performing arts & music / news / In France, which says summer says art festivals!

In France, which says summer says art festivals!

July 17, 2015 | By francecanadaculture Canada

Info and anecdotes about art festivals in France.

After theater and its Festival d'Avignon, let’s focus on circus arts and the Sirque on the Road festival

The Sirque - Nexon Circus Pole in Limousin.

In 1986, the Annie Fratellini circus National School is looking for a city that can accommodate its Summer Internship for initiations to circus arts. Seduced by Nexon, she convinces the city to organize the first edition in July-August 1987. The operation is repeated the following years and in 1990, the first cultural event around the internships is organized, followed two years later by the creation of the festival Les Arts à la Rencontre du Cirque: a programming related to the circus arts during the period of internship (cinema, exhibitions, shows, entertainment ... ).

In 1999, the association Les Arts à la Rencontre du Cirque is created and in 2000, the city of Nexon acquired a specially designed “circus tent” and installs it permanently in the castle park.

In 2001, the association Les Arts à la Rencontre du Cirque is among the 11 sites labeled “circus arts place” by the Ministry of culture and communication and became the regional center of circus arts of Nexon in Limousin.

In 2007, Les Arts à la Rencontre du Cirque changes name and becomes the Sirque. This "S" symbolizes the contemporary circus in its diversity and becomes its trademark.

And it was in January 2014, that Martin Palisse, juggler artist, Bang Bang Circus company director and co-founder, has been elected as the director.

Martin Palisse builds his project around a strong artistic presence. Conceived as a “house of creation”, the Sirque devotes an important place to writing and circus authors, with particular attention to intergenerational filiations and is concerned by transmission of the contemporary repertoire of circus. Partnerships with schools and support to amateur practices, particularly around juggling, will be closely developed with his immediate and wider territory.

2015 edition

La Route du Sirque 2015 proposes 64 performances, "younger audience" shows  and concerts. But also the General Tour event, installation of a daily live radio in public, a day dedicated to the films of circus authors, a master-classes, workshops, exhibitions, and other impromptu events to see, to do, to share ...

We recommend

L’arpès-midi d’un Foehn by the Non Nova company and the artist Phia Ménard.

Formed by Jerome Thomas, Phia Ménard is today one of the most important and emblematic figures of contemporary circus.
Did you know that you can juggle air stream? With the wind?
Between dance, circus and juggling, with the music of Claude Debussy, a ballet gives birth to a choreography of plastic dancers propelled into the air. A poetic and sublime moment, playful and colorful, epic too. And the magic works for adults and kids ...

And if you are not in France this summer, you will enjoy this show in Ottawa at the National Arts Center on 19 and 20 December 2015. More information here

More information
La Route du Sirque: from 14 to 22 August, Nexon. +33 (0) 5 55 00 98 36,


Last week, we talk about Theater and its Festival d’Avignon

A little of history

In 1947, as part of a modern art exhibition they organized in the main chapel of the famous Palais des Papes in Avignon, the art critic Christian Zervos (founder of the magazine Cahiers d'art) and poet René Char suggested to Jean Vilar, actor and director, to propose to the city to create a “week of drama”.

At first Jean Vilar refuses. He doubts about the technical feasibility of the project and has not the expected support from the city. But facing a reconstruction will after the April 1944 bombing with the culture as a way, the municipality eventually accepts and offers to Jean Vilar to create “an art week in Avignon” from 4 to 10 September 1947. 4,800 spectators were attending in three places - the courtyard of the Palais des Papes, the Municipal Theatre and the Verger of Urban V - seven representations of three creations: The Tragedy of King Richard II, Shakespeare, La Terrasse de midi, Maurice Clavel, and L'Histoire de Tobie et de Sara, Paul Claudel.

After the success of this first edition, Jean Vilar came back the following year for a new week of drama, with The Tragedy of King Richard II again, and two new creations Danton's Death, Georg Buchner and Sheherazade, Jules Supervielle. With him, an actor troupe was created and returns each year to bring together an audience always more numerous and loyal.

And this is how the Festival d’Avignon was born! Today this festival is the largest theater and performing arts event in France, and one of the largest in the world by the number of creations and spectators.

The IN and OFF

But be careful not to confuse the festival “IN”, the Festival Avignon, and the “OFF”, the OFF of Avignon.

While the Festival d’Avignon exists since 1947, it is in 1966 that André Benedetto, French writer, theater director and poet, opens his theater, the Theater des Carmelites, for the performance of his play Statues. At the time this is a real challenge and Jean Vilar, the following year, answers to this rebellion act by deciding to invest in the Carmelite cloister, theater neighboring the Theater des Carmelites. The first stone of what will become the “OFF” is laid.

“The IN” is the “official” festival. It is selective, the programming, from 35 to 40 shows a year, is decided by an artistic director. Like the French public theater, this event is subsidized and therefore does not involve financial risk for artists.

On the other side, in the “OFF” the participation is voluntary and without selection (with a few exceptions) and the number of registrants increases exponentially each year. The OFF almost no receives any subsidy and obtains the major part of its resources from revenues from the audience and companies’ registration in the festival. The risk for artists is financial: the room rental must be added to the accommodation, food, wages of technicians, actors, communication ... But the difficulty lies in finding the right place to bring the audience. Indeed the places well-known by the audience and professionals are scarce and difficult to reach because they can guarantee a visibility and a place on the tip of this huge iceberg. The OFF is “getting by” while the IN gives you the comfort of the productions that do not have to worry about the audience coming. All day long you need to conquer your audience in the street, talk to them, give flyers, convince them to come, and then you need to get on the stage! A nonstop energy during one month!


2015 edition of the “IN”

The 2015 edition is the second one directed by artist Olivier Py, former director of the Théâtre de l’Odeon in Paris. He made his first steps in the legendary court of the Palais des Papes with Shakespeare's King Lear giving the leading role to Philippe Girard, longtime partner. Another superstar from the European scene, famous in Avignon, is Thomas Ostermeier, coming with Richard III, restoring the famous wooden theater in the Avignon Opera!
But there will also be a life outside of the Elizabethan master. They come from Eastern Europe (NO99 from Estonia or Krystian Lupa from Poland), from Moscow (Kirill Sebrenikov) or Buenos Aires (Mariano Pensotti) to give us news about the world. And this year the dance is also honored with the presence of Angelin Preljocaj who creates in the Court of Honor a play based on the book of Laurent Mauvignier (Retour à Berrahtan) and the London Israeli Hofesh Shechter, choreographer, who had a great success this year in Paris with his play Political Mother.  Artists well worth keeping a close eye on!

Still few days to enjoy the festival
The Festival d’Avignon: from July 4 to 25, Avignon, + 33 (0) 4 90 14 14 14,

The OFF d’Avignon: from July 4 to 26, Avignon, +33 (0) 4 90 85 13 08,

For further information (in French only)

Les meilleurs festivals de théâtre en 2015 selon Télérama


And next week, let’s focus on circus arts festivals ...