Jugglers at Cirque de Demain 2016 – Review

The 37th Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain was very interesting for object manipulation! Besides diabolo and club-passing there were a few disciplines making their festival début: Kendama, levistick, and pendulum juggling all made an appearance on stage.

On January 30th, 2016, I witnessed both the A and the B shows of the festival in Paris. Like every year, 22 circus acts are selected to perform at Demain. Because they don’t allow animal acts, and artist normally have to be younger than 25 to apply, the festival is known for its modern character. However, as with any show that is a mere collection of unconnected short acts, the setup remains quite traditional. Most artists wisely use their minutes on stage to show off their technical prowess, a necessity to impress the judges and win a medal.

There were a few nice exceptions to the typical setup of an act, such as the unicycling duo from France. Dorian and Ronan had soft music in the background and some live dialog, and their finale was rather dramatic: instead of the usual big trick, one of the characters was murdered on stage.

Cie La Migration from France also had an act that did not scream for attention like the others. The two bearded men played softly with their beautiful rotating tight wire installation. Though their kind of performance might not be most suited for a festival like this, it probably fits their own 40 minute show very well.

The large classical standards were also represented, such as a typical flying trapeze act, and an all-girl Russian swing act, both from Russia. China was present as usual, but this year their act was created in cooperation with a French director. Three Chinese poles were connect to each other on one point, resulting in some kind of upside down and movable pyramid, which allowed for a lot of original tricks! They were dressed as office workers, their slightly dramatic characters were probably the result of the French collaboration.

Gold medals went to Russian swing troupe Skokov, and to the Korean cradle duo from Canada & Belarus, Anny & Andrei. The latter did a tango-styled number with classical tricks, though it did not seem particularly special to me.

Silver medals went to teeterboard duo, Ali & Jules from the United Kingdom and France; flying trapeze troupe, Heroes; Russian bar trio, Moi Et Les Autres, who did a very original and comical act; and to handstand artist Andrey Moraru from Ukraine, my personal favorite this year. Andrey had an amazing bizarre character, a feathered costume and matching canes. His technique was incredibly strong, though almost irrelevant; his attitude would make any act a success!

For a full overview of all the medals and special awards, see the website of Cirque de Demain.

opening act

The first show I spent on the edge of my seat, enjoying the front row seat which I had been assigned thanks to my press pass. The second show I watched from far in the back, where the seats were worse but the atmosphere much better! From here I did need to feel ashamed to stand up and cheer loud, so I was happy to have exchanged my ticket.

I took notes of all the juggling acts, jotting down small words in the dark while the stagehands were preparing the next performance.

First and foremost, I want to mention that in order to be admitted to play at the festival you need to have a very high level, and all of the performers were under serious pressure! I have a lot of respect for all of the circus artists at the festival.

What follows now is my description and review of the various object manipulation acts, in the order of their appearances on Saturday 30th, during which the B show came before the A show.

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Akira Fukugawa – Diabolo – Japan

Akira was the first act of the afternoon, and wow it was great! A diabolo act with all the standard ingredients, not much originality in his tricks, but as a real crowd pleaser, Akira flies over the stage executing all his moves flawlessly. He is light on his feet, and his generous Japanese smile is timed to the quick music. His diabolos have LED’s but the stage lights stay on the whole time, creating different color atmospheres in the different parts of his act. One diabolo manages to hit the ceiling of the tent but Akira recovers without effort. Only his 4D high finale had a big drop, but the trick was nailed on the second attempt.

Fast and epic, Akira Fukugawa’s diabolo act puts us all in the right mood for the rest of the show!

Viktor Moiseev – Pendulum juggling – Russia

I was a bit surprised to see Viktor here at Demain. This well established artist already played solo in multiple Cirque du Soleil shows such as Alegria, wheras the festival usually favors artists who’ve just come out of school. He stands on a small platform from which he doesn’t move, and his pendulum installation is rigged straight above him. He manipulates 3 to 9 big red balls which are suspended at eye height by nearly invisible strings, which Viktor calls “horizontal juggling.” Dressed in a spacy spandex glitter suit, he his the master of the planets. The apparatus is a mechanical wonder and the moving images he creates are novel, yet the act does not feel so strong. I am not sure if I am watching circus, or some interactive installation art. The epic music seems out of place and his flawless performance looks too easy. I suppose this work of art fits better in the dinner shows where the balls would literally fly over your heads, such as in his video that was released some years ago.

3J – Club Passing – Ukraine

The jugglers from Raw Art, Vlad Gapanovich, Maxim Golovchenko and Evgeniy Pahalovich did exactly the routine which we know from their viral video. Even without their sunglasses they remain a bit too “cool” for the circus stage, but of course it is hard to recreate the industrial background from the video. Their choreography is strong, and they seem to be having a lot of fun! From the front, the juggling looks as cool as in the video, their acrobatics even better. Sadly I heard from friends in the audience that from the side some of the visual effects disappear a bit, and in this tent the audience surrounds the stage. I would have rooted so much for these guys to do a strong performance, but sadly a lot is lost with the drops! They pretend not to notice and continue smoothly with their act, but around 10 drops is too distracting.

Zoomadanke – Kendama – Japan

The second show also opens with a juggling number, and again from Japan! Takeshi Kodama and Hiroki Iijima are the first people to bring kendama to this stage. The show host introduces kendama as a “Japanese geek sport,” and this is also how Zoomadanke treats their act. As a typical demonstration team they do some synchronized routines with some small dance steps to the music, or they exchange positions, only one of them at a time doing tricks in the front.

This time, I have a seat far in the back, which makes their kendamas nearly invisible. I can’t tell the difference between a spike catch or cup catch, which makes half of their moves seem pointless. Zoomadanke tries really hard making their tricks as big as possible, doing many spinning moves reminiscent of poi and meteor, but it has little effect. The sports-demonstration-like act is of a whole different artistic level than the other performances in the show, and due to visibility I conclude that kendama is out of place on the big stage.

Viktor Kee (Guest artist) – Balls – Ukraine

Besides the young participants, Cirque de Demain also selects a guest artist for each show. On Saturday in the A show it is Viktor Kee who takes the stage. More naked than ever (Viktor, is that some good contouring or are you wearing padding to make your ass look bigger?), he took most material of his latest Cirque du Soleil act and choreographed it to a dynamic orchestral music piece. The music and the juggling always works harmoniously, beautiful at first but almost boring in the end. Just like Moiseev, Kee brings his own mini stage which gives him a reason not to move around. This is important because of his amazing ball dropping machine, which allows him the most beautiful way to start his cascades! This is one of the acts where I feel sad that I am no longer sitting in the front, knowing that Viktor makes some subtle moves and faces which can be appreciated better from up close. Juggling wise, his act is not very interesting any more, as he seems to have taken all the hard tricks out. A pity for nerds like me, but one should not forget that he has been successful with juggling for long enough.

Ehrlich Ocampo Levistick – Philippines

Another object manipulation début, Ehrlich dances together with his LED levistick. On the half dark stage, the string is completely invisible, and some of the moves are very magical. It is more a dance act than a juggling act, something which I don’t feel qualified to judge, though I could not help but find it a bit boring. All the act has one energy and lacks surprises. Ehrlich jumps and rolls to all corners of the stage, always pirouetting so the levistick stays in motion.

This year the juggling acts were not among my favorites of the whole festival. The jury seems to share my opinion, out of the 4 acts that were not honored with any award, 3 of them were jugglers! Akira Fukugawa received a special prize, and 3J received the EDS Agency Trophy, but no juggler got a medal this year.

Still, I had a blast at Demain. The foyer is a great place to meet my friends from all the various circus schools. When you go into a restaurant or snack bar in between the shows you hear discussions about the show at the neighboring tables. Paris was rainy, but the tent warm and dry. If you like circus and Paris is not too far away, consider coming to see the show next year! I will try to be there for sure.

Keep looking on YouTube, some videos of the acts might be released in the near future.

Daniel Simu

I am a juggler and circus performer from the Netherlands. I travel all over Europe to learn, create, discuss, perform and organise, and I am always looking for fun projects to join!
Feel free to contact me about anything :)

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