FYI Vol. VII, No. 4

Circus in Philly Puts Emphasis on the Contemporary Brand.

Shana Kennedy, founding director of the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, wants to open the public’s mind to what a circus can be. Given the recent demise of the Ringling brand, she see an opportunity to expand that idea beyond the traditional image of lion tamers and clowns.

With Ringling Brothers’ closing last year people seem to think the circus is dead.  Instead, Kennedy believes, people need to see that the circus is changing and becoming something new.  “We really need to shift the messaging, and we’re working hard on it,” she says.

The first edition of Philly’s contemporary circus arts festival Hand to Hand, she hopes, will help educate the public about what more the circus can be.

Headlining the festival will be Montreal’s renowned Barcode Circus Company, whose show “Sweat and Ink” is described as “a Surrealistic and dreamlike exploration of contemporary society’s relationship to memory and time.”  That sort of exploration of ideas–not just amazing feats and death-defying acts–is what Kennedy means when she talks about opening audiences’ minds to the circus of the future.

Performances during the five-day Hand to Hand fest will take place on stage at FringeArts and outside in the theater’s Haas Biergarten, which will have a midway featuring local jugglers, aerialists and acrobats.

The contemporary circus festival is just one of three circus events that are helping to turn Philadelphia into a circus town.  The Big Apple Circus is in town from May 23 through  June 24 at Philadelphia Mills.  Later in the summer Cirque du Soleil will present its show Volta for 32 performances between July 12 and August 5 at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks.

The circus of the future as Kennedy sees it.

Although Kennedy has toured with Cirque du Soleil she imagines the future of the circus in more intimate productions than those last two named circuses.

“In the future I think we will see a hundred small circus companies touring the United States,” she says, producing the kinds of idea-oriented shows she envisions. To help make that happen Kennedy has founded, in conjunction with the PSCA, the nation’s first professional-level vocational circus program, which has been dubbed Circadium School of Contemporary Circus. Kennedy is executive director of the program which was launched just this past year.

Both PSCA and Circadium are housed in a former Catholic church in Mount Airy. Shana’s partner and co-founder is her husband Greg Kennedy who is an innovative juggler who toured with Cirque du Soleil’s Totem.

There are nine members in Circadium’s inaugural class. Kennedy sees these students as the future of circus and is encouraging them to think about the ideas presented in their work, not just its physical demands.

“Ultimately, we want them to create their own companies,” she says. “If we need a hundred circus companies in the U.S., we need artists who are going to go out there and make their own work. Our mission as we get closer to their graduation time is not so much helping them get hired as it is getting them to create their own things.”

“Where circus becomes more powerful to modern audiences is when we can find real points of connection and communication,” she says. “We’ve all seen plenty of shows where the only thing happening is, ‘Yay, great, a big impressive trick.’

“But if you’ve seen any really meaningful contemporary circus shows, they can be thrilling; they can be terrifying; they can be sad. There can be all kinds of emotions that happen in a really good circus performance. Just ‘wow’ isn’t enough for us.”

News from NICA

NICA, Australia’s national circus school is collaborating with The Australian Ballet School to present a new work to be called, Le Sacré.

This is the first collaboration of its kind in Australian performance history, presenting a combined cast of 18 circus performers and 26 ballet dancers in a spectacle of artful physicality.

Le Sacré references elements from modern life drawn from electronic dance culture, fashion shows, beauty pageants and talent shows.

This collaboration will integrate balletic and diverse dance language with a myriad of circus acts including skipping ropes, Chinese pole, Cyr wheel, tissu, hula hoops, group acrobatics and tightwire.

Bringing together these two art forms are NICA’s Meredith Kitchen and Zebastian Hunter with The Australian Ballet School’s Artistic Teacher and Resident Choreographer, Simon Dow.

NICA’s own production Empty Bodies, will be seen at the Provocaré Festival in July.

This acclaimed production, directed by Zebastian Hunter, will be a highlight of the Provocaré Festival 2018, featuring six talented professional circus artists performing skills from contortion to tissu, tightwire and more.

Empty Bodies is our journey from birth to death, examining our representation of self through language and clothing.

Director Zebastian Hunter sought to challenge the combination of physicality and text, with words by acclaimed writer Stephen Sewell interwoven into Ian Moorhead’s dystopian and poetic score. Stephanie Howe’s set and costume design – including a giant aerial net – arouses questions on the colorful uncertainty of identity, reflecting chaos in conflict with order. Meaghan Wegg’s original choreography explores the intimate and gestural world grounding this abstract performance in the personal.

Empty Bodies features six elite level NICA graduates in an assortment of provocative solo and group acts.

Thinking of auditioning to join NICA in 2019?

Join its Inside Track mailing list for occasional emails giving you the best chance at a successful audition for the 2019 Bachelor Degree and Certificate courses:

NICA applications close 24 August 2018. Auditions are held in late September – early October. For more info go to


Art Show Puts Circus in Spotlight

“The Art of Balance,”  a multi-media exhibition curated by Karen Gersch featuring much of her own art drawn from the circus will run during June and July 2018 at the Howland Cultural Center, 477 Main St. Beacon, NY 845-832-4988.


New Circus Show Not for Faint Hearted.

A big black and red circus tent has spring up on U.S. 41 in Palmetto, Florida. Out front there is a hearse covered in skeletons.  They are  harbingers of a new circus opening there this month, the latest show from Cirque Utalia, which not so long ago was a water circus.

Dubbed Paranormal Cirque the new show offers audiences something a little more supernatural and is there fore not a show for the faint of heart.

Organizers describe the show as an innovative horror story that features different shades of “sexy’ and an incomparable storyline. Audiences will be greeted with a unique creation of theater, circus and cabaret filled with acrobats, illusionists, freaks and mysterious creatures under the big top now known as the ‘Castle.’

The circus is located across from the Bradenton Area convention center on U.S. 41, in Palmetto, and shows will run nightly. The shows are designed for mature audiences and children under 18 will not be permitted to enter without parental consent.


Falling attendance blamed for decision to place Cirque Pinder into judicial liquidation.

France’s celebrated Cirque Pinder has cancelled all its upcoming shows as it enters liquidation due to falling attendances. Founded in 1854, the show has been placed in judicial liquidation

Owner Gilbert Edelstein said that he had poured €2million of his own money into the business over the past five years, but was unable to afford the additional €500,000 it would need to continue operating.

“March and April were catastrophic,” he has said. “When you earn less, it’s good management to say you can’t do it anymore and you have to stop,” Mr Edelstein told franceinfo.

He said that box office earnings fell from €7.4million in 2014 to less than €6million in 2016, and blamed the switch in the school week from four days to four-and-a-half, with attendances among children falling by more than 350,000 over the period.

“We asked the [Ministry of] Culture for help,” Edelstein has revealed, but none was forthcoming. “We [also]asked President Macron to do something and nothing was done.”

Nonetheless the impresario says he hopes to resume shows in July and August, and said a planned amusement park in Perthe-en-Gâtinais, Seine-et-Marne, is meant to “show that the circus world is alive and well.”

Meanwhile elsewhere in Paris, architect Clement Blancet has designed an ultra modern performance venue that calls to mind the big tops of touring circuses. It’s intended use is to host internationally branded shows. Translation: Cirque du Soleil.

 Breathing Life Back Into Paramour

Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group and Stage Entertainment has announced today that Cirque’s erstwhile Broadway show Paramour will relocate to Hamburg, Germany’s musical metropolis. Its European premiere at the Stage Theater Neue Flora is set for April 2019.

Paramour closed on April 16, 2017 in order for the theater to undergo some refurbishment to accommodate the forthcoming Harry Potter play. Following discussions with several theatre owners in New York and abroad, interested in welcoming this production, Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group decided to work with Stage Entertainment the largest musical producer in Europe for a unique production in Germany.

“We are still dedicated to New York with the Blue Man Group and the touring show VOLTA in Uniondale and the permanent attraction NFL Experience Times Square,” explained Jerry Nadal, the senior vice-president of Resident Shows at Cirque du Soleil.

“Bringing the musical PARAMOUR to the German stage with Cirque du Soleil is one of the most fascinating and challenging theatre projects we ever had,” said Uschi Neuss, the managing director of Stage Entertainment Germany. “The Stage Theater Neue Flora with its spacious stage seems like it was made especially for this breath-taking production.”


Canada’s National Circus School Stages Annual Productions

This year’s productions Barok and Sapience were performed from May 29 thru June 10.  Although we were unable to review them, we are able to include images from both production can be seen in the photo gallery.


Swiss Clowns Invade the New Victory Theater in New York

Inspired by Chaplin, Keaton and the stars of silent films, the modern-day clowns of Switzerland’s Compagnia Baccalà, Camilla Pessi and Simone Fassari, give New York a look at their work.  Although the production was not reviewed here, Maike Schulz’ photos are on view in the photo gallery.