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1st International Circus Festival in Zhuhai

Written by Circus Guide Agency. Posted in Circus Guide Agency Blog

1st International Circus Festival in Zhuhai, China was held between November 20th and 25th, 2013, and was organized by the Ministry of Culture of the People’s Republic of China and the People’s Government of Guangdong Province, and undertaken by the Zhuhai Municipal People's Government and the Guangdong Chimelong Group Co, Ltd.

Below is the speech I was giving during the circus conference at the 1st International Circus Festival in Zhuhai, China. The subject of the conference was ‘Circus, City and Life’ on the perspectives and development of the modern circus industry and it's influence on today's urban culture.

Vlad-Circus Guide Entertainment Agency

Speech was prepared by Vladimir Tatarchuk and Joanna McMenamin

My name is Vladimir Tatarchuk from the Circus Guide Entertainment Agency. We specialise in sourcing circus and specialty acts for our circus clients, theatrical productions, theme parks, cruise ships, as well as corporate shows and television. We are also directing, creating choreography, and managing touring circus shows.

It is very exciting to be here for this, the very 1st China International Circus Festival. Congratulations to everyone who helped make this possible and thank you very much for inviting me to speak here today.

First of all, I’d like to tell you a little bit about myself. I am originally from Ukraine and come from a background in sports acrobatics.

As an acrobatic base working in a men’s pair, I grew up in a very special sporting environment being taught by some of the best coaches and founding fathers of modern sports acrobatics. I count myself as lucky to be in the last generation of athletes to go through the Soviet training program, competing in the Ukrainian national team. My acrobatic partner and I were junior and senior European champions and placed 3rd overall at the World Championships. For that we both received the title of ‘International Master of Sport’.

In Ukraine it’s very normal for sportsmen to move over into the circus after their sporting career finishes, but for me, the singular event that put me firmly on the path was the first time I ever saw Cirque du Soleil. It was the first time I’d seen modern circus. The costumes, make­up, the light and stage were all so impressive, from then on I knew my life would somehow be connected to the circus.

Sports acrobatics was born from the circus, but evolved into something completely separate. It’s the study of acrobatics in it’s most pure form, so it’s interesting to note how we’ve come full circle and sports acrobatics is now feeding back into the circus. We could also see a steady improvement of trick standards in the circus as the standard of technical difficulty in sports like gymnastics, trampolining, and diving improved over the last 50 years.

My transition from sport into the circus world was fast. Straight after the world championships I toured Australia as part of a folk dance and acrobatic show and after that, went on to Europe’s largest theatre stage at the Friedrichstadt Palast in Berlin, Germany.

Over the course of my career I’ve had the chance to experience and develop skills in various circus disciplines, but my passion was always and ever acrobatics. After traveling the world as artist, 7 years ago my partner and I founded the Circus Guide Entertainment Agency. Today, I divide my time between Ukraine and Australia scouting for the world’s best international circus talent.

So the theme of today’s discussion is ‘Circus, City and Life’. We’re here to talk about the modern circus world’s biggest achievements, and to me, I think the biggest achievement of all is simply the massive expansion of circus into the mainstream as well as underground theatre cultures.

Over the last 20 years, the circus industry has grown so much, incorporating many other performing and visual arts into itself. Sometimes it’s difficult to define what circus actually is anymore. We see circus everywhere! Everything from dance, cabaret, pop concerts, burlesque shows, new technologies and multi­media, combine with circus arts to create new modern hybrid circus shows. It’s an exciting time to be a part of it all.

Here in China, circus (and especially acrobatics) has always had a large following and a history dating back thousands of years. The Soviet Union also cultivated circus art quite strongly, but in other parts of the world until fairly recently, circus has been mostly seen as children’s entertainment.

The Cirque du Soleil changed all that.

In fact, it’s impossible to talk about modern circus without mentioning the impact of this company. They introduced us to a completely new style of circus and put Canada on the map as the Mecca for contemporary circus art.

Countries like France and Germany had strong circus and variety scenes populated largely with artists from Eastern Europe. But over the past 15 years we’ve seen circus schools popping up all over Europe, producing a new generation of contemporary circus artists.

It’s not just happening in Europe. Circus schools all over the world are growing in size and number. Circus schools in South America are providing children from all walks of life the chance to become professional circus artists.

In the U.S, which has one of the largest entertainment industries in the world, we see circus schools growing in number there too, but circus skills have also become an important addition to dance school curriculum as acrobatics and aerial have been added to the list of must­ have skills.

Africa has also exploded onto the scene. African acrobats traditionally combined uptempo dancing, acrobatic pyramids, and limbo shows to create their signature style, but now we see them extending into other circus disciplines. The level of technical difficulty is amazing considering so many African artists are self­taught and there is a real effort to foster these skills and pass them on to the next generation.

India has a national sport called ‘Mallakhamb’ (Gymnastic pole), dynamic and visually aesthetic discipline similar to Chinese pole and also includes aerial rope. Big Mallakhamb tournaments have been held in India for the past 25 years, but only now do they have the chance to shine on an international stage as part of the circus.

The same goes for urban acrobatics such as tricking, free running, parkour, break­dance, roller skating, skate­boarding and BMX bike freestyling have all made their mark on the modern circus world.

Circus has become a big part of the fitness industry. We see aerial yoga, pole fitness, acrobatic yoga, and dance trapeze being offered by fitness centers today.

Television has had a strong influence on increasing the exposure of circus arts to the general public. We can see talents shows on TV full of circus and variety acts, there was even a show called ‘Cirque du Celebrity’ where celebrities learned circus disciplines and performed them in front of an audience.

North American pop singers like Pink inspired a whole generation of little girls to learn aerial skills when she performed a song on trapeze in one of her shows.

Actually, big pop stars like Madonna regularly use circus artists as part of their live stage performances, some of then using circus as the focus of an entire stage tour.

Hollywood plays a role too. Films such as ‘Chicago’, ‘Water for Elephants’, and even animation films like ‘Madagascar 3’ have done their part to bring circus into every household.

Circus in every house.

I have a friend in Australia who’s working as an engineer on an oil rig. He told me a story that one time sitting in the bar on the oil rig, surrounded by big tough guys drinking beer, the whole bar became quiet and focused when a modern circus show program began playing on the TV screen in the bar. In Australia this was would have been virtually unheard of until today, because now, in one form or another, circus really is in every household.

The Internet has been instrumental in bringing circus to a larger audience. YouTube for example is the biggest research tool for circus artists today. You can see anything and everything there as well as tutorials on how­to. Global exchange of information like this, makes it possible for more people in unlikely places to explore circus skills without the benefit of having been to a circus school or seeing a live show.

Professional circus artists have all been inspired by what they’ve seen on YouTube, expanding their skill set and using it to promote themselves. In fact, the Internet has changed the way we all do business.

Circus Festivals like this play an important role in raising the prestige of the modern circus and the cities that host them. They are important cultural events that promote circus to the general public by providing a platform for artists to display their talent. Festivals set trends, and the competitive aspect rewards the efforts of artists for innovation, technical difficulty, originality, and artistry. And finally, festivals are a great place for industry professionals like us to get to know each other, network, promote new ideas, discuss and plan the future of the circus, and to scout for new circus talents of course.

There is a lot more evidence pointing to the growing popularity of the circus and I could keep talking about it all day, but I’ll wrap things up now.

I’m very excited to see what this 1st International Circus Festival in Zhuhai, China has to offer. China was and continues to be one of the greatest exporters of circus art to the world today. and a leading player in the modern circus industry. Congratulations once again to the festival organizers and thank for having me here today.

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