition of what exactly is the contemporary circus would be difficult to provide.

Initially, the only common element of the new direction was multidisciplinarity. Nowadays there is a trend to include non-circus arts in the new circus performances. Troupe in their performances demonstrate contemporary dance shows, video art, extreme sports, even the fine arts. In addition, the goal is not to create a show that is fragmented into many small shows, but to create a seamless performance which would be a synthesis of all the arts.

Besides the tendency to synthesize numerous artistic genres, there is also another element – monodisciplinarity. These are the troupe which does not offer the diversity of the shows to the spectators, but specialize in one field. Such artists as Un loup pour l’homme who have visited Latvia before – they use only acrobatics, Jérome Thomas with his troupe creates performances using only the manipulation with objects or juggling technique. However, no matter how different forms are used in the show, they are integrated into one whole story.

The most precise definition of the new circus would be the following – it is a theatrical show in which the disciplines of circus arts and the performance of artists are  subordinate to the idea of the performance as well as to the revelation of concept.

Text by Māra Pāvula initially written for rereriga.lv