Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain, which translates to something like the Global Festival of the Circus of Tomorrow, had it’s 39th edition in Paris last week. As every year, many young circus performers compete for various medals, special prizes and awards.
This year there were not too many jugglers present. Three diabolo acts, and two toss juggling acts among the competitors. There are also 4 guest artists and these are often jugglers, I suppose because they have little technical requirements. In the shows I attended the guests were juggler Jimmy Gonzales and object manipulation clowns Blizzard Concept, but cigar box juggler Erik Bates starred in one of the other shows. One of the diabolo players brought on a very unexpected surprise which got all of the audience to cheer and applaud – but more on that later, so be sure to read on!
The 39th edition of the festival seems to have played it a bit safe. Usually the festival attempts to bring in circus artists under 25 years old, but this year there were many who I know to be older than that. There were not so many big surprises or novelties. Two years ago I reviewed kendama and levistick at the festival, last year there was a football freestyler, but this year the juggling was limited to rings, clubs and diabolo.
Handstands from China
A golden medal was awarded to a very traditional Chinese act: Handstands on chairs. He definitely surprised us with his very strong technique, going just a little higher than most, having chairs without any ridges or pins as far as I could tell from close up, and doing his final drop from 4 blocks down out of a 1 arm. Otherwise I felt like I had seen the act before, a couple of times. Most surprising was when I found out that this was not his only act in the show. The same artist, listed once on the program as “Troupe of Jinan” and once as “Kong Haitao” performed 2 separate acts. In the B show with his winning chair routine as part of the troupe (the rest of his troupe was just on stage to help stack the first few chairs), and in the A show with a more modern handstand act set to a version of “Singing in the Rain”. I did not know this was even possible. You can read more about Kong and his performances at Demain here.
There were 3 silver awards, all handed to the most spectacular acts. Russian bar from Barcode Company (featuring Eric Bates as a porter, who also did his cigar box solo as a guest artist), teeterboard by Lukas & Aaron, and straps by Tim Kriegler. All three acts showed very high technique, but were not very original. I myself like to visit this festival more for the surprises and novelties, and my favorite this year was the Robopole by Ulik Robotik and Martin Riedel. An industrial robot held a full size Chinese pole, in which Martin was able to perform many new techniques while it moved and rotated all across the stage.
Now without further ado, let’s go through all of the jugglers and diabolo players, in order of their appearance on Saturday the 3rd of February: first the B show, then the A show.
Lazus Company – Israel
Juggler Ron Beeri and floor acrobat Itamar Glucksmann performed a nice technique-based duet together, which opened the B show. I had previously seen their act in the gala show of the EJC 2016 in Almere, and was happy to see them once again here at Demain. Their signature and opening move where Itamar walks straight through the 3 club cascade of Ron, without disturbing it, got a big audience reaction. In most of the act they find movements and tricks in their own disciplines to mirror each other, compliment each other or support each other. Ron does nice body rolls with his clubs or with his partner, and has some solid symmetrical 3 club patterns which he runs as he walks on stage. Together with some dynamic starts and stops, which is perhaps typical for a lot of former DOCH students, his juggling contributed perfectly to the duet between the two genres. Sadly the act was not awarded with any prizes. Lazus company has a full length show around the material presented in this act. You can watch the trailer here.
Arata Urawa – Japan
The second act of the show was from Arata Urawa, a Japanese diabolo player who studied at the circus school in Montreal. He started out very calm with 1 diabolo, but halfway through this changed to faster vertax tricks, supported by heavy drum sounds. He didn’t have many original tricks, but connected his tricks very nicely with each other and supported them with his movements. The finale trick was a 3-up 720. If you’re interested you can watch his act online here. Arata was awarded a bronze medal and a “Lido de Paris award”.
Blizzard Concepts – France
Julien and Antoine are not typical jugglers. They might be considered clowns when they are in the context of a circus, but the website of Demain lists them as “excentrics”. They were guest artists, as they were prize winners in the 35th edition of the festival, when I attended for the first time. Their act was identical to their previous appearance, based on the effect of floating balls on hair dryers attached to Julien’s body, up to 9 at once. I had forgotten about the finale with the balloon floating above the highest ball, which was gunned down by Antoine’s rifle. Also they had a nice trick where 3 large balls where manipulated into a floating cascade by a combination of hair dryers and ping pong paddles. You can watch the version they performed 4 years ago at the festival here.
Diaboloism – Taiwan
From Taiwan came 4 diabolo players, performing a tightly choreographed routine. I was impressed by their cleanliness, good technique and flawless execution. Their act consisted of many big visuals which followed up each other quickly. Most of the tricks involved some sort of passing of the diabolos or the sticks. Two of the players showed a perfect 4 diabolo low shuffle. After some of the bigger tricks, such as 8 diabolo passing, their long string vertax finale was a bit underwhelming. Otherwise the routine was great and worked well on the large stage. They were awarded with a special prize and the “Prix Dragone”. You can watch the routine they performed on here.
At the end of the B show, when the artists came out to take their final bow, we were all surprised when our host Calixte handed over the microphone to William Wei-Liang Lin, one of the performers of Diaboloism. He expressed his gratitude for being able to perform here, and then asked his girlfriend to come on stage. She was hiding behind her smartphone camera as William asked her to marry him, and of course the whole audience cheered as she nodded her head! Can you imagine a more exciting way to propose??
Yusaku Mochizuki – Japan
The A show opened with another Japanese diabolo player. Some readers might have already seen his act, because Yusaku won the IJA individuals with the same routine in 2015. Yusaku opened with tap dancing while playing diabolo, which was fun. The whole routine was performed with LED diabolos and Yusaku was left a bit in the dark. Otherwise the routine was relatively similar to the act of Arata Urawa, which made it surprising that both had been selected to perform at the festival. Yusaku did some very pretty 531’s to soft music, had a short run of 4 diabolos high, and finished with a vertax routine. His act was dropless, but did not receive any awards at the festival. You can watch his act as he performed it at the IJA festival 2015 here.
Jean-Baptiste Diot – France
Jean-Baptiste Diot worked with large rings in a nonchalant, gentleman kind of way. He opened by taking his jacket off while balancing a ring. There were some nice 6 ring shapes, ring rolls over the shoulders and the back, a short run of 6 and 7 rings, and then he finished with a ring stack balance on his forehead. I’m a fan of big rings and the gentlemen attitude, but perhaps it did come across as a bit too nonchalant, and his performance was only awarded with the “Bretagne Circus Trophy”.
Jimmy Gonzales – Spain
Jimmy Gonzales was a guest artist, and the last juggler on the program. He performed his clay juggling routine, which won him a gold medal in 2015 at the festival. He breaks a large block of clay into multiple pieces, and splits them even more or puts them back together while juggling with it. This way he goes smoothly from 2 to 5 piece juggling without stopping, and also pulls off a 6 clay ball half shower. Sometimes he is soft with the clay, sometimes he’s rough with it, or drops it on his hair, but throughout his large movements support his body throwing juggling style. You can watch his performance of 2015 at the festival here.
It was not as good a year for juggling as it was last year, but luckily the guest artists make up a bit for that. Also it’s interesting to see how Asian diabolo seems to get more and more presence in the circus world – their flashy acts and big tricks have clearly not gone unnoticed!
You can watch the A show still on Arte for free. It shows the last 3 acts mentioned here plus a lot of other great non juggling acts. Look out for the umbrella manipulation in the straps act, the clever Cyr wheel manipulation, and of course all the other world class acrobatic acts!
The first three and the last pictures were taken by Matthias Camilleri, the other pictures (all with the jugglers) by Sabine Lustig.