Photos By: Rafael Reynoso Jaime
It was mid-November 2011, and I was headed back to México for my 2nd adventure at a Latin American circus festival: the 6th Annual Cirkonvençion Méxicana. All I knew as I packed my bags for the flight, was that the festival was in a rainforest an hour and a half outside of México City. The location was said to have mango trees dripping with fruit, and I would hopefully be met at the airport by local, Santi Malabari, and Vulcan residents Bri Crabtree and Brian Thompson. While thrilled for this next adventure, I questioned whether Cirkonvençion could possibly live up to my epic experience at Barullo – the first Mexican circus festival I attended last June.
Barullo had shattered any pre-conceived notions I had about the Méxican juggling scene. It demonstrated an incredible skill level of circus arts, a friendly and welcoming culture, the most wild renegade stage I have ever seen, and an element of “Fiesta” rarely equaled in the US. How could Cirkovençion possibly top that? How indeed….
While I’ve compiled a video to answer this question, permit me first to outline some of the highlights and surprises that combined to make Cirkonvençion one of the most memorable and mind-blowing festivals I have ever had the honor to attend:
- As performers, Bri, Brian, and I unexpectedly got to sleep in bunk beds in a stunning 16th century stone hacienda.
- Nestled in a rain forest, the hacienda was on a large family estate scattered with fruit orchards, corn fields, a pond filled with ducks, a river surrounding the property and, for this week only, a large circus tent hovering in the middle.
- A dining area was set up to feed volunteers and performers. The cooking crew prepared mouth-watering Méxican meals, always including sauces with at least two varying degrees of spiciness…hot and very hot!
- People from 13 different countries attended the festival, including France, Spain, Belgium, England, Australia, Guatemala, US, Canada, Argentina, Brazil, and more.
- EAEO, Shake That, Morgan, Intrika , Julien Munsch, and Pierre Marlin showed up at the festival – unexpectedly and un-publicized. The multitude of performances that emerged from these attendees added a rare and stellar quality to the festival.
- The Gala Show was out of this world.
- A live Cumbia band, named “La Orrorosa”, played for several acts during one of the performances. Following the show, a dance party ensued and the band played into the wee hours of the morning. At one point, I felt like juggling and picked up some balls. Gus Rodriguez approached me and said, “No juggling, Erin. Now…only dance!” Later, he asked, “Is the fiesta in the US this good?”, to which I replied, “Not even close!”
- The Parade! To get to the parade site, we crammed into the back of a pick-up truck with 30-40 people. Chanting, singing, and cheering occurred as we drove over the bumpy road to our destination, with an ambulance following close behind. The parade wound through the streets of a small village, leading to the plaza in the heart of the town. Here, hundreds of town folks gathered to watch an impressive display of circus talent.
- The games included club combat, ball combat, unicycle combat, and hands behind your back hopping on one leg combat…as well as a jaw dropping handspring endurance.
- At Renegade, Fer Sumano did an impressive trick of standing on a chair, bending over, and hula hooping on her butt. Another girl then stood up, and hula hooped around the bun in her hair. Brian then impressed everybody by tipping his head back and hula hooping on his nose. The crowd went crazy and started chanting, “Tequila! Tequila!” There was no tequila on hand, and no money to buy it from the bar. For 10 minutes, if Brian tried to sit down, the crowd would chant, “Tequila! Tequila!” Finally, they passed around a hat to collect money, and though not tequila, Brian was awarded a can of beer.
These were a few of the great moments. Brian and Bri, whom I had personally invited after attending Barullo, were both impressed by the awesomeness of the festival. Brian said, “This is way better than the EJC this summer!”, and both said it was one of the best festivals they had ever attended.
Prior to flying to México, many people said comments such as, “You’re traveling there alone? As a girl?!”, “Be safe! It’s dangerous down there!”, and “You’re crazy!” To these comments, I reply: both times I have traveled to México now, I have been welcomed with friendship, kindness, safety, and respect. While one must be smart when traveling anywhere, I encourage folks in the US to look past the media’s biased portrayal of México and embark on an adventure to a circus festival in this neighboring country. The flight is a quarter of what it costs to fly to Europe, the experience is other worldly, and the idea of building international juggling camaraderie with México is exciting!
And now, on to the video…