Šárka Maršíková: “Circus is love“

I will never forget meeting Šárka Maršíková for the very first time. It was in Paris, 2008, where I had settled to write my diploma thesis on new circus. That year saw the first edition of the international conference Fresh Circus which has grown into one of the circus world’s biggest and most significant events over the past ten years. I met Šárka by chance, we attended the same seminar. I was sitting in the front row, when a girl at the back of the room took hold of the mic and said in a strong voice (in English): “Hello, my name is Šárka Maršíková and I‘m here in Paris on behalf of Cirqueon.” Two years later we were standing in the hall of the former stock in Nusle where Cirqueon opened as a professional circus centre in 2010. Over the ten years, thanks to the joint effort of countless enthusiasts and professionals, Cirqueon has become one of the most important European circus organisations providing professional circus training and courses for kids ad adults, as well as focusing on social circus. With Šárka, who has been the head of Cirqueon for six years now,  we reflected on the long way the centre has come since its opening.

Šárka Maršíková. Photo: David Konečný.

Šárka Maršíková. Photo: David Konečný.

Where and how was the idea of founding Cirqueon born?

It was born very late at night, or rather early morning, in a bar at the Letní Letná festival. Back then, we looked up to all the foreign companies and we constantly heard Czech artists saying they wanted to created the same way. We found the name immediately, David Kašpar and Ondřej Cihlář came up with it. Cirqueon fuses the English and French versions of the word “circus“.

Where did you start with these activities?

Cirqueon’s first courses started under the auspices of the Cultural Centre Zahrada. We wanted our circus centre to be important for professional artists, to have an educational and social outreach, and we also wanted to offer circus training for all levels, targeting kids and teenagers. We simply wished our project had spanned more dimensions and levels – the educational level, social level, professional training level, information and research level. And we are still holding to these priorities today.

Behind all this, there is the fascination with new circus. Do you remember why new circus enthralled you so much fifteen years ago?

I’m the type of person who never goes mainstream. In contemporary circus I can feel the freedom, risk, independence and that has always fascinated me about the genre. As a theatre producer and production manager, I‘ve always enjoyed projects that were somehow associated with physical theatre, site-specific performance, projects that were crazy and broke everyday stereotypes. Circus has just come my way., entered my life. And once you taste it, you’ll never want to let go of it. Circus is love.

Performance group - final show. Photo: Archiv Cirqueon.

Czech contemporary circus has enjoyed a powerful decade. Over those ten years, it has shifted from the margins to the centre of public attention. A number of organisations, festivals and companies have emerged not only in Prague, but also in the regions. Contemporary circus has become mainstream. How do you see this evolution in relation to what is happening in Cirqueon?

I see it as immense responsibility. In a short span of time, a field has established itself on the Czech scene that has not only become professional but also attracted lots of fans. For example, the festival Letní Letná sells about 45 thousand tickets, new circus shows at Prague’s Jatka 78 and La Fabrika are sold-out, too. Cirqueon receives more than 600 regular courses applications per year and sadly, we have to turn down a lot of circus-loving kids and their parents. Long story short, new circus can boast big numbers – the number of professionals as well as spectators is increasing, and we are still at the beginning of the progress.

 

Where is Czech new circus right now?

I think we are experiencing a breaking point right now. As for me, I must say I’m feeling a bit weary and I think the field must move a bit forward. It means the conditions for the development of new circus in the Czech Republic must improve so that we (and other professional artists) can apply the know-how we’ve gained in the past ten years.  It’s obvious that we want to keep on growing – the Losers Cirque Company will have their own theatre, Cirk La Putyka and Jatka 78 are still fighting for their space at the Prague Market, and Cirqueon is striving for a larger building. And if it all goes wrong, there’s a danger new circus in the Czech Republic will cease to exist and we will „only” admire foreign professionals. But I believe we won’t let this happen. We will fight for what we want because a new generation of artists is emerging and the industry is really growing. People all over the country are interested in new circus shows.

What does it take to be the director of a centre for contemporary circus?

Firstly, it means a great responsibility towards the organisation and the people who support us, not only financially. It also means a responsibility towards the people who work for Cirqueon with all their heart. I must also be able to orientate myself in the domain of Czech legal and tax systems which are changing all the time.

I know you as a very creative person, overflowing with ideas. Are you able to use them in your job?

The truth is I have many ideas and the moment we manage to get funds, there’s no way back and I must convert them into a reality. So having many ideas means a lot of work. The point is that Cirqueon has grown into such dimensions that it’s impossible for one person to juggle the functions of a CEO and artistic director; it’s a schizofrenic situation because it means handling two full-time jobs. That’s why on our 10th anniversary I’m withdrawing from the position of Cirqueon’s CEO and I remain “only” the artistic director. We will have an amazing director, because I’ve won Eliška Jevičová for Cirqueon. We started as an organisation with an annual turnover of 100,000 CZK, now it’s 10 million and it’s not fun.

Cirquonauti - Passers-by. Photo: Martin Petrásek.

Seven years ago, you came up with the idea of starting an international new circus festival, and you did found such an event in Prague some time later. Why another festival in Prague? What did you miss in the new circus field?

I wouldn’t say I founded it. It just emerged from the discussions and meetings with the dramaturge and current director of Palace Akropolis Petr Boháč. First, we designed a creative project called Cirkopolis vol. I and it got an immense response. So we built on it with the Circopolis festival. Of course, we did reflect on the fact that Letní Letná, a new circus festival, had grown into a huge event and started to invite predominantly big companies. I have always been touched by club and authorial scene, at that time I was also a member of the international jury for the project CircusNext. It is a platform which supports progressive, innovative circus projects representing the new wave of authorial productions.

I remember Cirqueon’s opening night as if it was yesterday. I met jugglers Aleš Hrdlička and Filip Zahradnický for the first time – they were about thirteen. Today, they are both graduates from professional circus schools. Their journey towards circus started in Cirqueon. What does it mean to you?

For me, Aleš and Filip embody the history of Cirqueon. They both began in the Cultural Centre Zahrada, with their teacher Adam Jarchovský (one of the two members of the company Bratři v tricku and a teacher in Cirqueon). Both boys then continued in Cirqueon and they were our first graduates who decided to enroll at professional circus schools. In fact, they proved that it was possible and thus motivated the next generation of young people who attended courses in Cirqueon.

 

Šárka Maršíková (born 1981)

She studied clinical and toxicological analysis at the Faculty of Science, Charles University, and theatre production at DAMU. She has been always interested in independent art and non-traditional theatre forms. Since 2006, she has participated in the production of the festival Letní Letná and thanks to this experience, she fell in love with new circus. In 2008/2009, she co-founded CIRQUEON – Centre for Contemporary Circus, which opened in Nusle, Prague, in 2010.

 

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