Door Eveline Alders

De vooraanstaande Britse krant The Guardian publiceerde onderstaande artikel: in Engeland krijgen circusartiesten dezelfde status als musici, dansers en acteurs:

“There may not be a lengthy drum roll to draw people’s attention, but from this week circus performers have a new status. British tightrope walkers, acrobats and trapeze artists are to be given the same recognition as the country’s leading troupes of musicians and dancers. Circus Space, the training centre in London’s East End, is being elevated to “national” status by the government in a move to show that “circus arts” are being taken seriously.

On Tuesday, Ed Vaizey, the culture minister, will announce the change, a response to growing interest from young people in learning these performance skills. The new name, the National Centre for Circus Arts, comes in the wake of a year-long campaign to keep homegrown circus talent working in Britain.

Over the past 25 years, Circus Space has become one of the leading centres for teaching these nouveau cirque skills. Many have felt circus has been the poor cousin of theatre and dance and all but a few of the country’s traditional touring family circuses have disappeared. In their place a new breed of circus entertainment has emerged that balances artistry and acrobatics. The appeal of international companies, such as Cirque du Soleil and Fuerzabruta, has entirely updated the image of this kind of entertainment and helped to sell out some of London’s biggest venues.

The investment and excitement created around the Olympic opening ceremonies in 2012 also gave these skills a new national platform.

Two of theatre’s biggest directors, Stephen Daldry, who directed the Paralympic Games opening ceremony, and Rufus Norris, said recognition was long overdue and coincided with theatre becoming increasingly physical.

Oscar-nominated Daldry, whose productions for stage and screen include Billy Elliot and The Hours, has been involved with Circus Space for years, collaborating with it for his staging of the London 2012 Olympics ceremonies. Daldry began his career as a circus clown and learned tightrope-walking and fire-blowing and has an innate understanding of the extraordinary skills involved. He described Circus Space’s national status as “a great validation”. Circus arts are constantly developing, creating a “fantastic verbal and primarily non-verbal way of communicating with people”, Daldry said.

Norris, who trained as an actor, was recently appointed the next artistic director of the National Theatre, and is currently filming his acclaimed stage production of London Road.

He said: “One of the challenges in this country has been that a lot of the circus arts have been abroad – Europe, Canada, America, China, Russia. But we haven’t really had a developed centre here – and now we do. That’s fantastic in terms of what that promises in all kinds of ways.”

In his own productions, he wants to explore ways in which circus and theatre can “learn from each other and cross over”. The possibilities are “very exciting”, he said.

In the circus, acrobats are somehow expected to do something “even more death defying”, he observed: “I’m a story-junkie. So, the holy grail of trying to find a properly integrated circus story is something that I’m very keen on trying to work out.”

The theatre, in contrast, has grown from a literary tradition, he said. He believes there are growing opportunities for the two traditions to “interbreed”.

The National Centre is housed in a vast converted power station on Hoxton Square. Its spaces are buzzing with a different kind of energy. Everywhere, students are found trying contorted positions, acrobatically balancing on their hands, standing on each other’s shoulders, practising gymnastics mid-air from silks and straps, bouncing to unnatural heights on trampolines, or juggling with impossible numbers of hoops. Crash mats scattered around the floor look reassuringly thick. Walls are mirrored up to the ceiling so that those working at high levels can see themselves.

The school, which offers the only BA honours degree in circus arts, is also leading a renaissance of circus in the UK, which now boasts 69 companies. Many of its graduates are performing in this month’sCircusFest 2014, a festival of international circus at the Roundhouse in north London. Encouragingly, 93% of all graduates find employment, in circuses and beyond, with companies such as the Royal Shakespeare Company and English National Opera.

Kate White and Jane Rice-Bowen, joint chief executives of the National Centre, feel that snobbery towards the circus will now be dispelled.

Rice-Bowen said: “This word ‘national’ [will help people to] realise that circus is something special. A lot of people hark back to the big top and think it’s something for kids. Whereas there’s some terrific family work out there, there’s also some pretty raw, edgy and sexy circus that you wouldn’t be taking your kids to, like Limbo at the South Bank last year.”

There is still a long way to go. France has some 400 schools for children to experience circus arts. “It’s entirely normal there,” Rice-Bowen said. In the UK, there are “terrific pockets of activity. But a lot of practitioners will be one chap with juggling balls and a unicycle on a Wednesday for an hour and half. So it’s quite limited.”

She added: “Our vision is a culture of circus in the UK. So, when mum sees little Tommy climbing up the curtains or doing something terrifying on the [park] climbing-frame, she doesn’t go, ‘Oh my God, you’re going to kill yourself, get down’. She [will] say, ‘that kid could be the next great circus artist’.”