Re-Inventing Circus. CircusDanceFestival 2024

Re-Inventing Circus. CircusDanceFestival 2024

On occasion of the successful recognition of Circus in the German intangible culture as an independent form of performing arts in 2024, CircusDanceFestival titles its fourth edition - from 16 to 20 May - Re-Inventing Circus, framing this specific moment and taking the opportunity to reflect together on questions of heritage and renewal. According to the Cologne-based organisation dedicated to current aesthetics, practices and discourses in contemporary circus and dance, recognition as a cultural heritage form also entails a special responsibility to engage with the complex cultural-historical phenomenon of the genre.

Because of the coexistence of classical and contemporary forms of circus, the festival sees progressive and experimental forms, with their artistic inventiveness and innovative spirit, as having the potential to renew traditional circus images and to cast romanticised circus clichés in a different light. The aim is also to develop a social awareness of the role and responsibility of circus practice given its colonial history. Regarding this topic, in 2023, the festival published the magazine VOICES Re-exploring the grotesque.

The festival is launching the 2024 academic magazine Re-clowning - The Political in the Clown. Both are published by the German theatre publishing house Theater der Zeit and are available on its website. 

On Monday, 20 May at 9 PM, the final discussion of the festival is on the topic of Political Clowning. Moderated by this year's VOICES editor Jenny Patschovsky in conversation with performer Laura Murphy, clown Marija Baranauskaitė and circus theorist Ante Ursić, the talk focuses on the intersection of Clowns and political activism, where humour resists oppressive forces. 

A five-show Core selection
The festival aims to foster political, experimental and interdisciplinary work, and this year’s programme focuses on ageing in circus, transitional identities, queerness in clowning and circus in dance. The open-air festival's main location - with two tents and the open-air cinema - is at the pedagogical circus centre Latibul - also hosting a Family Day on Sunday - while two of the program’s performances this year (Glorious Bodies and A Spectacle of Herself) are at TanzFaktur

Under the artistic direction of the choreographer Tim Behren and his company Overhead Project, this edition sees internationally outstanding works of contemporary circus such as Glorious Bodies by Circumstances, Sawdust Symphony, A Spectacle of Herself by Contra Productions, Delusional by Diana Salles as well as Blueprint by Overhead Project. Most shows are combined with an introductory talk and host a post-show discussion with the artists. 

The Open Air Cinema 
There will be three films screened at CircusDanceFestival 2024.
On Friday, May 17 at 9:15 PM, Clownesses, in collaboration with The Feminist Initiative (after its open networking session). On Saturday, May 18 at 6:30 PM,  Thinking Circus, the première of the documentary by Arne Mannot, and on Monday, MAY 20 at 6:00 PM, the ARTE film by Serge Bromberg & Eric Lange, Charlie Chaplin: How It All Started.  

The Morning Workshops, and the Concerts & Parties
The new edition to this year's programme is the selection of morning workshops. Each day at Latibul from 10 AM to 1 PM, educational or physical activities will happen, melting humor and well-being. 

Around About Circus supports the festival on social media channels and leads a communication workshop, The Press Kit Training, on May 20 from 11 am to 1 pm, dedicated to professional artists and project managers in the performing arts sector. The workshop focuses on how to structure an effective promotion plan and a press kit to highlight the strengths of an artistic project. 

This edition also introduces Music as a section hosting various concerts & parties.

The BUZZ Symposium Circus and Heritage European Encounters
On Saturday, May 18, BUZZ - The German Federal Association of Contemporary Circus is leading a discursive encounter between European representatives of traditional and contemporary circus companies and associations to meet, discuss and share how we live circus. In the early afternoon, a panel moderated by artist and activist Diana Salles facilitates a dialogue between Edgar Hedergott (Free Pedagogical Initiative eV Unna), Gerd Sperlich (Circus Sperlich traditional Circus), Verena Cornwall (Circus Consultant), Menno van Dyke (artist, artistic director Circusstad Festival Rotterdam) and Gina Laskowski (artist).

In the evening, an open stage discussion moderated by BUZZ hosts a conversation between artists and organisers who identify themselves more in the traditional or contemporary circus, to exchange ideas and examine different perspectives and opinions on how we live circus. 

The ArchiveLab Walk-in & Future Archives Discussion
The new experimental practice connected to the Heritage theme of CircusDanceFestival 2024 is the ArchiveLab, a summer school of 5 days, hosted in Cologne from 13 to 18 May. Open to Master’s degree international students to experiment with ideas, bridging the past to the future of the performing arts. The goal is to shape interactive and experiential views of managing archives, here seen as imaginary places of practices, questions and solutions used to interpret contemporary arts in the sector. Led by the historian Mirjam Hildbrand and the dance scholar Johanna Hilari, both dramaturgs and dance/theatre researchers from Switzerland, on Saturday, 18 May, at 7:30 PM, the ArchiveLab results will be presented to the audience in an Archive Lab Walk-in, with the participants and their artefacts. 

Future Archives is also the theme of the evening talk moderated by the journalist Melanie Suchy with Mirjam Hildbrand, Johanna Hilari and the Deputy Director of the Tanzarchiv Köln, Thomas Thorausch about the importance, tasks and challenges of archives.

The NRW KULTURsekretariat International Visitors Programme
This edition of CircusDanceFestival is also hosting an International Visitors Program led by The NRW KULTURsekretariat - North Rhine-Westphalian Office of Culture - a public, communal cultural grants initiative of 20 major cities and the Rhineland region (LVR) in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). Since 1974, working with partners in the community, it has initiated, organised and promoted innovative projects, festivals and events programmes in theatre, music, the visual arts, literature, dance and new media. It also stimulates cultural-political processes and dialogue within the association network and enhances cultural competence by arranging conferences and conventions on relevant issues.

NRW KULTURsekretariat’s International Visitors Programme focuses on direct encounters, bringing cultural operators, journalists, curators and festival directors to the scene in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), from all over the world. International guests can learn about cultural life in the region by visiting performances, exhibitions, festivals or concerts related to film and media art, contemporary dance, pop music and theatre for young audiences.

From 16 to 20 May, eight participants - from Croatia, Spain, Uruguay, Belgium, Netherlands, Latvia, Colombia and Italy attend CircusDanceFestival mixing their visit with further venues and institutions in Cologne and the Ruhr region to meet other curators, artists and companies working in the field of contemporary circus and dance in North Rhine-Westphalia. The goal is to exchange knowledge, experiences and expertise, and enhance the international network for future collaboration opportunities. 

CircusDanceFestival 2024 PROGRAM | CircusDanceFestival 2024 TIMETABLE