Contemporary Circus Education


John Ellingsworth is a writer and editor working in contemporary circus. He runs the website and magazine Sideshow and a company called CRKO working at the intersection of circus and technology.

約翰·艾利斯沃斯(John Ellingsworth) 是專注於當代馬戲的作家和編輯,他創辦了線上雜誌《Sidehow(雜耍)》,還有關注科技與馬戲結合的CRKO公司。


ART.ZIP: How do you get into contemporary circus?

JE: I sort of fell into it. Back in 2006 I started doing an internship with an organisation called Total Theatre that was advocating for physical and visual performance, circus, mime, puppetry, street arts, devised and site-specific work, live art, and so on. Back when Total Theatre was founded, in the 1980s, all of those things were on the fringes of theatre in England; today they still exist as independent sectors, but they’ve got much more influence on mainstream practice. Anyway, I did this internship with Total Theatre and worked on the magazine they produced, and at the end of that internship they gave me six weeks of trapeze lessons as a leaving present. I did those for a while, got the taste for it, and ended up going to a circus school for a year. After I left I started a circus magazine and website, Sideshow, as a platform for writing and thinking about circus. I ran that for a few years and then ended up meeting Duncan Wall, the author of a book about circus, ‘The Ordinary Acrobat’, which was published by Knopf last year. We found we had a common background: both of us went to a circus school for a year (he went to one in France) and then embarked on these big writing projects. For him it was the book; for me it was Sideshow. We were both engaged in thinking about circus as an art form, and we both wanted to try to get people to talk about circus as an art, so we started a company together, CRKO, that’s dedicated to looking at the intersection of circus and technology. The big project we’ve been working on is an online course called ‘An Introduction to Contemporary Circus’. The goal of it is to give everybody working in the circus sector the same basic level of knowledge so that circus can start to talk about itself as an art form in a more confident and coherent way.

ART.ZIP: 當初您是如何開始從事當代馬戲的呢?

JE: 我覺得是機緣巧合吧。2006年我在Total Theatre(全劇場)當實習生,這個組織致力於肢體與視覺表演,馬戲、默劇、木偶劇、街頭表演藝術、特定場地的裝置藝術、行為藝術等等。Total Theatre在80年代初期成立,那時候表演藝術在英格蘭并不流行; 時至今日,表演藝術雖然還是以獨立群體而存在,但已經對主流藝術有了非常大的影響。總之,我在實習的同時,也幫Total Theatre出版的雜誌工作。實習快結束時,公司送給我一個空中飛人的課程。我學習了一段時間覺得還不錯,最後跑去馬戲學校學習了一年。畢業以後我建立了一個關於馬戲的雜誌和網站叫做《Sideshow》,以此作為寫作和思考馬戲的平台。就這樣經營了幾年,直到我遇見鄧肯·沃爾(Duncan Wall),他是《一位平凡的雜技演員(The Ordinary Acrobat)》一書的作者,該書去年由諾弗出版社(Knopf)出版。我覺得我們倆還挺像的,大家都在馬戲學院學習了一年(他在法國學習),最後也都從事寫作,他寫書,我辦雜誌。我們都認為馬戲應該被視為一種藝術形式,我們也希望人們可以這麼來看待馬戲,因此我們一起成立了公司CRKO,致力於研究馬戲和科技的結合。線上課程《當代馬戲入門( An Introduction to Contemporary Circus)》是我們目前一直在做的一個大項目,目的在於讓每位馬戲從業人員對馬戲都有基本的認識,如此一來,人們就能更自信地、更有條理地把馬戲當作一種藝術形式來看待及探討。

ART.ZIP: What makes your project different from education offered within a university structure?

JE: The first thing to say is that there are a small number of Higher Education circus schools and that you can go there to do accredited degree courses, MAs, even PhDs. In the UK there’s the National Centre for Circus Arts and a school called Circomedia; abroad there are places like DOCH(Dans och Cirkushögskolan, University of Dance and Circus)in Sweden or CNAC (Centre National des Arts du Cirque) in France. Still, at a lot of these schools students concentrate on technical skill and performance disciplines (dance, movement, physical theatre, and so on) but perhaps don’t learn so much about aesthetics – about what’s going on in the world, about the history of their art form, where contemporary circus came from, where it’s going next, these sorts of things… And there’s no textbook to teach that, no documentary series – we wanted to create the course because we felt there was nothing else like it. We were aiming to produce a resource that the circus sector could use in its education programmes, but at the same time we’d like to bring it to a larger performing arts market: there are a lot of universities which teach performing arts courses and cover other branches of performance (dance, physical theatre, puppetry, and so on) without touching on circus.

ART.ZIP: 這個項目的線上課程和在專業學校裡提供的有什麼不同?

JE: 首先,現在沒有多少高等學院提供馬戲相關的學位課程。在英國,我們有國家馬戲藝術中心(National Centre for Circus Arts),還有一所名叫Circomedia的藝術學院;在國外則有瑞典的DOCH(Dans och Cirkushögskolan, University of Dance and Circus)或法國的CNAC(Centre National des Arts du Cirque)。儘管如此,這些學校通常著重于技術技能和表演規範(舞蹈、動作、形體劇場等等)的教育,但很少提供美學教育--當今的美學發展,藝術形態發展史,當代馬戲的淵源,發展趨勢是什麼等等。現今沒有任何教科書可以提供這些知識,也沒有任何相關的紀錄片,這就是我們創辦這個線上教程的初衷。我們旨在為馬戲教育項目提供資源,同時也希望能夠把這個教程帶到更大的表演藝術市場去,現在許多大學裡的表演課程囊括了舞蹈、形體劇場、木偶劇場等,卻唯獨沒有馬戲。

ART.ZIP: How will the project reach its audience?

JE: At the moment we’re working to complete a ten-lesson course that can fit within circus school curriculums, but we’re also thinking about a shorter version that can be offered to a general audience – so an absolute basic introduction to what contemporary circus is and where it came from. Given that it’s an online course our ideal would be to reach as many people as possible and to have an impact on the way contemporary circus is seen in general society.

ART.ZIP: What other projects are you working on?

JE: I’m working with the photographer Ben Hopper on his project Duende – which is his attempt to capture ‘el duende’, which you can think of as being a little bit like the soul of a great performer. I’m doing some writing to go alongside that and thinking about how to present the project online. Another project I’m working on for Sideshow is called Deconstructing Circus. It is a six-month project to publish videos of 30 scenes from 30 contemporary circus productions. Each video is accompanied by an interview with the production’s artists or directors, and through these readers can get an insight into the various facets of contemporary circus.

ART.ZIP: 您打算如何將這個項目帶給您期待的讀者?

JE: 我們現在正努力完成一個十堂課的課程,使之可以穿插在馬戲學校課程裡,另外我們還想提供一個精簡版本讓普羅大眾都能參與,讓大家對當代馬戲及其來源有基本的認識。因此我們從線上課程入手,希望越來越多人能夠接觸并關注當代馬戲。

ART.ZIP: 目前還有其他正在進行的計劃嗎?

JE: 目前我還在協助攝影師本·霍珀(Ben Hopper)的項目“Duende(精靈)”。霍珀試圖運用攝影的手法來捕捉表演者的靈魂。。。我則著手進行一些相關輔助的寫作,也會協助把這個項目搬到網上呈現給更多觀眾。《Sideshow》的另一個項目叫做“解構馬戲(Deconstructing Circus)”。這是個長達六個月的項目,我們精選了三十個當代馬戲表演,然後從每個表演中挑選一個場景再配合對藝術家或導演的採訪,以視頻的形式呈現給線上讀者,讓他們能了解當代馬戲的各方各面。

ART.ZIP: Circus has a long history in China, but it hardly has a circus culture. Do you think circus culture is stronger within a western cultural context?

JE: There’s a long history of acrobatics and circus in China – in Russia as well. Both have a very strong tradition of circus, but aesthetically they’re generally closer to traditional circus. Contemporary circus is to traditional circus as contemporary dance is to ballet. So when you think about a ballerina, what they do is very codified: there’s a correct way for them to stand, move, set their shoulders, raise their arms, and so on. Everything is very strict and disciplined. Then when they go on stage the performers are replicating what they’ve learned – they’re aiming to show their technique as perfectly as possible and they’re judged on this perfection. With contemporary dance you learn technique, but the actual performance is shaped by what you want to express – about yourself, about the world, about society. This is more or less how it is with traditional and contemporary circus. Traditional circus is focused on the replication of technique, doing something spectacular or superhuman, while contemporary circus is using those circus techniques and methods as a language, as an art form, to express something.

In the west we also have a long history of traditional circus. During the 19th Century you had these really big circuses in Europe and America, and for some of the massive ones in the US you could get an audience of tens of thousands of people at each pitch. During the early 19th Century you had circuses touring locally to small towns and you can imagine what it would have been like for the people there: growing up in a small town you would have never seen an elephant before, never seen an acrobat, never seen a contortionist, so the circus brought something that was amazing – something that was totally outside of ordinary life. Because of that power to amaze, and because of the power of spectacle, it became the biggest form of popular entertainment in the western world. Eventually film came along, which was cheap and easier to distribute, and oil prices went up so that it became more expensive to tour, and traditional circus sort of collapsed. Contemporary circus rose out of that, and because the old model didn’t work anymore it had to find something new.

ART.ZIP: 中國的馬戲團歷史悠久,但卻難以成為一種文化。您認為馬戲文化在西方的語境下是否更有影響力?

JE: 雜技和馬戲在中國有著悠久的歷史,俄羅斯也是如此。兩者都有很強大的馬戲傳統,但從美學的角度來說它們更接近傳統形式的馬戲表演。當代馬戲之於傳統馬戲,就像現代舞之於芭蕾舞一樣。芭蕾舞者的表演都有明文規定怎樣的姿勢才是正確的,從站立、移動、肩膀的形態到如何舉手投足等等,都有著嚴格的規定。所以當芭蕾舞者上台表演的時候,他們必須盡可能地完美呈現所學的一切,因為評判的標準就是如何做到所規定的極致的完美。但對於現代舞而言,舞蹈技巧是基礎,但實際演出的時候只是以舞蹈作為一種方式來表達自己,表達對世界,對社會的想法。這或多或少解釋了傳統馬戲和當代馬戲的不同。傳統馬戲專注于技巧的成熟,做一些讓人嘆為觀止或超越人類極限的表演,而當代馬戲僅是利用這些技巧和表演作為一種語言,作為一種藝術形式來進行表達某種觀點或想法。



ART.ZIP: Would you name some important companies and productions from the contemporary circus sector?

JE: There have been a lot of important companies and shows through the years, so I’ll just name a few artists that I like… In the UK, Gandini Juggling have been around for more than twenty years and they’re a really inventive group; they work with juggling, but their interests stretch in a lot of different directions and they’ve made shows inspired by visual art, haute couture fashion, Pina Bausch, ballet, and many other things. I think they’re planning to tour their show Smashed in China. There’s a French director called Aurélien Bory who I like a lot. He makes work that isn’t necessarily recognisable as circus, but he works with acrobats and is a juggler himself. One of his most famous shows is Sans Objet, which is a piece for two acrobats and one industrial robot – so on stage you have this huge machine that used to build cars on an assembly line. And then because I saw their show recently I’ll mention Sanja Kosonen and Elice Abonce Muhonen, two Finnish artists who decided to train hair hanging (an old traditional circus discipline) and then to make a full-length performance playing with how the audience responds to this quite gruesome sight of someone being suspended from their hair…

ART.ZIP: 可以為我們介紹一些重要的當代馬戲團或作品嗎?

JE: 這幾年有很多重要的馬戲團和表演,我只能列舉一些我個人喜歡的。英國的甘迪尼雜技團(Grandini Juggling)是在業界活躍了超過20年的團隊,他們善於發明新玩法,他們不只是單純的雜耍,他們的表演結合了不同的藝術形態,視覺藝術、高級時裝訂製、現代舞專家皮娜·鮑許(Pina Bausch)、芭蕾等等,最近他們計劃把他們其中一個表演“搞砸了(Smashed)”帶到中國進行巡演。我還很喜歡法國導演歐瑞利安·博瑞(Aurélien Bory),他廣為人知的作品不全都是馬戲,但是他自己本身就是一名雜技演員。他其中一個最有名的作品叫做“不適用(Sans Objet)”,由兩名雜技演員和一個工業機器人共同演出,在舞台上你可以看到這個曾在流水生產線上用於製造汽車的巨型機器在舞動。最後是最近我看的表演,兩個芬蘭藝術家珊吒·可頌恩(Sanja Kosonen)和愛麗絲·阿本斯·穆霍寧(Elice Abonce Muhonen)正在為頭髮吊掛表演(是傳統馬戲表演的一種)進行訓練和演出,屆時觀眾對這令人毛骨悚然的詭異演出的反應將會十分有趣。


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