When I was little, I would always tell strangers that I was born and raised in circus. My parents had no idea that they led parallel lives through my exciting albeit made-up stories. Years later, I can still relate to my childhood admiration for circus art, especially since circus and I developed in the same direction - I have become a passionate advocate for animal rights, and contemporary circus slowly stopped (ab)using them, turning thus into a new and different art form that I would join with even more enthusiasm than back in my childhood days. Had I been born a couple of decades later, my wish may have come true, thanks to Cirkusfera and Cirkobalkana.
Cirkobalkana, a festival of new circus, was initiated in 2013, and has been promoting circus art and educating young circus artists in this part of Europe ever since. It has been a part of Bitef Festival for several years now and last year, the performance from their programme, Rare Birds (in the production of the troupe from France Un Loup pour l'Homme) was also in the Bitef Festival main programme selection. In a big top set up on the right bank of the Danube, the audience enjoyed this new art which, actually, speaks the languages of various performing arts. The seamless performance that combined dance, movement, acrobatics, acting, made us gasp with amazement and, occasionally, in disbelief. The idea was to enjoy it all this year again, but the pandemics changed everything.
Or almost everything.
This year, Bitef festival, or rather, the Bitef-Prologue which is conceived as an announcement for the double Festival edition that is (knock on wood!) to be held next year, was opened with the performance by Circobalkana. In front of the little auditorium set up in front of Bitef Theatre, in just over thirty minutes, six young artists brought circus back to Bitef and live theatre back to audience. Not only did they revive the enthusiasm, the collectiveness, the applause, the joy of enjoying theatre here and now, but also rekindled the hope that everything will be okay - someday, somehow, maybe not the way it was, but in some new way, we will enjoy theatre all over again.
Out of several acts that were greeted by rounds of applause, two in particular spoke volumes. A gripping act in which two artists walked backwards along a plank set up across open ladders, slowly advancing towards (and finally reaching) its opposite ends, reminded us that cooperation is necessary if we are to succeed. In the times when not only theatre but life in general is being rethought, it serves as a useful reminder. The other one was even more suggestive: one of the performers walks a tightrope - just like the entire world has been doing for months now. The rope stretched across the scene at Mira Trailović Square, thin and long, got dramatically wobbly at times. But the artist kept his balance. He managed to stay on it, to reach the other side and to get off it safely.
Let’s hope that we all will.