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  • Writer's pictureelenaBROCADE

The Expansion of the Circus Community

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

When I put this new website together I used the phrase "the expansion of the circus community", mostly as light promotional verbiage, but my dear friend Jesse Finkelstein didn't let it slide...

Zoppe Family Circus

...when he asked what I meant by it I was overwhelmed. Just saying the words "circus community" is problematic because so much lies under the circus umbrella (or tent;) Even though circus is the various modalities of clowning, manipulation, equilibrists, ground and aerial acrobatics, magic and animal acts, there are so many avenues to take these art forms. The vaudeville route, which I liken to the modern day club, small theater, and festival entertainer. The street performer. The tent shows that encompass a small mud show to the elegant Roncalli shows. Cirque du Soleil, the ballet company of circus (as coined by Giovanni Zoppé). Contemporary theater circus that tells the tales of seven people locked in a house. The cruise ship, made for those that like to travel with a lot of people but be utterly alone. And the varietè shows. So is there a circus community? Sure-ish

Excited by the next Voices

When I speak of the expansion of the circus community I am really speaking to the growth of the circus artist. Growing the individual artist grows the voice of possibility. The more unique voices are empowered, the further the art form will develop. It excites me to watch the creative process mature. Helping an artist push the limits, not just the next crazy trick (although that's great too), but seek to push their comfort zones as a performer or wrestle with an idea that they want to convey, is the learning environment I want to cultivate.

There has been a trend in the last 20 years or so towards building company players. Training circus artists to be generalists so that they are equipped to fill roles in an already formulated show. Even if the student is creating his or her own act, the emphasis is on building an ensemble. Not that this is bad, I definitely see a place for this... if I was envisioning a production that I needed to cast, this is probably who I would want auditioning. But I am more interested in helping a student become an artist not a general technician. Of course these are not necessarily disconnected, you can be an amazing generalist and an artist. And I should add, some students may only desire to be a part of an ensemble and that's totally legit as well. So when I say I want to help students become artists, I'm referring to helping them use the creative process to develop their individual voice. I want to empower students to wrestle with ideas and feelings through their work, and find effective and distinct ways to tell their stories.

Being an artist is a life long endeavor and applies across all mediums. Giving students their own agency is the foundation to a prolonged creative process. I think the expansion of our circus community grows only richer with artists who are creating work from their own voice no matter what avenue they choose to embark on.

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