Social Circus in Pilsen – A Report By Adam Jarchovský

Social Circus in Plzeň – A Report By Adam Jarchovský

Social Circus is an expression of notoriety on the CIRQUEON web site. Recently, social circus has been mentioned there in connection with the second annual edition of the Educircation project whose first stage has taken place in Valencia, Spain (see report) to be followed by the second part in Hungary. A few months ago, CIRQUEON also joined the prestigious social-circus CARAVAN NETWORK. Apparently, CI RQUEON is well established on the international social circus stage. Now, let’s take a look at the domestic scene.

In 2012, CIRQUEON initiated the creation of a Czech network of organizations involved in social circus. The organization became known as CIRKONET and its first partners were Cirkus Legrando from Brno, LeVItare from Olomouc and Žonglér o.s. from Plzeň. In cooperation with enthusiasts from České Budějovice and Prague, the first workshop with international participation (not only by MižuJ) was organized in Prague.

Almost a year later, a second encounter took place but this time, the site was Plzeň and the program and participation were much more diverse. This is the encounter I will now report on.

The arrival of the participants was planned on Friday evening however, our CIRQUEON pioneer group consisting of Šárka, Barbora, Pavla and myself reached Plzeň in the early afternoon. We picked up the keys to the beautiful, over-a-hundred-years-old former Světovar brewery building which was just before a reconstruction into a modern cultural center. Meanwhile, it was used for various cultural events such as the Žonglobalizace (Jugglobalization) festival by Plzeň-based Žonglér o.s. who also use the building for their regular training. When Barbora signed personal responsibility for the fate of the building, her face reflected a premonition of demolition of the historical building by twenty romping jugglers and circus artists.

I perceived her fears as unsubstantiated as our plan included no wild parties. On the contrary, the weekend was meant to be filled with constructive discussions of “serious” issues. After all, the workshop was entitled HENDICIRK (alluding to handicap and circus) and devoted to exploring the possibilities of use of circus arts for work with the handicapped, predominantly vision-impaired people within the framework of the Blind Circus project CIRQUEON was preparing for Fall 2013.

We were pleasantly surprised by the turnout. Apart from the “usual suspects” from Olomouc, Brno and Plzeň, there were also less familiar or even completely unfamiliar faces from Jablonec, Liberec and Slovakia (not only Mižu J).

The group first met in the local bowling bar on Friday evening. It turned out due to noise, a bowling alley was an absolutely unsuitable choice of venue for any discussions of anything. The group relocated to a new establishment but virtually jumped from the frying pan into the fire, since the local Motobar resounded with both screeches of tires from a go-cart track and the roar of rock music. Any serious talk was out of question so we went on to an informal establishment of relationships with the completely unfamiliar participants and strengthening of ties with the partially familiar ones.

At 10am the next morning, everybody was present in the Světovar club room, so we could start the workshop. Not only for the sake of the new participants, we kicked off on a more general note and after the inevitable “Perro-Casa-Chaos” warm-up game, we started a debate of social circus and its definition. We heard definitions by important international organizations which we confronted with our experience and views. A fruitful discussion ensued which eventually concluded that we need a concrete definition but it is difficult to formulate one.

From this general discourse, we moved on to more concrete subjects related to people with disabilities. Petr and Petra from Ledovec o.s. contributed very useful observations based on their rich experience from work with patients in psychiatric hospitals. We all agreed that circus arts as a tools for work with various groups of people with disabilities have a great potential. Even ideas for actual new projects came up during this session. Before lunch, we focused on the ethical codex of social-circus lecturers which I compiled for this workshop based on international and domestic documents. Only a short introductory run-through took place and everybody received a copy for further individual study and later discussion.

After a prolonged lunch in an unspectacular yet decent restaurant, we took advantage of the knowledge of Dáša from Brno who had arrived shortly before the meal. She presented the field of psychomotor education and its potential in social circus. It was a ery interesting session which I – and I believe not only I – very much enjoyed, especially thanks to the psychomotor parachute which revealed major cooperation issues within our group J.

This enthralling session was followed by a game code-named Substantial which served as an introduction to a discussion about people with disabilities. Groups of five were tasked to move across the room using three mats without any member of the group touching the floor. Each group contained a blind person, a person without legs, a person without arms and an uncooperative person. Interesting situations ensued and the expression “uncooperative Mižu” lived long after the game was over.

We were short on time because of the long lunch but we still reserved a fairly large amount of time for reflection of this game. We shared our experiences in the various roles. Apparently, the blindfolded players had a very interesting role and mostly, they described their experience as a frustration from idleness; they wanted to help but the group didn’t give them any opportunity. The ones without arms sometimes verbally encouraged the others but sometimes, they gave up; sometimes, they also kicked the uncooperative person (not just Mižu J). The uncooperative ones were each a different story ranging from passively indifferent Vojta (I thank him for being passive, because I can’t imagine moving 200 pounds of active resistance), to obstinate Mižu and to Dáša the shrewd troublemaker. We agreed that the groups mostly perceived them as a problem nobody wants to deal with and would prefer to get rid of them altogether. The legless were in a completely different situation. While the uncooperative members (not only Mižu J) took the spotlight of everyone’s attention, the legless person was often ignored. The last member opf the group was the “normal person” feeling responsible for achieving the goal but powerless on his own.

The reflection of the exercise gradually turned into a discussion which was meant to head in the direction of vision-impaired people whom CIRQUEON chose as the target group of the Cirkus Naslepo (Blind Circus) project. After a break, there was a block during which the group divided in two and each smaller group was told to prepare a 15-minute activity program for the other small group which would be blind.

The first group prepared a fairytale about Trifids which led the other group through a Trifid burrow where they were to eliminate deadly mushrooms by hitting them with Trifid litter (I think no further explanation is necessary). All this blindfolded. The other group prepared a games room which literally enthralled the participants with the number of games available. When we took the blindfolds off, we could hardly believe that instead of the requested 15 minutes, we were blindfolded for an hour! After sharing our many feelings from this experience, we finished the official part of the day. Řezi organized pizza delivery (many thanks!!!) and others spent their time juggling and relaxing. The day was concluded by a fierce juggling battle: who would be the last man juggling?

Sunday morning was devoted to theory, we discussed the ethical codex and many remarks were made useful for its maturing. We agreed it made sense to have such codex. However the fact was we found it hard to concentrate as we were already looking forward to the workshop with Petter Wadsten, a first-class juggler from Sweden.

This was the crowning event of the weekend. We juggled in the courtyard of the former brewery and finally, the Spring came to say hello. The workshop went well and I hope the weekend at Světovar gave us all not only new juggling tricks but also new insights into social circus.

We are looking forward to the next CIRKONET meeting!

Adam Jarchovský, CIRQUEON