Cirque de Demain is the large circus festival in Paris for young, high level circus professionals. Read on about my review of the various juggling acts and other standouts.
You can also read my previous review of this festival in 2016 here.
This year, 24 circus acts were selected to perform at Demain. Because they don’t allow animal acts, and artists normally have to be younger than 25 to apply, the festival is known for its modern character. However, as with most shows which are a 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.
I went this year and saw all of the shows on Saturday the 28th of January. The students from Codarts in Rotterdam kindly invited me to join them in their bus to Paris, and I was extra lucky that Kolja Huneck wanted to take some good pictures for me! All of the images in this article are his.
As last year, there were several jugglers in different disciplines. Two diabolo players, two ball jugglers, one club juggler, a freestyle football player, and an antipodist. Also there were two guest artists, both jugglers, so I was lucky to see Kerol beatboxing with clubs and Dmitry Chernov with his big ball routine.
There were plenty of other interesting acts before I go into those jugglers. For example I saw a mallakhamb act live for the first time. This Indian style pole gymnastics is really bizarre, although I had expected more technical prowess from the performers. Probably I’ve been spoiled by the videos which I had seen of mallakhamb before. One of the gold medals went to Cirque “La Compagnie”, 4 men combining very difficult teeterboard maneuvers with Chinese pole on stage, in typical Montreal style. I was particularly impressed by Jose & Dany who did an aerial cradle act with a lot of tricks I had never seen! Their technique matched well with their dramatization, and they were awarded with a silver medal. Saleh Yazdani, a handstand artist from Iran, got one of the bronze medals. I really liked the aesthetic of him riding his rocking horse, on which he also performed his stunning handstands. Speaking of medals, it might be useful to know that there are 2 gold, 3 silver and 4 bronze medals in this festival, on top a lot of special prizes! That way a lot of artists can put an award from Demain on their cv.
For the opening of the show, Akoreacro was invited to play an excerpt from their show, Klaxon. This was an epic choreography, 11 performers showing a mixture of live music, character interaction, banquine, cradle, Washington trapeze, combining it all flawlessly for this wonderful opening act. It made me really curious to go see their show some time, and it set us in the right mood for the rest of the show!
This year seemed to be a theme to have either some kind of movie trailer music, or to do your act bare-chested. Now the jugglers didn’t quite meet this description.
From here on, I’ll list the jugglers in the order of which I saw them. Show B first and then show A.
Vladislav Kostuchenko from Belarus was the first act of the first show. He appeared on stage with his football tucked under his shirt as if he were pregnant. He performed various body rolls, balances on his head and feet, even while in handstand. While he didn’t earn any awards, it is nice to see artists like him translating their skills into circus performances.
Onni Toivonen is already famous among jugglers; he appeared on the 5th spot of last year’s top40! I was happy to see him on this stage, but very surprised to see him appear with glitter clubs. He performed his signature style 3 club tricks, and seemed to glide over the stage as smooth as his jazzy music. There were a couple insignificant drops, but at the second attempt of his 5 club back-crosses he did an impressively long run! His 7 club finale was super solid.
Now his performance does suffer a bit from the lack of facial expression, but he does seem to be audience aware. Onni was awarded with the EDS Agency trophy.
Dimitri Chernov (guest)
Dimitri was invited to play his Shaman act. With 7 big balls and 8 pockets to fit and catch them in, he performs a contemporary classical circus act. The perfection on all the moves, and his 7 ball finale, are thrilling.
Rémi Lasvènes from France is not just a very clever juggler but also a magician. I had seen parts of his acts a year ago in Toulouse and was very excited to see him on this stage. He uses floating and stringed balls which look just like his regular juggling balls, and gets some incredible and funny effects out of them! The live music supported his act really well. All the details, from his prop cart to his stage placement, poses, character and jokes were strikingly perfect. He went home with a bronze medal, but also 4 different agency awards, more than any other artist at this festival! I know he also has a long show called Déluge, if you ever have a chance to see it, don’t hesitate!
Guillaume Karpowicz from France studied in Stockholm, in the same class as Onni. I have to admit, I’m a huuuge fan of his videos! His one diabolo dancing style is so clever and novel, doing robotic/popping kinda movements, making his diabolo and hand sticks move in lines rather than the usual arcs. I had seen him perform with this material twice before, though it wasn’t quite as perfect as it was in the videos.
This time ’round, I needed not be nervous. Guillaume absolutely nailed it, and it was the most exciting thing I’ve seen in the whole festival. After the perfect execution of his one diabolo routine, he got some extra diabolos on stage. His act was modified to include the 4 high just for the festival, and the rounds of the 534 siteswap with 4 diabolos made his choice to do the rest of the routine with 1 diabolo look even stronger. I would have personally given Guillaume a golden medal, but the jury might not have been ready yet for such a modern hero… He went home with a special prize.
The first jugglers of the A show were the antipodist of the Zhejiang troupe from China. Or actually, it was one male base, one female antipodists performing in handstand on top of the base, and 8 background dancers. We had seen this troupe already with their head to head act in the B show, where they weren’t very good, but at least the whole troupe was involved. I found the background dancers rather distracting and didn’t understand much of their choreography. The tricks performed were unimaginatively hard to do, balancing and spinning an umbrella while in handstand. The finale was a combination trick spinning multiple umbrellas at once, but I was a bit distracted by the LED illuminated mouth piece which she used to hold one umbrella.
They were awarded with a silver medal.
A troupe from the same region had already performed a similar hand to hand with umbrella antipode act at Cirque de Demain in 2005.
The greatest crowd-pleaser of the festival was ChihHan Chao from Taiwan. On some dubstep-like music he performed an epic diabolo routine, displaying some new techniques. Instead of having the diabolo in the strings, he would mostly just whip it up which would make the diabolo roll up the string like a yoyo. He played very fast to the music, holding two pairs of strings so he could spin one around like a nun-chuck for extra visual effect. He managed to do this same type of move even in vertax, and exchanged regular sticks for special single sticks that held a thick string for some of his moves. To me his tricks did appear relatively safe, in the video I later even noticed he had a couple of fumbles from which he could save himself flawlessly. The finale trick with 2 diabolos and 2 pairs of hand sticks took him two attempts, but that only made the crowd go wilder.
ChihHan Chao got a huge standing ovation and was awarded with a golden medal, a big honor.
You can see his Demain performance on YouTube.
Clown juggler Alejandro Escobedo recently finished the Fratelini Academy in Paris, but his juggling style is still clearly influenced by his Chilean origin. He played some well executed classical miming with a juggling ball instead of a balloon. I really liked how he could keep his playful juggling style when he moved from 3 balls over to 5. The clowning style did seem a bit childish to me, but I can imagine that I would enjoy his act better on a smaller stage where I could sit closer by. Alejandro was struggling with his 8 ball finale, balancing one ball on his head while juggling 7 balls, isolated. On the 4th try he finally got it, but the energy was a bit lost.
He won a bronze medal
The last juggler who we saw was Kerol from Spain. His act focuses more on his funny beatbox skill, but he does juggle quite nicely with his clubs too. He was the guest artist of the A show. Suddenly it became clear again that professionals like Kerol and Dimitri Chernov are far ahead of the amazing, yet young, participants of the festival.
All in all a nice festival, with a gold medal for one of the jugglers. As a community we can be proud! At the time of writing this review you can watch the whole A show online at Arte, if you’re interested in circus or specifically in one of the acts (from on the Zhejiang Troupe), you should probably check it out! Be fast, this might not be online forever.