New Circus – an art form
New Circus (Contemporary Circus) defines itself as one of the performing arts. A theatrical format takes precedence, alongside conceptual ideas around dramaturgy and aesthetics, forming an artistic framework for circus techniques. Those techniques become vehicles for expression of performers, whose personality, personal history/biographical background and physicality influence their work to a large degree. ‘A small, plump high wire walker can be a lot more entertaining than one who is a perfect, superhuman athlete’ (Georg Daxner, Winterfest Salzburg). Artistic expression is becoming more important than physical achievement. Contemporary/New Circus is by its very nature a cross-disciplinary art form and often situates itself at the crossroads with other art forms like theatre, dance, visual art, new technology and media etc. Border crossings and mixing genres is a natural way for the new circus artist to inspire other practitioners as well as to be inspired by their work.
The Image of Circus
The mainstream image of circus that is prevalent in Germany, is still very much influenced by traditional touring circus and variety. There are a number of well known touring family circus companies as well as a highly developed Variety Scene and (artistic) Gala Shows as well as other more commercial ‘events’. Artists working in those frameworks often perform ‘acts’, with an emphasis on technical perfection and of high artistic standards. The audience expects entertainment through spectacle.
The Youth Circus scene in Germany is very well connected and developed. It has an official country-wide body (Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft) working and lobbying on its behalf. There is also a well developed juggling scene with regular juggling conventions, which has its own publication “Kaskade” (published in German and English).
There are two professional schools in Berlin, the “State School for Circus Arts” and the “Etage”, both specialise in preparing young performers to enter the circus and variety industry. There is no educational route for people who are interested in training in New Circus.
Circus is not recognised by cultural/political bodies as an art form, but it is regarded as a trade. That means there are few avenues for circus practitioners to access arts funding.