The unstoppable expansion of the contemporary circus

At the heart of contemporary circus is the search for new artistic expressions through the fusion of the arts and the reinvention of body language and movement.

France was the pioneer country in the 1970s, but over these almost five decades it has been expanding to many corners of the planet and countries such as Australia, Canada and Belgium already have a heterogeneous panorama of companies and centres of creation.

In the Baltic countries and northern Europe the moment is quite sweet, and in China the contemporary circus is just beginning. The phenomenon is surely unstoppable.


It continues to be very influential, although it is no longer the only reference model. Leveraging the contemporary circus on all five continents, France has prestigious schools and fourteen national circus poles that participate in the renewal of artistic forms.

It is also the epicentre of two projects promoting the emergence of young talent in Europe and the production of shows. It is a trapeze company and close to urban and hip-hop dances, increasingly in touch with the circus.

On the other hand, formations born at the end of the 80s continue with a high level of creativity and renovation. This is the case of Rasposo, a reference point that combines plastic arts, cinema and literature and has a new director: Marie Molliens. Other companies of reference such as Aïtal or Akoreakro have just released new shows.

The commitment to creation and authorship means that we have to talk about multiple aesthetics. In recent years, many groups have burst onto the scene and are breaking new ground.


Have a good time. Brussels has an international centre for the creation of the circus arts, the Espace Catastrophe, which began operating and today is one of the main international centres for the creation of contemporary circus.

The project to build a new space to meet the growing needs of creation, innovation and development of the circus is underway. Cirk à Koekelberg – this is the name of the new factory for the creation and training of the circus arts – will have 3,000 square metres with a large exhibition space.


Popular companies such as Cirque du Soleil, Cirque Eloize and Les 7 doigts de la Main coexist with others less known in Europe such as the surrealist Cirque Eos, Cirque Alfonse – this last summer it performed for the first time in Europe and was also seen at the Grec Festival – or Machine de Cirque, which despite its youth already has a lot of international projection.

Cirque du Soleil’s strategy is noteworthy, as in recent years it has created a repertoire of shows and has just announced a new version of the show ‘Alegría’ with the slogan ‘The Return of an Icon’, which will premiere.

At the same time, he is continuing with the shows featuring popular characters that have worked so well for him, and after those dedicated to the Beatles (‘Love’) and Michael Jackson (‘One’) he is now preparing a montage devoted to Messi’s life. Les 7 doigts de la Main, in turn, is in full swing and has just opened a production and creation centre and premiered the new show.


With little tradition of contemporary circus, it is emerging through the companies that come out of the Center Circus in San Francisco (California), a school co-directed by the company The Pickle Family Circus, pioneers of contemporary circus in the United States. Circus 1903 -a traditional circus that first landed in Europe last year- has also recently made a strong comeback, with the avant-garde.


It is an important axis and surely the area where the contemporary circus is growing most strongly. Some countries have created the Baltic Nordic Circus Network (BNCN) to promote cooperation and structure of the sector.

In Norway there are two important actors, Sirkunst and Cirkus Xanti. In addition to companies with pedigrees such as Sweden’s Cirkus Cirkör, the Finnish-French Air Circus and the Swiss Starlight and Circus Monti, the latter two with tents, there are new proposals such as Race Horse (Finland) and Henrik & Louise (Sweden), among others.


In mainland China, this year is surely the starting point of contemporary circus, as the first production is released and the first edition of a new circus festival is held in Beijing and Shanghai. New proposals are also appearing, some of them independent, like the Future Circus Lab in Kaohsiung (China), and others like the Taipei Arts Festival in Taiwan, which has institutional support and promotes collaborations with Europe.


It is one of the cradles of contemporary circus, along with France. Its most historic references are Circo Flying Fruto Fly and Circus Oz, a very unconventional company with a strong visual and humorous component which, after 40 years, continues to be a reference point and to perform on all five continents.

One of their latest shows is ‘Model Citizens’, a reflection on some of the myths of modern life. Lately it has also opened a new stage under the artistic direction of Rob Tannion, a prestigious artist of Australian origin who has developed part of his career in the Circo Price in Madrid.


The capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, has become the epicentre of the circus arts in Africa in recent years. It is home to the African Circus Arts Festival, where the work of leading companies has been presented: Fekat Circus (Ethiopia), giant puppets (Mozambique), the Colokolo urban circus (Morocco), Sarakasi Trust (Kenya), Tinafan (Guinea) and Zip zap Circus School (South Africa).


Very much linked to folklore and traditions. The contemporary circus is mainly present in three countries: Argentina, Brazil and Colombia. Unlike Europe, its development has always gone hand in hand with the traditional circus. Circolombia, with dance as one of its main focuses, is one of the most international and outstanding companies.