CHARACTER: Within new circus, one tries to create carachters mirroring some of the artist that play them. If so in this picture, a very colourful person is hiding behind this makeup. (Photo: Cirque Du Soleil)
Traditional circus, as most people know them, are and were usually run by circus families travelling from place to place with artists and animals. For the authorities in these places, it was not always simple. Was a circus to be regarded as tourists on a camping trip? Were they to be regulated under the responsibility of the farming authorities, as they resembled mobile farms or zoos? Or was it to be seen as some sort of trading activity or as a menace to society, like gypsies and hobos, who were also often regarded more in terms of general thieves and tramps? The question of responsibility was kicked between different state and regional bodies for many years.

After WW II, the publics interest in circus deteriorated, mainly because of increased competition from other forms of entertainment, such as radio, TV and the film-industry.In the 1960s and 70s, animal protection organizations started complaining about circuses. They claimed that circuses were not treating animals good, something which was in rare occasions also true. Then, in the early 1970s, something remarkable happened in France. The responsibility for circuses was transferred to the department of culture. After 4,000 years of circus history, the circuses had become acknowledged as culture again.

PARIS: Most people think of France in terms of fantastic food and wine, football, fashion and the Eiffel tower. Finni, on his part, mainly thinks of France in terms of Cirque Noveau, which most people have never heard about, nor do they know what it is.
Cirque Nouveau
This in turn led to the opening of French circus academies. These academies hired instructors with experience from circus, dance, drama, choreography, music and other arts, but no animals. You no longer had to be born into a circus family in order to learn how to become a circus artist. In the beginning, a few underground new-circuses arose. They created a completely new and unique way of doing circus that the world had never seen the likes of. The sawdust was removed and the shows could tell stories wrapped in theatrical expressions. The old pattern, with a circus director and short acts separated firmly disappeared, and the artists themselves started doing the rigging of the scene as an integral part of the shows. The artists can also be musicians in their own shows. As there were no longer horses in the shows, the tent didn’t have to be round any longer, it could be any shape. As the public discovered these new-circuses, the phenomenon spread rapidly. Today, France has around 150 circus-schools, and the new-circuses have become a multimillion dollar industry world wide.
Paris, 22.01.2007
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL: From the other side of the Atlantic comes the canadian Cirque de Soleil, which Finni hopes that he will be able to visit as S/Y Underveis hopefully reaches North America in 2009. (Photo: Sirque Du Soleil)
FULL SPEED: This ship is probably more fit for touring on land , and will most likely never be sailed on the high seas. (Photo: Sirque Du Soleil)
ATMOSPHERE: In Cirque du Grand Célestes tent the atmposphere is very moody, good and relaxed. Oil lamps, velvet, fantastic live music, good food and wine and artists radiating warmth, confidence and professionalism. (Photo: Emmanuel Rioufol)

MOOD: In new-circus it doesnt matter how dangerous a circus act is, the point is the capability and performance of the artist. (Photo: Sirque Du Soleil)
Cirque du Grand Céleste

If you dont know the language, it is not easy to do research in France. Finni discovered that Cirqe du Grand Celeste was the circus he wanted to experience. The name means “Circus of the great, starspangled sky”. After three different tube lines, hidden in an industrial zone on the outskirts of the city, I found the circus. Three blue tents, with a very friendly atmosphere on the inside. After the performance, and after having seen it twice, I had a little chat with the maestro and the composer of the circus, Ben Boyce, in the café tent. They serve dinner, cakes, snacks and of course wine. Ben, together with Bruno West, established the circus around 10 years ago. Today it has 15 people on the payroll. All the artists, with the exception of one, are from France. In Norwegian circuses it is a sensation if one artist is from Norway. As opposed to traditional circuses, Cirque du Grand Céleste is a stationary circus, they don’t go on tours. It does happen that festivals and other events hire them to go to other cities, though, says Ben.
- We have performances four days a week, and we also have a circus academy. We have students from the ages of six to mid-twenties. The students also organize their own performances from time to time. The "Drôle de Monde"-performance I saw, was with the professional artists. I think the title means “big world”. It was a very benign and neutral performance. No provocations or any strong political messages, nor any moralisation. A soft and friendly atmosphere, with a lot of humour and poetry in it. Easy to digest for anybody. Ben says that they have let themselves inspire by all forms of circus. I cannot help myself, but ask him: “What about animals”? Ben goes a bit tense and says: “-Animals! Circus is culture!”

JUGGLING IN FRENCH: A shoe, a jugglers keg and a juggler, and voila, the best juggling act I have ever seen. (Photo: Emmanuel Rioufol)
CIRCUS SCHOOL: Cirque du Grand Céleste also runs a cicrus school where children, youngsters and grown ups are taught circus tricks on the days the circus does not have a show.

# The word circus comes from the Greek word circus, that meant circle. It was also used as a name for race tracks. In Greek race tracks, artists, jugglers and athletes were also introduces. Among them wrestlers, who conducted their sport in the nude. Therefore circus was for men only back then. Women were not admitted.

# Around year 0, the Romans had adopted the Greek circus and modified it slightly in order to make it more exciting. Instead of harmless wrestling, the Romans introduced gladiators killing each other, and instead of people taming the animals, they arranged for feeding of wild animals with living humans.

# The circus of Anticque times luckily disappeared along with the Roman Empire. Partly because of the demise of the empire, partly because Christianity was introduced.

# Philip Astley was a British cavalryman who had been kicked out of the Army. In 1768 he and some colleagues put together a horse show and called it circus. Later on, other artists were also introduced. This was the start the traditional circus as we know it today.

# During the 19th century circuses proliferated all over Europe, parts of Asia and North America. Traditional circuses had their heyday in the time leading up to the 1st world war.

# In the 1970s, the first socalled new-circuses started establishing themselves, without animals, and with a greater focus on theatrical expressions instead of dangerous and risky performances

# The most famous of these circuses is the Canadian Cirque du Solei, currently consisting of 6 mobile circuses and a musical, as well as 6 non-mobile circus-shows around the world.

# Cirkus Circör is the most famous Scandinavian new-circus. They are based just outside Stockholm.

(Sources: Norsk Sirkusforum,,

CIRQUE DU GRAND CÉLESTE: Three blue tents. The one on the left for the shows, the one in the middle for the cafe, and the one to the right for rehearsals.
HAPPY: After the show you find both spectators and artists in the cafe tent. To the left: The juggler. In the middle: Maestro Ben Boyce. To the right: The bass player.
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