If circus is about spectacle, then the festival Spotlight on New Circus has done it up right. The first of its kind in Asia, the festival kicks off its weeklong program tonight with a parade that includes a staggering array of circus performers. Following this march of talent, will be the opening and commissioned performance of Jerry Snell's Flash.
With a mixture of foreign and Taiwanese artists, Flash is a pastiche of live musicians, live video, pre-recorded video, hip hop, break dancing, kung fu, acrobatics, and contemporary dance. The show's theme is an examination of conflict, though not necessarily in a negative sense.
"It's [also] an examination of the energies that [we] saw on the streets of Taipei," said assistant director James Tanabe.
The entire festival takes place in the plaza between the National Concert Hall and the National Theater at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. There will be a main and small stage, a circus tent (imported from South Korea as there are none in Taiwan), and street performances.
As many in Taiwan still associate circus with animals, the purpose of the festival — in addition to entertaining — is to raise awareness of new circus and experimental performance in Taiwan.
"The National Theater and National Cultural center want to show that the circus has a new face. Which is why we've asked Jerry to come over," said programming director Lai Meng-yu (賴孟郁) of National Chiang Kai-shek Cultural Center.
"But because the festival is only nine days, it's not easy to educate people to know what new circus is. So, what we can do is give the audience an idea when they come here," he added.
Though developing a respect for circus may prove difficult, the organizers are optimistic that the festival will serve to boost circus as a potential career for up and coming performers. Tanabe cites Ang Lee (李安) as an example of how people's perspectives can change.
What: 2006 Open Air International Arts Festival, Taipei, Spotlight on New CircusWhere: Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall Plaza between National Concert Hall and National TheaterWhen: Today to Nov. 5Tickets: Free except for circus tent performances, which cost NT$600 (The Seven Finger performances are sold out.) and can be purchased through NTCH ticketing on the Web at www.ntch.edu.tw
"When he [Lee] was growing up in Taiwan people wouldn't have thought that film would have been a possible career. And because of his success, there has been an resurgence of interest in film," he said.
The cast of performers that Snell has arranged for the festival could be considered royalty in the realm of new circus. On Saturday, award-winning French-Canadian troupe The 7 Fingers will perform a fantastical blend of circus, physical theater and music under the big top. All former members of Cirque du Soleil, the name The 7 Fingers comes from the French idiom "the seven fingers of the hand," and is about collaboration using both agility and coordination.
Having just completed a tour of South Korea, Cirque Baroque is bringing their distracting and disarming version of physical theater that uses circus techniques to the tent next weekend. Ningen is a story inspired by one of the most emblematic figures of contemporary literature, the late novelist Yukio Mishima, and the starting point for this work is the artistic and emotional sensibility of the Japanese. In an effort to break down the walls that text often creates, all their stories are told without words, the dialogue coming through images, dance and mime.
For the Comediants, anywhere can serve as a stage, any element can be dramatized and any kind of language is valid as a means of reaching the audience. This collective of actors and musicians from Spain are completely immersed in the world of creation. Known primarily as a theater group, they use a wide variety of media from disparate fields and are inspired by pagan, popular and religious symbols