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Alaways Fruther - Circus oddity: Laliberté, Fratellini and Beijing, the revolution is on the march!

Circus is by definition a live performing art, popular. During the XXth century, with menagerie shows, trapeze artist’s acrobatics performances and old clowns’ gags, the circus had an important success. But in the late 70’s, circus has known a decline in his popularity in spite of the creation of circus art academies in France and all around the world.  But a new movement grows and is starting a transformation of this reference of live performing art.

The Cirque du Soleil is the typical example of this change which is shattering the traditional environment‘s circus.

When Guy Laliberté established le Cirque du Soleil, this adventurous guy didn’t know how his enterprise would be successful. In fact by doing innovating and creative shows, Le Cirque du Soleil became rapidly very popular. The shows are the expression of a no limits artists’ imagination and a wide range of talents. The new circus’ artistic movement overshadows little by little the traditional sideshows. This is the end of skinny animals and terrifying clowns. This is time for a visual and audio discovery. The acrobats, gymnasts and fire eaters allow spectators to dream about the rhythm of very famous music tubes (like the Beatles or Elvis Presley).

But this evolution is not limited to a simple artistic renewal, le Cirque du Soleil distinguishes itself also by his social preoccupation. Guy Laliberté’s childhood is very important in this innovative conception of the entertainment. With an adventurous youth, his world and society vision has strongly influenced his enterprise. The circus leaves Guy Laliberté its funny role to become a charity pedestal.  Le Cirque du Soleil’s popularity (since 1984, 100 000 000 persons have already assist to a Cirque du Soleil show) and its resources allowed Guy Laliberté  to get involved in helping young people in difficulty. He currently works with NGOs in 25 countries like Haiti, Honduras or Salvador to fight against poverty. Le Cirque du Soleil symbolizes a new face of sideshow where the audience is contributing to an ideal of a better world. This contribution is embodied by the organization One drop, which was founded by Guy Laliberté so as to defend the water access for poor population. The picture of a small touring company is now false; Le Cirque du Soleil is a multinational company of over 5000 employees. Touring is step by step changing in sedentary shows around the world.

The social engagement of le Cirque du Soleil isn’t the only way to know how the circus’ world mutated.  The Fratellini Academy is another example of this global change.

The French circus arts academy is founded by Annie Fratellini in 1975. She is the heiress of the passion and engagement of the three Fratellini brothers, world famous clowns between 1902 and 1940. When she died the French circus’ arts academy took her name to celebrate her complete artist career (actress, musician,…). This academy marked another step in the evolution of the circus’ world. In fact, it is the first example of settlement and the appearance of large immobile big top. The Academy’s Grand Chapiteau is the first “hard” big top designed by Patrick Bouchain. The Academy has also changed the way to learn circus arts and the itinerant life of the apprentice showman has become a real training. He has a complete formation, except he is followed during all the formation and benefits from the various partnerships and partners of the Academy. The latter doesn’t forget its original function which is to create performances and new shows even if it is now the most important training center in Europe for young circus’s artists and an international reference in the world.

Certainly related to globalization and the birth of a global culture, we can obverse a new phenomenon: circus can be exported. For example, the Beijing circus’s stars brought in Europe and around the world. Very specific, this type of circus is represented by the mastery of the complex Chinese acrobatic. This kind of new performance is very popular and the Beijing circus’s stars can be proud of their millions of spectators everywhere in the world in particularly in Europe.

During a long time, this typical and traditional show was forgotten in China. But with a new approach and new technologies, tradition has paved the way to innovation. Sensational by their mastery of their arts, Beijing stars have enjoyed a world success with a version of a Chinese legend known around the world, the legend of Mulan.  Popularized by Disney in the 90’s, this story has allowed the Chinese culture to express and live worldwide through various shows.

As circus, the traditional “magic” has to face decline. Introduced by Raphael Navarro, the new “magic” is more than a trick; it is a real artistic performance. The artist beyond its role as a magician becomes a scene designer, who plays brilliantly with lights and his accessories.

Modern circus has just the name of old circus. The shows changed, they are a savant mix of technical innovations (lights, holograms,…) and impressive performances of athletes who reach every day new extent possible.

“The show must go on!”


Credtis: klimari

A contribution of Théo de Saint-Pierre.