1st Edition

Readings of Contemporary Circus A Dramaturgy

By Franziska Trapp Copyright 2025
    208 Pages 50 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    What are the characteristics of contemporary circus? In what way does contemporary circus differ from theater, dance, and performance? Where do hybrid forms exist? Where are there observable commonalities? Despite the diversity of contemporary circus performances, are there generalizable characteristics that unite the performances? What potential do these questions have for dramaturgical practice?

    This book adapts a cultural-semiotic approach to analyze contemporary circus performances. It offers the first comprehensive documentation and interpretation of the artform based on the semiotic reading theories of cultural, literature, theater, and dance studies. The volume thereby provides a dramaturgy of contemporary circus, which reveals its generalizable characteristics, fundamental techniques and structures, and the effects they produce. At the same time, theories and methods are modified and further developed regarding the characteristics of the circus.

    This book is designed for students and scholars of theater and performance studies, as well as for artists, dramaturges, and directors working in the field of circus.



    Chapter 1: Introduction


    Chapter 2: Theory


    Chapter 3: Contemporary circus readings: an analysis model


    Chapter 4: Come wander with me: on narration in “Fragments of a Mind” by Squarehead Productions


    Chapter 5: Metonymic and metaphorical readings: on ambiguity in “I am (k)not” by Ana Jordão


    Chapter 6: A balancing act between novel and circus: intertextuality and intermediality in “Le fil sous la neige” by Les Colporteurs


    Chapter 7: “Show me where you play, and I’ll tell you what you are”: on the relevance of performance context in “L'Argile” by Jimmy Gonzalez


    Chapter 8: “Otherness is the craziness we carry inside”: on the discursive context of “L'Autre” by Cie Claudio Stellato


    Chapter 9: Welcome to the Wonderland of contemporary circus: on metadiscourse in “Les Princesses” by Cheptel Aleïkoum


    Chapter 10: Conclusion and outlook: toward a dramaturgy of contemporary circus









    Franziska Trapp is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Münster, Germany and the Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium.

    ''A welcome addition to the rich paradigm of circus research to which Dr. Franziska Trapp had already significantly contributed through organizing ground-breaking conferences on circus studies, in which her scholarly leadership achieved a powerful synergy, bringing together academic researchers and circus artists. In this innovative book, based on hands-on research and precise analyses, she explores, with theoretical and methodological virtuosity, the artistic creativity of contemporary acrobatic performances emancipated from the historical constraints of the traditional circus. It is a first and highly successful attempt to engage the challenging complexity of the contemporary acrobatic circus and to elaborate a persuasive semiotics and poetics of this new, emergent genre.''

    Prof. Dr. Paul Bouissac, Emeritus at the University of Toronto 

    ''This book sets new standards for our understanding and interpretation of circus performances. It is an essential resource for students and scholars alike interested in the emerging discipline of circus studies. No one working in the field will be able to ignore this work in the future. It is remarkable.''

    Prof. Dr. Erika Fischer-Lichte, Professor of Theatre Studies and the Director of the International Research Center 'Interweaving Performance Cultures' at Freie Universität Berlin. 


    ''Combining insights of cultural semiotics, dramaturgy and performance analysis Readings of contemporary circus will prove to be a landmark study within the emerging new field of circus studies. Through careful case study analyses Franziska Trapp’s book offers an innovative perspective on the thriving field of contemporary circus. Travelling between disciplines, people and environments, the book provides new insights in the different ways circus artist represent the world of today, deploying the language of circus as a complex and poetic means to challenge our perspective as a spectator.''

    Prof. Dr. Karel Vanhaesebrouck, Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB)