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Education and training

In Flanders it is possible to do drama studies, but unfortunately there are no real places where one can be trained in the field of street arts, so most artists help each other when they are creating a new show. Young artists at the start of their careers can rely on festivals and centres to get in touch with suggestions for interesting artists or mentors to learn from.

As for circus, in Belgium there are quite a few ways to get to know the art form as an amateur, and a couple of ways to become a professional circus artist. Flanders counts 22 circus ateliers, at which all basic techniques are taught. The student groups vary from toddlers to grown-ups and from beginners to advanced pupils. Next to these circus workshops that receive students the whole year round, there are circus clubs and other unofficial ways to learn circus techniques. Every year a total of about 5,000 pupils enter circus workshops all across Flanders. In Walloon provinces there are some fifteen organisations that offer circus training programmes mainly for recreation. Another seven reside in Brussels.

Circus artists who want to get professional training can only do this in Brussels, where they can choose an artistic education or a pedagogic education. For those who want to make a professional career in circus arts, there is the Ecole Supérieure des Arts du Cirque (ESAC), Belgium’s best known school.

ESAC

ESAC is recognised by the French Community and presents an academy diploma. Students receive a three-year varied training that includes dance lessons, acting lessons, dramaturgy, music, stage design, art history... and circus techniques. The training seeks to integrate circus arts practice and high-level skill in a circus technique of the trainee’s choice with the development of a personal artistic project. Graduation students create a collective artistic project that is performed at the end of the course. At this moment, about 180 students have entered ESAC. Each term, an average of 17 - 19 students graduate.

Virgine Joray

— Director, ESAC —

What do you see as your most important task in circus/street arts in your country?
"In the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, one of the most important issues is the structuring of the circus and street arts sectors. The partners exist. They do a remarkable job that is being noticed. Unfortunately all of them rely on limited finances, and are further restricted by the absence of a global vision. Everyone tries to build the sector in their own way, but it is time to recognise how unhealthy it is to have only one’s own structure and the ‘good will’ of others for support. The mission of the those working in the field should be to concentrate on developing their specificities and ensuring their relevance.If we really want this sector to become fully mature, we need to dare to work on a real cultural politics by founding a dedicated and independent organisation and giving it funding."

Espace Catastrophe

Espace Catastrophe is also located in Brussels and organises short-term courses open to everyone, mostly attended by amateurs who are already familiar with circus arts. These courses are organised twice a year, for about 350 participants per session. Amateurs are given the opportunity to attend teaching practice three times per year, for about 150 participants each time. For professionals, Espace Catastrophe organises three international teaching courses and a number of workshops, annually reaching about 100 professional circus artists. www.catastrophe.be

Other

In the Walloon province there is one training institute that can only be attended by professional circus artists, and in Flanders there is Circuscentrum, which organises a number of courses open to anyone older than eighteen. In Leuven there is one secondary school that offers circus as an option within their sports education program. www.circuscentrum.be

If we look at pedagogic education there is the twenty-day course that Circuscentrum organises together with Cirkus in Beweging, and the one-year training education of the Ecole de Cirque de Bruxelles which presents instructors with an official diploma. The Ecole de Cirque de Bruxelles offers an advanced training – Artistic Pedagogics – to students who wish to be trained as professional circus artists. They also offer a couple of individual (refresher) courses and there is a recreation department where children and teenagers are given the opportunity to learn various circus techniques. They also organise a specific training for the mentally or physically impaired. www.ecoledecirquedebruxelles.be