We’re looking at another, sixth to be precise, edition of CirkoBalkana–the contemporary circus festival held inside a circus tent, an autonomous space for performance, education and creation. For the 15 days of the Festival’s duration (28th of April-12th of May), the audience will have the opportunity to see the circus fusions of five European countries in their most diverse, as well as local and regional shows, but wait there’s more, because there will also be workshops for professionals, children and casuals, movie nights, panels, work-in-progress evenings and many more, all of which comprise what we’ve come to know as circus today.

The circus we know today has, through its rich history, undergone numerous changes of performance space and shape– from the tent as a primary circus stage, through the cabaret, the streets, variete, the theatre, sports centers etc. But one thing is for certain, be-it-called new, contemporary, classic, traditional or any other way, the circus is still the circus and as such belongs to performance art which the audience admires, laughs at, leaves breathless, is terrified of, but is still in love with and keeps coming back for more.

The Circus is an art employing specialized techniques and skills, and as such is introduced to the audience in a variety of different forms from different schools, also using numerous diverse methods of performance. Therefore, most justice will be done when stating what our focal points are- the circus of today, or the circus of the non-aligned. In a country which cannot boast of its’ rich circus tradition, the above may be the best description of its’ circus, as well as the fact that when taking up this viewpoint on circus as an art form, one can reach new audiences that are yet to be familiarized with the circus.

This year’s festival may be the most apparent incarnation of the above– the festival is held inside of a circus tent as a classic/traditional space for circus performance, but the festival’s program in a lot of aspects clashes with the classic and traditional, which of course doesn’t mean that some artists still don’t juxtapose those forms of circus performance.

We’re starting off with the Finnish artist Ilona Jäntti who bases her show on the artistic expression with a prop unfamiliar to her- not insignificant when keeping in mind that the prop is metal wire. This is the artist’s way of going one step further from standard circus props, and at the same time, she herself is exploring a completely new technique of working with the prop, where in lies the proof of her innovation. Also present are one of our regional representatives, the Serbian art group The Garden of flames, who combine techniques of production and manipulation of puppets with the circus element of fire. The iron dolls are manipulated by the artists who wish to convey their circus techniques through the dolls, while accompanied by a strong live music act. While we’re in the region, it would be a shame to skip mentioning the CirkoBalkana Chaos Cabaret as a very memorable form which has been developing for the past ten-or-so years in the region, and it very deftly flirts with traditional circus and contemporary currents as it introduces a unique timeless style- a true Balkan ambience supported by artists from Serbia and Croatia. Compagnia Zenhir, hailing from our next-door neighbor Italy, is made up of members of one of the most influential group of contemporary nomads today – The MagdaClan Circus. This trio uses modern technology and interpersonal relationships as a leitmotiv, all-the-while using difficult circus techniques such as: hand-to-hand acrobatics, acrobatic dance and acrobatic ladder manipulation, all made even better by aerial stunts and a charming dose of original Italian humor. A very interesting and innovative combination is brought to us by the duo of the French company Lazuz. Combining acrobatic dance and juggling – these two artists discover a whole new world of possibilities which, at first glance, seem as obstacles at interpersonal relations of actors on the scene. Their artistic exploration for the show (which was preselected for the CircusNext PlaTFoRM) took two years before it was ready to be presented to the audience and is currently being performed all over Europe. We will also be having a duo of representatives of one of the longest-running circus groups Antuntun. Using clown, juggling and acro-balance techniques, the two artists take up an interesting approach to presenting the circus and all its wonders to children, using a cabaret-collage in the show “Between Extremes”. From the southern part of the Balkan Peninsula – Greece to be precise, come the Dromocosmicas –a travelling theatre which at the core of its expression skillfully combines circus skills (clown, equilibrium, acro-balance) with theatre, slapstick and silent film. Their show “Vagor & Bellavita” was performed in almost every part of the world and has received numerous awards. While we’re on the subject of children’s shows, there are other puppeteers to be introduced:  The Polpet Theatre from the neighboring Slovenia, who focus on the short street-style form of performance, interweaved by different situations and character relations, relying on the classic puppet show with a screen, but using a clearly-defined clown technique when basing character relations. And for the finish, some surrealism, in the form of the Italian group Laden Classe and their“193 Problems”. How and in what way can one make a contemporary circus show? What are the problems one can run into? – are some the questions which are the main focus of this quintet, who managed to count 193 problems arising when creating a show. When performing, they’re using a very intense and unique circus technique, leaving the audience simply breathless.

We’ll also be having work-in-progress evenings where we’ll be introducing some of the most innovative artists who have entered the regional selection for the CircusNext PLaTForm, and among those we’ll be hosting the Slovenian group MismoNismo (WeareNot) which has been preselected from the European selection. They will be performing just as they ship off to Nerpeelt to participate in the final selection of laureates of the platform.

On the 1st of May, on the International Workers’ Day, we will be hosting the Open Stage, an evening for all artists working in circus performance and performance in general who wish to present their artistic expression in short form, as well as an evening for all audiences wishing for relaxed and memorable entertainment.

We mustn’t forget the all-day hangouts, open-door practices, workshops for children and adults, music acts performing during the entirety of the festival, as well as the amazing Laboratory of Circus Arts which will bring five different circus workshops for professionals, five innovative approaches to circus techniques and their combinations.

So, peruse this year’s program carefully, pick something or everything, and under the dome of the red tent discover the world of the CirkoBalkana Festival!!!