From Migration to Circulation: the 2023 Cirkuliacija Contemporary Circus Festival Gets Truly International - StageLync
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From Migration to Circulation: the 2023 Cirkuliacija Contemporary Circus Festival Gets Truly International

With artists coming from its native Lithuania and well beyond it, the International Contemporary Circus Festival Cirkuliacija announces its 2023 programme, which will unfold from 3 to 11 June in Kaunas, Vilnius, Prienai, Šiauliai and Varėna. Keep reading for a written tour of the diverse art to see and things to learn at this year’s festival. 

In its ninth year, the Cirkuliacija festival is drilling down into its International name to 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 and desire. 

While the festival team understands that every time we hear news stories about migration or migrants, we are talking about social problems, they also know that human travel, integration, and the circulation of knowledge and experiences have been since ancient times not only a fundamental means of gaining and sharing wisdom and furthering our development, but part of the daily routine of the artist—especially the circus artist.

Introducing the theme of this year’s Cirkuliacija festival, Artistic Director Gildas Aleksa says, “In our region, circus performances are usually presented by bodies that are close and familiar to us, that come from cultures close to our own, and so our introduction to contemporary circus art is limited. This year, Cirkuliacija will invite us to get to know not only the diversity of circus, but cultures and traditions that are far removed from our rather privileged context. The theme of this year’s festival is revealed by the slate of performances themselves—we will not see European bodies on stage. [Instead,] these performances are very clearly dramaturgical, dealing with mythology (Senegal), tradition (Morocco), the painful events of the last century (Palestine), and the current situation of changing contexts (Brazil, Chile).” 

The Geography and Politics of This Year’s Performance Line-Up 

TheCirkuliacijafestival will start in Vilnius withAncrage, one of the first contemporary circus performances to be made in Senegal. The show’s creator, Modou Fata Toure, had known since childhood that he would one day become 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 fellow artist Ibrahima Camara, Madou set out to create a performance that would not be a copy of European shows, but would instead speak about the culture, traditions, and mythology close to Senegal. And the duo does all this in the highly articulate and expressive language of contemporary circus.

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

The aim of the Palestinian Circus School is to achieve through circus a free Palestine wherein cultural processes are dynamic, inclusive, and open to all. This school’s success stories have long captured the attention of Cirkuliacija, and the festival organisers are very happy to join their audience in looking at political stories from a different angle.SARAB tells us the story of the refugee state that touches every Palestinian, 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, the people of Palestine are still creating, and contemporary circus is a way for them to tell the world their stories—narratives that sometimes go unheard.

The troupe Doisacordes and their workCá entre nós (“It’s between us”) speak about the 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, an Italian director well-known in Lithuania, came to teach there, the two artists’ attention turned toward contemporary circus and toward Europe. With their extremely strong technical training, Souza and Willcock set out to completely deconstruct the discipline of vertical rope. Almost everything we usually see in a vertical rope performance is not used here. It is this unique approach that has ledCá entre nós to be selected for the circusnext platform and be seen at many European festivals.

“This year, Cirkuliacija lives up to its international name, not only in its theme but in the geography of the festival. Among the festival’s novelties is a performance in Vilnius. Although our capital city has its own contemporary circus festival, we will be stopping by there for a short time to share the joy of circus and the work of artists who are rarely represented in our region. We are returning to Prienai and presenting contemporary circus in Varėna for the first time this year. 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 theCirkuliacijaprogramme,” says Artistic Director Aleksa.

Teaching Artists and Audiences: The Educational Programme and Baltic Artists Meeting 

In addition to this international performance slate, Cirkuliacija has also organised an extensive educational programme dedicated to the development of contemporary circus within Lithuania and the Baltic and Nordic regions. After hosting the Circostrada network all over Europe last year,  the festival will strive this year to create and improve artistic conditions right here in Lithuania. 

On 7 June, representatives of Lithuanian cultural centres will meet with Baltic circus artists 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 will also showcase the latest projects of the artists, the peculiarities of the circus market, and the aim for an independent circus in Lithuania. 

On 8 June, the Baltic Circus Grassroot Network and its members will be guests 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 its work to develop a special programme for circus critics. After limiting itself last year to people writing only within Lithuania, in response to the need of neighbouring partners to improve the competencies of their own performing arts critics, they are inviting participants from all countries to this year’s workshops. Many participants from Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia have already registered for them. The workshop in Kaunas will be hosted by Nina Jääskeläinen, a performing arts journalist and critic and the editor-in-chief of the magazineFilatelisti.

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

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