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Festivals and venues programming circus and street arts

The Arts and Theatre Institute collates a database of all festivals and theatres in the Czech Republic. This complex address list of theatre companies, festivals, theatres and other organisations is available in Czech at www.divadlo.cz. For foreign professionals there’s also www.theatre.cz, which offers a database of companies and performances chosen by the expert committee for ‘touring’ abroad. Cirqueon follows the contemporary circus field and offers a database of companies, performances and festivals on its own website. In the Czech Republic today there are a few specialist events that present only contemporary circus companies: Letní Letná, Cirkopolis, Fun Fatal, Cirk-UFF, and Fresh ManéžM. These are important events, and each year they are joined by more small festivals. It is difficult to estimate the total number of theatres and theatre festivals that programme circus performances. With street arts, the situation is more difficult. There is no reliable database of festivals or theatres, and on top of this many events are organised by regional towns. A large percentage of theatre festivals have outdoor work in both their main and off programmes. The estimated number of events currently presenting street arts in the Czech Republic is around fifteen.

Michaela Holbíková

— Arts manager, ART Prometheus

What do you see as your most important task in circus / street arts in your country?
"I consider the progress of the contemporary circus or street arts to be an important objective. However, any progress needs to respect the types of audience we have in the Czech Republic, staying attentive to their feelings and desires. Not flowing like a flood, but in harmony with them."

Examples

Letní Letná – International Festival of New Circus and Theatre

Letní Letná is the most important and also the oldest festival presenting contemporary circus in the Czech Republic. Over the years it has gained significant financial and media partners and grown in popularity. Prague citizens now cannot imagine the last two weeks of August without a city of tents at the heart of their metropolis. International performances tend to be large-scale works presented in the circus tent. Thanks to this programming we have seen in Prague companies such as Cirque Ici, Cahin Caha, Les Colporteurs, Cirque Baroque, Cirque Trottola, Cirkus Cirkör, 7 Fingers, and NoFit State Circus. During the festival, Czech groups and artists are regularly given the stage, and the programme for children is also very broad.

Cirkopolis

Organised by Cirqueon Center for contemporary circus in cooperation with Prague stage Palác Akropolis, Cirkopolis is a week-long festival in Prague in February focused on contemporary circus and the ways it overlaps other kinds of art. Each year since 2014 the festival has hosted three to five foreign companies that represent contemporary circus’ innovative trends. Part of the programme is a yearly international premiere called Cirkopolis vol. XX.

FunFatale

Since 2011 the Prague scene has benefited from a unique festival focused on women’s contemporary circus - FunFatale. The programme is concentrated mainly on smaller companies and stages. The unique direction of the programming has great potential for further development.

Cirk-UFF International Contemporary Circus Festival

Since 2011 Cirk-UFF International Contemporary Circus Festival has been a regular part of the season of UFFO Trutnov Cultural Centre, the newly built multi-functional theatre building in the centre of the town Trutnov in the north of the Czech Republic. Cirk-UFF is the only regional festival focused solely on contemporary circus. It is a unique event that presents high-quality foreign and Czech companies. International groups presented include Compagnie EaEo, Compagnie Ieto, Akoreacro, Lonely Circus, Sirkus Aikamoinen, etc.

Za dveřmi Prague Street Theatre Festival

The street theatre festival Za dveřmi was established in 2009. The aim of the organisers is not only to liven up the capital’s centre during the summer months, but also to bring unique foreign and Czech street artists to Prague. Za dveřmi also regularly moves from the capital to Plzeň in Western Bohemia, where it appears as Za dveřmi je Plzeň! within Living Streets Summer Festival.

4 + 4 Days in Motion International Festival of Contemporary Art

This festival 4+4 has been organised since 1996 with the aim of presenting contemporary innovative art projects. Around twenty companies from all over the world appear at the festival each year. Its specialty lies mainly in bringing elements of Prague’s architecture back to life through theatre and the presentation of international projects co-produced by the festival. 4 + 4 projects involve all kinds of contemporary art (theatre, dance, music, fine art, film, video art). Each festival year has a specific topic or theme. Special seminars and workshops are also always a part of the festival.

Some venues:

Jatka 78

Jatka 78 is a multifunctional theatre, music club, gallery, training hall, studio and gymnasium. It is ideally suited to contemporary circus and serves as the home stage of Cirk La Putyka in Prague. The space is open to Czech and foreign companies, and hosts resident projects, performances, workshops, discussions and exhibitions.

Diod Jihlava

In 2011 this relatively new space for independent projects was established in a reconstructed Sokol building in Jihlava (Vysočina region). The theatre’s programming is open and hosts art and social projects by regional, national and international authors. Diod mainly presents drama and dance projects from across the nation, in this way broadening the awareness of contemporary art in the region.

Jiří Turek

— Director, Letní Letná – International Festival of New Circus and Theatre —

What are the most important challenges for circus / street arts in your country, particularly when it comes to marketing and audience development?
"I think the most difficult and important challenge is to keep a long-term interest in this genre, not only within the professional field but also within the non-professional public. A challenge is also to gain respect and recognition from state organisations; to build and strengthen the position of Czech contemporary circus in the world as an equal, respected and innovative partner; and to establish the country as a sought-after destination. It is necessary to enlarge professional bases in the whole Czech Republic, to create more smaller centres engaged in contemporary circus, even to implement lessons at regular schools within physical training. Connected with that is also the need to broaden and build a high-quality pedagogic base. It is necessary to financially ensure the hosting of top foreign educators, and internships abroad for students and professionals. Cirqueon could and should be a fundamental player as it has the widest base. The top would then be to have a national circus school with accreditation, or at least a strong or professionally conducted department at one of the existing art schools. A challenge could also be to try to gain more substantial and regular financial and material support from the state or private sector – perhaps even a new space suitable for presentation of this genre. (...) When in 2004 I founded the frst International Festival of New Circus and Theatre Letní Letná, my goal was to introduce and promote the unique genre of ‘new circus’ – at that time unknown to the general public in the Czech Republic. The aims were to establish the tradition of a respected and sought-after international festival, and to initiate the establishment and development of this art form in our country. I dare to say we succeeded in both. My challenge for the future is of course to continue presenting the latest works of the international contemporary circus field – to inform, to show, and to promote its dynamic development and transformation. (...) It is also my goal, for myself and the festival, to be above all a uniting element – among different subjects, organisations, artists, professionals and members of the public. I want to unite people and support positive cooperation. I also want to try to find and build a space where all of this could become a year-round reality. This is a lot for one person to do, and therefore I would like to hand down my experience to younger people, waking up their zeal, zest and enthusiasm to continue this work. Finally, I gave myself the task of saving a few classical wooden circus caravans so that the ‘new ones’ would know how the ‘old ones’ lived."