Jan Rok Achard: The Pragmatic Dreamer - StageLync
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Jan Rok Achard: The Pragmatic Dreamer

One of the founders of La TOHU, Canadian circus school director, consultant and visionary Jan Rok Achard spent his life championing the circus arts in his home country and beyond. Following his loss on Wednesday, his good friend Pascal Jacobs offers this tribute to his work and legacy.

Fraternal and obstinate. Visionary too.

Jan Rok Achard was both a man of sharing and a builder, two notions that can easily justify the work of a lifetime. He believed deeply in the virtues of transmission, but he never dissociated it from creation. He loved artists, whoever they were and wherever they came from, and his most ardent wish was to accompany them through their research, their questions and their successes, but also and above all to guide them in the fulfillment of their artistic existence.

Jan Rok was an untiring ferryman for people of all generations. Through his many involvements throughout his career in the field of the living arts, he has contributed, in particular, to giving an additional soul to many pedagogical approaches throughout the world, juxtaposing experiences and multiplying suggestions to advance the entire community. This idea of moving “together” is an essential marker to understanding what drove him, day after day, from one side of the world to the other, to educate, to constantly build new bridges and unique gateways, to be the major craftsman of an intuitive artistic archipelago nourished by actions and intentions.

Strengthened by his Quebec roots, he was above all a citizen of the world, and while he tirelessly developed and supported Quebecoise institutions and companies, the entire planet was his territory of action. He crisscrossed it, transversing borders and time zones with a confusing regularity until creating the feeling that he was at home everywhere. Jan Rok was both an immense dreamer and a formidable pragmatist. It was from this unlikely combination that he drew his strength, and very few were able to resist him…

He liked to bring about new paths, to establish links, to chart the best way—not always the easiest—through the meanderings of creation. His contribution to the foundations of En Piste! was yet another manner for him to bring everyone together around the same idea, to make exist and live better the circus arts as far as his eyes could see, which is to say, almost to infinity. As the director of the Montreal National Circus School for many years, he was able to anchor it even more deeply in its natural territory, but he also worked tirelessly to register it worldwide. As a fervent companion to some great European directors who were as convinced as he was of the need to bring circus schools together in order to make them stronger, he could only join the project of a European Federation of Professional Circus Schools (FEDEC)—which, as its name does not indicate, quickly turned out to be global.

Full of bliss, as a good acrobat of ideas, Jan Rok had his feet in the stars and his head on earth, but he also always knew how to stand up with this mixture of benevolence and adamance that made his friendships unwavering and his enmities eternal. He loved music passionately as another way of celebrating and enchanting life. Creating, connecting, was his daily score.

He was a good man, endowed with a philosophy of existence both unselfish and reassuring.

His light, whose multiple bursts shine in each of us, is not about to go out.

Pascal Jacob
Designer, Artistic Director and Historian -FRANCE
After completing university studies in performing arts at Université de Paris III Sorbonne Nouvelle, Pascal Jacob, over the course of ten years, developed a career as associate director for the opera. He then concentrated on costume and set design and artistic direction.
The circus has long been a passion and his interest for this singular form of live performance has led him to create costumes most notably Rainforest and Living Carousel for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, Salto Natale for Rolf Knie, Au pays des clowns for Cirque Phénix. He also created the costumes and the set designs of Barnum’s Kaleidoscape for Feld Entertainment as well as those of India for Prime Time Entertainment. Of late, working as an artistic scout and creative director, he contributed to the development of several projects for Dragone Entertainment Group. As such, he was artistic director and production designer for Odyseo, the Chemistry of Dreams celebrating the 150 years of the Solvay group, and for the Dai Show for Dragone Entertainment Group in Xishuangbanna in China. Last year, he was involved as production designer and artistic director for the creation of Era The Spirit of Shanghai in the Shanghai Circus World permanent building.
Alongside his work in design, Pascal acts as art consultant for the Européenne de Spectacles, artistic director for Cirque Phénix as well as for the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain. He is also lecturer in the history of the circus for the Montreal National Circus School and the Fratellini Academy in Saint-Denis.

By tirelessly collecting all things pertaining to the circus arts through the ages, he has worked as exhibition curator for many museums in Europe and in America, collaborating with many institutions such as the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the Tohu in Montréal. He has published more than forty books as well as numerous articles dedicated to the circus, the zoo, and the opera, he also lectures on these topics.

He was born, lives and works notably in Paris.

Editor's Note: At StageLync, an international platform for the performing arts, we celebrate the diversity of our writers' backgrounds. We recognize and support their choice to use either American or British English in their articles, respecting their individual preferences and origins. This policy allows us to embrace a wide range of linguistic expressions, enriching our content and reflecting the global nature of our community.

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Pascal Jacob

After completing university studies in performing arts at Université de Paris III Sorbonne Nouvelle, Pascal Jacob, over the course of ten years, developed a career as associate director for the opera. He then concentrated on costume and set design and artistic direction. The circus has long been a passion and his interest for this singular form of live performance has led him to create costumes most notably Rainforest and Living Carousel for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, Salto Natale for Rolf Knie, Au pays des clowns for Cirque Phénix. He also created the costumes and the set designs of Barnum’s Kaleidoscape for Feld Entertainment as well as those of India for Prime Time Entertainment. Of late, working as an artistic scout and creative director, he contributed to the development of several projects for Dragone Entertainment Group. As such, he was artistic director and production designer for Odyseo, the Chemistry of Dreams celebrating the 150 years of the Solvay group, and for the Dai Show for Dragone Entertainment Group in Xishuangbanna in China. Last year, he was involved as production designer and artistic director for the creation of Era The Spirit of Shanghai in the Shanghai Circus World permanent building. Alongside his work in design, Pascal acts as art consultant for the Européenne de Spectacles, artistic director for Cirque Phénix as well as for the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain. He is also lecturer in the history of the circus for the Montreal National Circus School and the Fratellini Academy in Saint-Denis. By tirelessly collecting all things pertaining to the circus arts through the ages, he has worked as exhibition curator for many museums in Europe and in America, collaborating with many institutions such as the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the Tohu in Montréal. He has published more than forty books as well as numerous articles dedicated to the circus, the zoo, and the opera, he also lectures on these topics. He was born, lives and works notably in Paris.