An Interview With The Director of CIRKOPOLIS vol. 1

This is an interview with French director Albin Warette who is currently preparing an exclusive project entitled CIRKOPOLIS vol. 1 featuring foreign guest artists for the Czech audience. The project will premier at the Akropolis in Prague in early April. We talked to Albin mostly about his relationship to and work in contemporary circus.

How does a maths student end up in circus?

Perhaps by starting to find numbers somewhat tedious compared to what human life has to offer. Nevertheless, my path to circus started with amateur theater, street theater, which eventually got me in the Lido circus school, where I started teaching theater. Step by step I then discovered that theater and circus were two connected worlds I wanted to live in. And I also found out that mathematics were disappearing from my life even at moments when it seemed this exact science might help augment exciting artistic experiences.

What fascinates you about contemporary circus the most?

Pretty much everything that circus is. Especially as today, circus doesn’t hesitate to take on its relatives including theater, dance and fine arts. Since contemporary circus isn’t fully institutionalized and strictly defined yet, it is still a free art form. The repertory of contemporary circus is being created here and now. Traditional circus has left us a repertory of its own but it’s up to us how we shape that of its contemporary counterpart.

Why do you do contemporary circus?

As I’ve said in the beginning, it’s because I’ve tried theater and it’s become one of the most powerful and addictive experiences of my life. Theater also treated me to some of the most frustrating moments ever when I wasn’t even able to notice the present anymore getting lost in attempts to imitate instead of living. To me, it’s essential to live the present moments a circus acrobat spends his entire career in. A circus acrobat devotes his whole life to the present. If they weren’t perfectly aware of themselves and their bodies at any given moment during their acrobatic performance, they could put their life in danger. Thanks to circus, I have found an inner voice which tells me, how to stay consciously present in every moment of my life. The proverbial “here and now” becomes a reality and this is what circus keeps reminding me of in an powerful way. “Here and now” is a simple formula which should be the drive train of every live artistic performance as it has the power to carry the audience away from their habitual everyday mode of functioning.

You teach at one of the most prestigious European circus schools where you help shape the next generation of circus acrobats. Can you predict what path contemporary circus is going to take in the future?

I am sure there won’t be just one path. Already today, we see all the debate about all those kinds of circus: contemporary, present, tomorrow, yesterday’s‘! We talk about circus poetry, drama poetry, aesthetics and symbols but contemporary circus is so young that it’s too soon to try to frame it. Every artist has the right to decide which path to take in contemporary circus based on the circumstances and available stimuli and these path can substantially differ.

Which one of you circus achievements do you consider the most important and why?

Teaching at Lido. It’s a joy to accompany young acrobats on their path to their artistic goals. It means I guide them on their journey during which they oscillate between doubts and passion. As a teacher, I also learn many new things regarding circus techniques which has also very much drawn my attention.

In my own work, I consider the existence and operation of our Prêt à Porter company which combines circus techniques and speech in a unique way a great success.

If you could choose anybody for artistic cooperation, who would you choose and why?

I admire the Peeping Tom company. If they ever offered me artistic cooperation, I wouldn’t hesitate a second. I admire their physicality, rhythm, choreography and the ability to capture the entire inner essence of theater using circus which, in their case, borders on creating dream worlds.

You are about to start working on a new stage project with 7 acrobats who have never performed on stage together and you don’t have very much time for rehearsals. How are you going to create the final form of the performance?

First of all, we must find out what the skills and abilities of the individuals are, how they feel standing together on stage and how they feel standing on stage as individuals. We don’t have time for an analysis or experiments, so we will concentrate on the present moment, the artistic state the acrobats find themselves in right now. We will work on smaller dance and circus choreographies which will help the team to get to know each other. An essential tool is the progress from the individual ego to the collective. This means we will use everybody’s own ego for the benefit of the group. For this reason, I don’t work on connecting the individual numbers and concentrate on the energy which is created during rehearsals instead. Such creative surge helps create a much more natural form than a pre-calculated scenario could produce.

I think it is important to try to create a team based on sharing and trust for the benefit of the performance. Of course, we will use methods which I have devised during circus improvisations. Also, the very subject of the performance is very inspiring.

Where did the theme of Cirkopolis vol. 1 – “The Present Moment” come from?

The Cirkopolis part is from you and the “Present Moment” means that we will stand for our young and fresh team with open minds and ready for anything. “The Present Moment” also means that the performance will take place without embellishments, without makeup, as a real living present organism which is prepared to accept all the risks. The risks involved include technical ones related to the circus technique but also human and moral ones, because the acrobats will stand before the audience without any pretense. The audience will find itself in the exciting process of discovery of the present moment balancing on the edge between perfection and fault, which are the two kinds of present moments in the circus world. The audience will witness exceptional authentic moments as opposed to reproduced or repeated ones. These moments are what drives us forward, the power that both invigorates and weakens us, and helps us overcome fear and vulnerability. This performance mixes risk with more risk – we present circus on a theater stage with performers who speak different languages and we have very little time to do it. So, we face this challenge head on with a smile, because that’s what we do best.

What are your upcoming creative plans?

I am going to direct a street circus parade in Toulouse, France. It is a nice encounter of circus professionals and amateurs. At the same time, I am directing performances by two contemporary circus companies – Bamabarn and Cie Otradnoye. I am not forgetting myself either so I perform in a very spontaneous production by Des Sourires Et De Hommes.

An interview with Albin Warette by Šárka Maršíková and Veronika Štefanová from CIRQUEON – A Center For Contemporary Circus.