From 16 – 20 October Festival Circolo, a festival dedicated to contemporary circus, is taking place in theatre venues across Tilburg. The city is also home to one of two Dutch circus schools: the Academy for Circus and Performance Art (ACaPA)- the other one is Codarts Circus Arts Rotterdam. Higher education in circus is a reasonably recent development in the Netherlands: Circus Arts Rotterdam started in 2006, ACaPA in 2007.

Slowly but surely, circus has also found its way into the performing arts field, with a specific connection to dance. Kim-Jomi Fischer (a dancer) and Marta Alstadsæter (a circus performer) were nominated for the 2019 Dutch Dance Festival Award. Dance/circus company Panama Pictures, with the tagline ‘Where dance meets circus’, will be premiering a new show next week, Each Time We Fall a City Rises (at Verkadefabriek Den Bosch).

So it feels only just that circus has a festival of its own. This Sunday, Festival Circolo will also host the presentation of the BNG Danscircus Prijs, an award for the most talented graduation act by students from ACaPA and Codarts Circus Arts.

The aim for the festival, as announced in his opening speech by director Marc Eysink Smeets, is to have an outdoor edition in circus tents one year, and an indoor edition the next. This edition takes place inside. Which is a good thing, considering the dreary, wet autumn weather. Otherwise it could have made for a sad spectacle. The 2019 edition covers three venues: Theaters Tilburg (which has one theater and one concert hall), De Nieuwe Vorst and Factorium.

So it can happen that in the concert hall, where on other days you might see the Metropole Orchestra, Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Jett Rebel or Herman van Veen, you now are treated to a show by a circus collective; one male performer, three female, all freshly graduated from ACaPA, called 5PIECES. Side note: while the concert hall is undoubtedly a great space for listening to music, because all the seats are on the same level, it was hard to see most of the floor work in this show.

5PIECES also performed at the previous edition of Festival Circolo (when their collective consisted of five performers). Now the remaining four are back with their new show Fusion (their first professional production since graduating), realized with support from the Keep an Eye Foundation. This piece, so the leaflet tells us, is a meeting of four unique individuals, each with their own background, opinions, ideas, norms and values. ‘Can a collective really be formed without sacrificing individuality?’ It is certainly an interesting question, albeit that Fusion doesn’t really answer it.

Don’t get me wrong: the performers themselves are great. All of them are fresh-faced and bright, and Stella Garbe Huedo manages to exude an inquisitiveness and sweetness no matter what she does, even when she is being lugged around and manipulated as if she were a ragdoll. Each performer gets an opportunity to shine. Be it Bella Hannah twirling around in the big suspended ring, Sander Boschma having a Peter Pan moment high up in the ropes, or Malou Latrompette doing her own interpretive dance. In their solos the performers certainly showcase their virtuosity and technique, but their distinct personalities don’t really come to the fore. It makes their acts feel isolated, especially during those moments when the other performers are just standing by, looking on.

Fusion is at its strongest when the performers all interact, as they do in the very first act. (Ben Caetano has helped with the choreography). The four of them all stand huddled together, on a creaky board with handstand cranes, and start engaging in an intricate game of 3D twister. It is a funny and endearing scene in which the performers always have another performer’s foot, ponytail or bottom in their face. Or the scene in which the three ladies are happily chatting away while using Boschma as a living – and moving – piece of furniture.

Another great element is the live music, performed by Daniel Koomen and Tato Wesselo. Not only do they create an eerie soundscape that is reminiscent of the ominous synthesizer music in Stranger Things and the hypnotic musical drone from Alias’ Sideways Rain, but they also create effective sound effects, like the creaking board at the beginning, or the sound of a pendulum swooshing by when the suspended ring is moving.

The cohesiveness of the individual parts could use some additional work (maybe a dramaturgist can help?), but when working as a collective, 5PIECES is a winning team.

Seen: October 16, Festival Circolo, Theaters Tilburg.


Choreography: Ben Caetano - performers: Malou Latrompette, Stella Garbe Hudeo, Sander Boschma en Bella Hannah music: Daniel Koomen & Tato Wesselo.