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Slovaks are introduced to contemporary circus acts

WHEN YOU think circus you probably conjure up images of huge striped tents with parades of ponies and monkeys followed by acrobats, clowns and jugglers all leading up to a dramatic confrontation between man and beast, the face-off between an enraged African lion and a fearless lion tamer.

Cirkul'Art in Bratislava. (Source: Tomáš Medelský)

WHEN YOU think circus you probably conjure up images of huge striped tents with parades of ponies and monkeys followed by acrobats, clowns and jugglers all leading up to a dramatic confrontation between man and beast, the face-off between an enraged African lion and a fearless lion tamer.

But a new theory of what a circus should be is spreading around the world, a concept, the Nouveau Cirque, that espouses the idea that animals do not belong in a circus. This contemporary kind of circus made its first appearance in Slovakia in mid-May at the Cirkul’Art festival in Bratislava’s Medical Garden.

It featured performers from 15 countries and organisers estimated that it attracted some 3,500 visitors.

The main event featured some names already known to Slovaks, such as the renowned Czech clown Bolek Polívka and the T.E.J.P. theatre. Also on hand were Nouveau Cirque artists from Spain (Theater Yllana), Japan (Unicycling Cirkus), Belgium (Paki Paya), Denmark (Theatro Glimt), and Italy and Switzerland (Circocentrique). Other performances and activities were offered throughout the garden without charge.

“We are happy to bring contemporary circus to Slovakia,” the festival’s organiser, Pavol Kelley, told the Sme daily. “It’s been known in advanced countries for years,” Kelley added, saying that there even is a university of contemporary circus. “Our feeling is that animals don’t belong under a circus tent,” he said.

Nouveau Cirque is one of the newest genres of the performing arts according to the festival’s website. The concept originated in France in the 1970s out of independent theatre's need to explore new forms by reviving forgotten rituals and dramatic traditions as well as circus and street theatre skills.

Contemporary circus can be characterised as narrative storytelling as it uses metaphors, themes, theatrical images and stories alongside traditional circus skills.


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