1st Edition

360° Circus Meaning. Practice. Culture

Edited By Franziska Trapp Copyright 2023
    216 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    216 Pages 9 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This collection aims to map a diversity of approaches to the artform by creating a 360° view on the circus.

    The three sections of the book, Aesthetics, Practice, Culture, approach aesthetic developments, issues of artistic practice, and the circus’ role within society. This book consists of a collection of articles from renowned circus researchers, junior researchers, and artists. It also provides the core statements and discussions of the conference UpSideDown—Circus and Space in a graphic recording format. Hence, it allows a clear entry into the field of circus research and emphasizes the diversity of approaches that are well balanced between theoretical and artistic point of views.

    This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of circus studies, emerging disciples of circus and performance.


    List of contributors

    Introduction: welcome to the wonderland of contemporary circus

    Franziska Trapp

    Part I
    Circus meaning

    1 Circus does not exist

    Jean-Michel Guy

    2 "La Putyka" by Cirk La Putyka: a glimpse at Czech contemporary circus

    Veronika Štefanová

    Part II
    Circus practice

    3 On mutations of forms, style, and meaning: from a traditional to a contemporary trapeze act

    Sandy Sun Interviewed by Franziska Trapp and Riikka Juutinen

    4 Articulating hand-balancing: finding space for critical self-transformation

    Camilla Damkjaer

    5 Extreme symbiosis

    Louise von Euler Bjurholm and Henrik Agger

    6 Hamlet: to have written or not to have written for the tightwire

    Louis Patrick Leroux
    Translated from French by Anna Vigeland and Louis Patrick Leroux

    7 Verticality, gravity, sense of balance. Transmitting a technique, conveying a sensation: practices and discourses of circus arts teachers

    Agathe Dumont

    8 Reading circus: dramaturgy on the border of art and academia

    Franziska Trapp

    9 UpSideDown circus and space

    Graphic Recordings by Andreas Gärtner

    Part III
    Circus culture

    10 Circus between technique and technology: heideggerian "enframing" and the contested space of free expression

    Sebastian Kann

    11 Chaplin, Brecht, Fo: toward a concept of epic clowning

    Gaia Vimercati

    12 To walk the tightwire

    Ante Ursić

    13 The spatiality of Australian contemporary circus

    Kristy Seymour

    14 Cheerful, nostalgic, melancholic: mood in circus

    Peta Tait




    Louise von Euler Bjurholm and Henrik Agger

    Two acrobats from Stockholm Sweden, educated at Moscow State School of Circus, who have worked together since 2001.

    Louise graduated 2013 from the program new performative practices at the University of Dance and Circus in Stockholm (DOCH) with a Master's in choreography with specialization in Circus. The master's program at DOCH was the starting point for the research project "The art of working in pairs, a deeper look into our practice" which began in the summer of 2011 and resulted in the performance and the booklet called Extreme Symbiosis.

    Henrik also went to the Mime Acting Program at Teaterhögskolan Stockholm
    (Stockholm university of the arts), and has been involved in the establishment of "New Circus" in Sweden as one of the original artists in the creation of Cirkus Cirkör in 1995. As freelance artists, Henrik and Louise have been working with companies such as the Russian State Circus and Cirkus Cirkör. They have also been producers of their own performances.

    Henrik and Louise’s work is based on research, and they always include one or two question statements in their creative processes. Physical expression is at the center, and their Circus discipline, Pair Acrobatics, is often the starting point.

    Camilla Damkjaer, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in Performing Arts, Department of Performing Arts, Stockholm University of the Arts. Camilla Damkjaer’s research concerns the performing arts, movement practices, philosophies of the body and first-person methodologies of research. Her research focuses on the analysis of the phenomenal and socially constructed experiences circus, dance, and yoga. Theoretically, her work draws, among other things, phenomenology, Deleuzian scholarship, feminist, and post-colonial theory. She is also particularly concerned with the historical, discursive, and geo-political implications involved in performing arts and bodily practices.

    Agathe Dumont, PhD, is a Professor of artistic education at the School of Art and Design in Angers (ESAD TALM). Her research focuses on gesture and artistic work and she is particularly interested in the paths and practices of circus and dance artists. Winner of two research grants from the French Ministry of Culture, she is a member of the French collective of circus researchers and has contributed to the recent publication of several books on contemporary circus: Le cirque en transformation. Identités et dynamiques professionnelles (Cordier, Dumont, Salaméro & Sizorn, EPURE: 2019) and The Cambridge Companion to Circus (Arrighi & Davis, Cambridge University Press: 2021). She is also associated researcher to circusnext (2014–2022).

    Andreas Gärtner began his professional career as a freelance illustrator in 2004. In 2012, he graduated with a master’s degree in design and a specialization on illustration. When he entered into an associated partnership with Kommunikationslotsen in 2013, he put his professional focus on the field of graphic recording. Together with Martin Markes, he founded “Die Zeichner” in 2014. In 2016, he became a lecturer at Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences. In the same year, he expanded his portfolio to include work as a speaker on the topic of creativity.

    Jean-Michel Guy is a sociologist, author, director, dramaturge, and teacher of critical analysis. From 1980 until his retirement in 2021, he was a research engineer at the French Ministry of Culture (Department of Studies, Forecasting, Statistics and Documentation) where he conducted studies on cultural practices and representations, and audiences (for cinema, theater, dance, and the circus). In parallel, he worked and continues to work in a wide range of fields in the contemporary circus: writing and directing shows, writing articles and books, advising on dramaturgy, teaching and leading research laboratories.

    Sebastian Kann (he/him) is an independent artist and researcher dwelling in the interstices of circus, dance, and performance. Physical experiment lies at the heart of his work, which often interrogates the ideological entanglements of the body. Playing across different media—on stage, in print, and in video—Sebastian’s often collaborative practice is quadruple-anchored by intuition, irony, ambivalence, and a deep love for big Theory. Having studied at l’École nationale de cirque and Utrecht University, he is now based in Tiohtia:ke/Montréal.

    Louis Patrick Leroux is a Full Professor in both departments of English and French Studies and Associate Dean of Research at the Faculty of Arts and Science, Concordia University, Montréal. His research spans from theatre to contemporary circus and has involved research-creation and cultural discourse analysis. He was elected to the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists of the Royal Society of Canada. Recent academic books include: Contemporary Circus with Katie Lavers and Jon Burtt (Routledge, 2020), Cirque Global: Québec’s Expanding Circus Boundaries, co-edited with Charles Batson (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016) and Le jeu des positions. Discours du théâtre québécois with Hervé Guay (Nota Bene, 2014). Forthcoming books include: Le cirque social : son rôle, ses pratiques, pédagogies et aspirations with Jacinthe Rivard and Mathilde Perahia (PU Laval) and Estie toastée des deux bords : Les formes populaires de l’oralité chez Victor-Lévy Beaulieu, with Sophie Dubois (PU Montréal).

    Dr Kristy Seymour (she/her) is an emerging scholar and professional circus artist, with over 20 years of experience in the Australian contemporary circus sector. Her main research areas are autism and circus, Australian contemporary circus, and circus performance as art form. Throughout her career, Kristy has worked across various aspects of the circus sector as a performer, trainer, artistic director, general manager, and producer. Her research and practice on circus and autism is widely regarded as a “best practice” approach. She has worked extensively in the youth circus sector leading a team of inspiring artists as the Head Trainer and Artistic Director of Flipside Circus in Brisbane 2004–2010. Working as a creative producer and choreographer, she has collaborated with leading arts organizations, venues, and festivals such as with Strut n Fret Production House, Brisbane Powerhouse, Creative Generations, Woodford Folk Festival, Brisbane Festival, and Adelaide Fringe Festival and Festival 2018 (Commonwealth Games 2018). In 2012, Kristy completed her Honours thesis “How Circus training can enhance the well-being of children with autism and their families.” She then went on to open her circus school, Circus Stars, solely dedicated to children with autism in 2013, the topic of her recent TEDx talk ( June 2017). Kristy recently completed her doctoral research titled “Bodies, Temporality and Spatiality in Australian Contemporary Circus” at Griffith University Gold Coast.

    Veronika Štefanová, PhD occasionally teaches at the Academy of Performing Arts and at the Faculty of Business Administration in Prague. She is in charge of the research section at CIRQUEON, the umbrella organization for contemporary circus in the Czech Republic and works as a cultural journalist for the Czech Radio, Czech Television and cultural journals. She has published several studies and scholarly publications in journals such as Disk (Academy of the Performing Arts in Prague), Theatralia (Theatre Studies department at the Masaryk University in Brno), Performance Matters or in The Cambridge Companion to the Circus (Cambridge University Press).

    Sandy Sun Trained in mime and clowning (Covent Garden School, London, 1975) and in circus techniques (Paris, 1977), Sandy Sun is a soloist on the fixed trapeze, awarded with various prizes: Gold Medal of the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain (1980), Winner of the Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet Foundation pour la Vocation (1081), laureate of the Société des Auteurs et Compositeurs Dramatiques de Paris (2005). She has performed with renowned circuses (e.g., Pinder/Jean Richard, Fratellini, Orfei, Roncalli, Archaos) and European cabarets (e.g., Tiger Palatz, Gop, La Luna) Combining classicism and contemporaneity, she is the creator of a very personal style mixing contemporary choreography and the virtuosity of classical dance. Sun holds a State Diploma as a circus teacher and worked among others for the Académie Fratellini, the Centre National des Arts du Cirque, the École de Cirque de Montréal, the Cie Maguy Marin, and Cirque Baobab. She is a university lecturer, and associated artist of two research programs at the Université Paul Valéry Montpellier III. Sun publishes and participates regularly at international conferences on the circus.

    Professor Peta Tait, La Trobe University, is an academic and playwright and a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. She has written over sixty scholarly articles and chapters and twelve edited and authored books including: Theory for Theatre Studies: Emotion (Bloomsbury 2021), Forms of Emotion: Human to Nonhuman (Routledge 2022) and Circus Bodies (Routledge 2005).

    Franziska Trapp is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Berlin, Germany, and the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium. She is the founder of Zirkus | Wissenschaft and organizer of international conferences including Semiotics of the Circus (2015), UpSideDown – Circus and Space (2017), Semaine du Cirque (2020), Écrire l’histoire du cirque (2022). Trapp has worked for various circus productions such as the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain (FR) and Cirque Bouffon (DE) and collaborated as a dramaturge with Tall Tales Company (NL), Sysmo (BE), Julia Berger (DE), Cie Hors Système (FR) among others. She was awarded third place as Germany’s Best Junior Research Talent of 2019 (Academics/Die Zeit) and received the DGS Young Researchers Price 2020 (German Association of Semiotics) for her PhD entitled Lektüren des Zeitgenössischen Zirkus (De Gruyter 2020, Routledge 2023 (EN)).

    Ante Ursić (PhD, University of California, Davis) is a circus practitioner and an Assistant Professor of Physical Theatre at the Department of Theatre and Dance, East Tennessee State University. His research investigates the human-animal relationship in contemporary circus. He is especially interested in the circus’ political sphere and potential exploring how it relates to different understandings of animality. As circus artist, he received a gold medal from the festival SOLy-CIRCO and a special prize from the festival Cirque du Demain. He has successfully produced projects of his own and in collaboration. He performed with established companies such as Cirque du Soleil (Totem), Tiger Lillies Circus, Balagan, and Circus Roncalli. Ante Ursić holds a Bachelor with distinction in Dance, Context, Choreography from Inter-University Center of Dance, Berlin, and a distinguished master’s in performance studies from New York University. His research has received support from the German Academic Exchange Program, the Social Science Research Council, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, among others. At ETSU Ante Ursić is heading the Physical Theatre concentration and teaches courses in the field such as Commedia dell’Arte, Modern Clowning, Theatre Movement, Tight Wire Walking and Thinking, and Contact Improvisation.

    Gaia Vimercati received an MA in Comparative Literature at Trinity College Dublin. Together with Filippo Malerba, in 2015 she created CENSIMENTO CIRCO ITALIA, the first map of circus companies in Italy. She is a cultural project manager for Quattrox4, a contemporary circus centre in Milan, where she is in charge of the development of circus studies in cooperation with Universita Bicocca as an independent researcher. She was among the contributors of Semiotics of the Circus (Münster, 2015), Quand le cirque se raconte (Biennale Internationale Des Arts du Cirque, Marseille 2021), Circus And Its Others 2021 (Davis, California), EASTAP 2020 (Bologna) and 2022 (Milano). She was selected by Dramaturg Federico Bellini for a writing residency at La Biennale di Venezia (2021). Thanks to the support of the Italian Ministry of Culture, in 2021 she launched the project LA PAROLA AI CORPI, a hybrid residency between practice and theory in circus in cooperation with BASE Milano. Gaia Vimercati is the external eye of GRETEL (2021), circus solo by Clara Storti.




    Dr. Franziska Trapp is a postdoctoral researcher at the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany, and the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium.

    Riikka Juutinen is a Finnish Master of Social Sciences from the University of Tampere with Social Anthropology as her major subject. She is interested in questions of transnationalism and mobility, and in her master’s thesis, she focused on themes about circus and mobility studies. Juutinen completed an internship at the international conference UpSideDown—Circus at Zirkus | Wissenschaft research project in 2017. Since then her area of work has been crisis work, child protection and work with people with substance issues.