As in each January, the Principality is ready to raise the curtain for a substantial show on a global scale. Circus tradition, in fact, has been strongly established in the Principality since 1974 when H.S.H. Prince Rainier III of Monaco encouraged the creation of an international contest addressed to the most talented performers to the best of their training. That idea revolutionised the way of doing circus and gave a new impulse. The International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo, at its 44th edition, promises to catch media and audience attention for its entire duration, from the 16th until the 26th January 2020.
Originally held in Monte-Carlo, since 1986, the renowned Chapiteau de l’Espace Fontvieille tent structure, in the heart of one of the newest districts in Monaco, has been playing as the perfect location for such an event.
Thanks to the enthusiasm of H.S.H. Princess Stéphanie of Monaco, taking over the presidency of the kermesse, and of the artistic director, Urs Pilz, Swiss gentleman particularly fond of circus diplomacy around the world, the festival has a first-class reputation among major professionals in this field. Particular attention is paid to the proper handling of animals, by the strong will of Princess Stéphanie, who has been playing as a major circus animal defender for a long time, looking after two elephants, Baby and Nepal and creating in 2013 a targeted Association under their names. Despite any critic, she firmly believes in using animals as circus attractions provided that their nature and well-being are respected, as stressed through an ongoing petition.
A technical Jury is being selecting the best top-three performances that will be awarded the ‘Clown d’Or’ (Golden Clown Prize), the ‘Clown d’Argent’ (Silver Clown Prize) and the ‘Clown de Bronze’ (Bronze Clown Prize). Nevertheless, all prizes are usually acknowledged according to the votes of an international junior jury pool as well as the audience that, every evening, are electing their favourite artist or entertainment. An extremely difficult task in this 2020 edition, characterized by 150 top performers coming from eighteen Countries and ready to give the best of them right away.
The opening show on the 16th January 2020 offered a spectacular performance inaugurated to the sound of the vibrating funny notes by ‘Les Clowns en Folie’ (The Clowns into Madness) and the rhythmic sound skilfully played by the Carabiniers du Prince orchestra. In this festive atmosphere, marking the opening parade by Circus Theater Bingo and the Ukrainian Circus Academy in Kiev led by Iryna Herman, Monsieur Loyal (Petit Gougou), the master of ceremony, started the show in the presence of the Sovereign Prince, H.S.H. Princess Stéphanie of Monaco, Louis and Pauline Ducruet. Kiko and Kika, official mascots of the Chinese Chimelong International Circus, twinned to the Monegasque one, kicked off a series of staggering shows that kept the audience’s eyes on until well past midnight.
The male-female Shandong Acrobatic Troupe truly stand out for their spinning plate balance and pure masculine power at the jumping ropes. Sandro Montez and his dogs amused spectators with an effective choreography while the Russian Sergey Nesterov was showing a mutual respect bond, and even affection, between five wonderful white tigers and their tamer.
But the 2020 edition is particularly focused on the powerful elegance of horses, true protagonists of outstanding stunts like four choreographies by the renowned Swiss Knie Circus cavalry, to celebrate its centennial, led by Ivan Knie and Wioris Errani who enchanted everybody thanks to evocative new acrobatic evolutions that ended up with a final ‘Grand Carousel’ counting around thirty purebred horses on stage driven by the acrobats hovering on their backs.
Acrobatic skills are the second added value of this festival. A great medley of innovative moments surprised the audience within a selection of top showings. The balancing performance by the Mongolia Circus Zola Troupe truly defied the force of gravity together with The Bingo ‘5 boys’ from China, the extraordinarily talented Russian champions at the Russian bar, The Dandy’s, directed by the Russian maestro, Alexander Grimaïlo, and the amazing ‘Les Tuniziani’ playing the flying trapeze with unprecedented pirouette. A flock of high-ranked clowns made the 44th edition of the International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo even more attracting. Among them, Henry Ayala, the ‘Prince of Clowns’, with his extraordinary sense of humour and eclecticism, the quintessential comedy by Elastic and the poetical talent of Françoise Rochais, one of the best juggler ever seen.
But what is the background of the International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo like? HelloMonaco picked up the exclusive feedback of Dr. Alain Frère (A.F.), Festival official technical adviser, a true milestone in the World of Circus.
HelloMonaco: Dr. Frère, what does it mean for you attending the 2020 edition of the Festival, after so many years of expertise?
A.F.: It is definitely a good story for me. A tale of passion for Circus shared with H.S.H. Prince Rainier III of Monaco. For the twenty-fifth anniversary of His kingdom, the Sovereign wanted to create a great event to satisfy his interest in this field. Thus, this Festival took shape and I was honoured to be at His side, engaging myself voluntarily. And I am still in charge after forty-six years, or a bit less not considering the two-year suspension just after Princess Grace’s death. I always feel a deep emotion to be here, full of very good memories.
HelloMonaco: What does this Festival represent for the World of Circus?
A.F.: That can be considered the most important event for the oldest circus show, what proves its success. Consequently, it is still held in high regard, gathering the best companies in the world, with special focus on the Russian tradition, true flagship of global Circus. Many artists from Russia played out in Monaco, becoming the undisputable protagonists in most relevant disciplines. We can say that Russia is like “heaven on earth” for circus players, as I have seen for myself.
HelloMonaco: Is there any show you are particularly close to?
A.F.: The flying trapeze without any doubt since it was conceived in 1859 by the French performer, Jules Léotard, within the Napoleon Circus. It is well represented at the Festival, this year, by a skilled new-generation team.
HelloMonaco: How can you cope with the animal activists’ critics?
A.F.: It is a real issue… but our Circus animals are well treated with due vital & leisure space and constantly supervised by staff and veterinarians. We are talking about species that have been bred in captivity for two or three generations. So that they would not resist the wild state. Therefore, the point does not arise.
In short, the International Circus Festival of Monaco never ceases to amaze for its attention to any detail and its dedication to the highest standard of aptitude, creativity and innovation that makes the circus so vibrant.
International Circus Festival of Monaco – Official website: www.montecarlofestival.mc/en/