International circus seminar pitched its tent in Brussels

Fresh Circus is the biennial seminar for anyone of importance in the circus world in Europe. This year, Brussels was the place-to-be for discussions about the future development of circus arts.

From 13 to 15 March 2018, collective reflexion, exchange and a celebration of circus values took place at Théâtre National and beyond. We give you a peek behind the curtains.

Stop and think … about circus

Sometimes it is good to take a step back and think about what you are doing. This is exactly why Circostrada* organises an international Fresh Circus seminar every two years to reflect and exchange about circus arts.

For 2018, the Brussels-based Espace Catastrophe (www.catastrophe.be) and Wallonie-Bruxelles Théâtre/Danse (www.wbtd.be) invited Fresh Circus to the capital of Europe. It made the bridge to the UP! Festival (the 15th International Circus Biennale) and the ‘FocusCircus’ year of circus arts in Brussels – offering many artistic performances in different cultural venues all over Brussels. 

More than circus!

Fresh Circus brought together 400 European and international actors from the circus field. This year’s theme was ‘More than circus’. The participants delved into the circus iconography and its stereotypes, they highlighted innovative initiatives and showed circus arts in all their diversity.

The gathered circus experts explored circus arts through three different strands – innovation, images & audiences and artistic paths & creation processes. Besides sharing and reflecting, the seminar delegates also had the opportunity to enjoy performances, visit Brussels circus infrastructures and sample Belgian gastronomy.

*Circostrada (www.circostrada.org) is the European network for circus and street arts, with more than 100 members in over 30 countries. Circostrada is coordinated by Artcena (www.artcena.fr), the French national centre for circus, street arts and theatre. It receives funding from the Creative Europe programme of the European Commission and the French Ministry of Culture.

Stéphane Segreto-Aguilar talks about Fresh Circus...

Stéphane Segreto-Aguilar is the Circostrada Network Coordinator & Head of Development at Artcena

What is Fresh Circus?

SSA: Fresh Circus is an international seminar dedicated to circus arts. It brings together a wide variety of stakeholders from the sector: students, researchers, journalists, artists, policy makers, curators, production managers…

This is the perfect opportunity to exchange and reflect about our shared passion: circus. These encounters inevitably lead to new common circus adventures and recommendations for a sustainable future for this art form.

What is new in the 2018 edition?

SSA: There are several novelties in this year’s edition of Fresh Circus: first of all, the venue. The three previous seminars took place at La Vilette (Paris) but we are happy to have been invited to Brussels. Fresh Circus has now become a travelling initiative, reflecting one of circus’ key traits.

Secondly, the theme of the seminar ‘More than circus!’ was developed along three strands: innovation, images & audiences and artistic paths & creation processes. We invited many external experts (80 in total) who enriched the discussions, questioned our practices and expanded our ways of thinking.

Why did you choose Brussels?

SSA: The proposal to host the fourth edition of Fresh Circus in Brussels came from two Belgian members of our network: Espace Catastrophe and Wallonie-Bruxelles Théâtre/Dance. Their proposal linked our seminar to the UP! Festival (international circus biennale) and the Brussels’ 2018 FocusCircus.

2018 is also the occasion to celebrate a number of anniversaries: the European Year of Cultural Heritage, the Year of Protest (50 years after May 1968) and the 250 anniversary of the birth of modern circus (started by Patty and Philip Astley in London in 1768).

It was a great opportunity to celebrate circus in Brussels! We had the chance to be hosted in an iconic venue in the capital: the Théâtre National. But we also discovered a wide range of other partner spaces in the frame of the UP! Festival and the artistic programme prepared by Espace Catastrophe.

How did you experience Brussels?

SSA: Brussels is a very pleasant multicultural city, easy to get your head around. During Fresh Circus, we also had the opportunity to sample some great beers and local cheeses. I am convinced that this typical Belgian touch made the informal contacts even more efficient, dynamic and positive!

What future lies ahead for circus?

SSA: The path to better recognition of circus creation at European level is still long. But big events as Fresh Circus give us more visibility in the media and towards politicians. We also organised a working seminar with policy makers about circus arts parallel to Fresh Circus to define future actions.

Talking about the future, we are also already thinking about the next Fresh Circus! It will take place in October 2019 in Auch, France, in partnership with the circus festival organised by CIRCa (French platform for circus arts).

A standing ovation

Fresh Circus was a success because it brought participants many fresh circus ideas. It showcased innovative developments, projects and practices. It explored how to attract and interact with new audiences. And artists inspired each other for novel creations and experiments to reinvent circus.

Brussels as a venue also got a warm applause. The Théätre National opened its doors for these circus aficionados, providing simultaneous interpretation to keep ideas flowing despite language barriers. The event also cleverly linked into the Brussels cultural life and infrastructure.

The UP! Festival gave the participants more than a few cherries on their cake. They could explore different venues and performances of international colleagues. And they were taken on a tour of the Brussels circus infrastructure (circus school, circus centre). Exactly what the organisers and participants were looking for!

Read more about Fresh Circus (Brussels) at www.circostrada.org/en/fresh-circus4

All about FocusCircus, the Brussels year of circus, at focusCIRCUS.brussels

Discover what Brussels can do for your event at visit.brussels/en/lists/meetings-homepage