This past weekend, January 26 – January 29, the 42nd Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain was held at Cirque Phénix in Paris. The festival (the World Circus Festival of Tomorrow, in English) is the largest circus competition in the world, and since it’s founding in 1977 has consistently brought international artists together to showcase their work and compete before an audience of peers as well as an esteemed jury.
This year, the festival was dedicated to Franco Dragone, and Lucas Dragone served as the jury president. Speaking with Lucas earlier this week, he was struck by the incredible level of storytelling driving each act. He commented: so often in western theatre “we think that to be artistic we need to be melodramatic,” and in so many of the performances, this notion was uniquely transcended. Troupe Kolfe, an acrobatics group from Ethiopia, delivered a high energy, joyfully authentic performance that told their story on their own terms. They won a gold medal as well as the audience award. Ma-Mão Compagnie, a Brazilian hand to hand duo delivered an “extraordinary” performance that told its story through comedy, acting, and singing supported by strong technical skills. They won a bronze medal.
The winner of the Grand Prix, a French flying trapeze ensemble, La Tangente du Bras Tendu, told an inspiring story of courage, innovation, and empathy, through their innovative act La Résistance. (below)
Lucas fondly reminisced about conversations with his father discussing the challenges faced when creating dynamic and contemporary theatrical performances using circus disciplines. “A trapeze is a trapeze, and a Russian Swing is a Russian Swing… to make those elements speak is a challenge.. and to keep the essence of circus, the trick, the technique…to maintain that balance” is key. “That was the magic of Franco Dragone” and in this edition of the festival, dedicated to Franco, it was beautiful to see so many artists deftly delivering touching, emotional performances.
To weave physically intense disciplines into an emotionally touching performance is difficult to say the least, especially when the artist strives to create something deeper than basic melodrama. Lucas recalled Franco saying “the audience is not stupid, you don’t need to over emphasize something, you just need to give them elements, enough to excite their imaginations… often the audience has a wonderful imagination, and it’s the stage that is lacking.” In the 42nd Festival Monday du Cirque de Demain, the stage was not lacking. The audience was energetic and supportive, and all of the artists and ensembles presented wonderfully crafted acts that offered unique and rich moments of theatre.
Lucas remarked, “I wanted to give high points to everyone, but I took my role as jury president very seriously, and we worked into the night after each performance, debating and discussing.” “I hope everyone that performed got something out of it” Lucas mentioned as he remembered how inspiring it was to see the artists and audience support each other so completely.
Lucas and Arthur Cadre, recipient of the Dragone Award and original cast member of La Perle
Perhaps best known for reinventing a genre of spectacle theatre that forever changed the face of live entertainment around the world (A New Day, Le Rêve, House of Dancing Water, La Perle, etc.), Dragone’s creations play to sold-out houses and receive standing ovations each and every night. Creating shows of all shapes across continents, Dragone continues to humbly embrace local cultures to entertain and wow global audiences. Its vast portfolio includes permanent shows in tailor made spaces, and other signature experiences.
Dragone Creations USA