Big Top Circus is currently touring the Netherlands and Belgium with Tilt!, a program that brings together 16 or so young circus artists from around Europe. Despite the reference to Big Top, this is a long way from Ringling Bros. or Barnum & Bailey. There are no animals (thank goodness!), and the individual acts of this bunch of talented artists are woven together with live music, dance, and short humorous vignettes.
They captured my heart right at the beginning when the curtain opened on a scene straight out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A girl walks across a darkened stage (picture Buffy on patrol at Sunnydale cemetery), and above her head in the air, we can see the outlines of figures, hanging upside down off trapezes, clinging to Chinese poles, or dangling off ropes (picture the vampires hoping to outwit Buffy).
From then on, it was sheer pleasure, very much enhanced by the excellent backup band of two, Chris Grem and Johan Hendrikse. I have picked three acts to highlight, not necessarily because they were better than the others, but because they did something unexpected and particularly delightful.
Eva and Yolaine are the trapeze duo Passe-Pieds and together “they hang around on a stick between two ropes.” They are still students at the Fontys Academy for Circus and Performance Art here in the Netherlands, but they are already seasoned artists. The delightful surprise was that they chat during their act! Yolaine tells the audience what it feels like to be on the trapeze, sings and hums, and together they bicker quite a bit. Surely, that’s a first?
Lotta & Stina are partner acrobats working on the rola bola, which is a balance board on a roller. And they do it with charm and humour while wearing high heels and corsets! I should perhaps mention that they are both from Finland, a country of amazingly talented, funny and strong-willed women.
This is a video of Lotta and Stina performing An Ordinary Day at their graduation from the Ecole Supérieure des Arts du Cirque in Brussels a few years ago. They were perhaps a bit more confident and polished performing with Tilt! but otherwise this is the act we saw.
Oskar Karlsson (on the left) is a member of Balagans, four young men who bonded at the University of Dance and Circus in Stockholm and now tour the world with a daring teeterboard act. We weren’t given the full teeterboard treatment (I suspect the ceiling was too low), but Oskar charmed the audience with a hilarious vignette as a strongman with ballerina ambitions before his one-man handstand act. His rendition of Swan Lake was actually not bad… and his comic timing was brilliant.