“Circus is poetry!”

Meet three of the participants from Circus Incubator, an international collaboration between professional circus performers and promoters.
Photo Petter Hellman

Meet three of the participants from Circus Incubator, an international collaboration between professional circus performers and promoters. Objective: to promote integrated relations and dialogue between artistic process and promotion.

Albin Warette – Circus Director from Toulouse

Albin Warette

“These have been some amazing days. The performers have brought their ideas to the table, and I’ve helped them understand what they really want to achieve. Sure, it’s been emotional at times, and some of them ended up having to rework their ideas completely. The method we used included trading places with each other, and experiencing new perspectives. Which qualities do I look for? Well, of course, impressive technical execution is an important part, but it’s not enough! The performers must also develop their characters, and express emotion. It’s so much more than just demonstrating skill – it’s poetry.

Circus is going through a very exciting phase right now; it can be or become absolutely anything. In the 18th century, circus went through a major development when animals performing tricks began to be brought in. The round circus rings appeared to make horses run in a circle, and attendance was made more predictable by the introduction of rain-proof tents. And voilà – classic circus had arrived! The clowns would entertain the crowd while other staff cleared out the animal droppings. But human beings want change, and springs turn into streams, which turn into rivers, and give rise to new classics, where dance, visual art, theatre, and spoken word can all be included. The original modern circus is like a grandfather who you both love dearly and find frightfully dull at times. I think that performers relate to the human experience in a special way.

I’d like to use three words to describe Circus Incubator: Beautiful Humanist Project.

Programmers + Performer = Performance

Being a performer involves engaging in an artistic process, and spending countless hours in training. It takes a different skill set to arrive at a finished production, which ends up being performed before an audience, and manage all the practicalities involved in that. This is where the promoter enters the picture. The relationship between a performer and a promoter is often entirely formal, and they often never actually meet before show time comes around. This situation lends itself to misunderstandings, unfulfilled expectations, and friction.

Matthew S Horton & Fernanda Vidigal

During Circus Incubator, performers and promoters met in various ways, including an initial “speed dating” session, after which the performers all got to choose one of the promoters to spend extra time with. One of these “twin pairs” was Brazilian promoter and project manager of the Belo Horizonte circus festival Fernanda Vidigal and performer Matthew S Horton. They both agree that this deepened understanding will benefit them.

“I’ve learned a lot from gaining this insight into Fernanda’s work, says Matthew, who’s working on a show that blends street dance and circus. There are a lot of emotions involved.

I understand now how important it is to be aware of each stage of the process, and to form a personal relationship with the promoter, rather than just a business relationship. The opportunity to work without having a finished product was exciting, but also involved a lot of emotional challenges.”

Fernanda agrees: “As promoters, we don’t get involved in the artistic side of things, but I think a very constructive understanding can grow from performers learning about what is required of the people who actually bring the audience and the show together. We’re more than just cogs in the machinery.”


Circus Incubator is realised with the support of the EU and other backers. The project was carried out in two series of two workshops, in which professional circus performers were invited to develop their project ideas in collaboration with promoters from festivals and stages from six different countries: Sweden, Canada, Brazil, France, Spain, and Finland. This time, the project’s participants spent six days at Hangaren Subtopia, in an encounter where the true prizes were the sketch, the idea stage, and the possibilities inherent to them.

“It’s thanks to Kulturrådet (Swedish Arts Council) as well as funds from the EU, that we could realize Circus Incubator”, says Kiki Muukkonen, artistic Head of Programme for Hangaren and Circus Coordinator.

The project is based on the realisation that performers and promoters have often never experienced deeper dialogue with one another about the relation between the artistic process and the presenters work on production and programming. This dialogue can pose challenges to both parties, but it’s also an essential one, especially considering the new challenges that performers and promoters face today. Circus Incubator is intended to promote an integrated relationship and dialogue between artistic process, promotion, and audience relations.

Photo Petter Hellman