Transe Express traces its roots to the jesters of the Middle Ages, through the clowns and acrobats who played on temporary stages in the eighteenth century, to the performers who established themselves on the street corners of the twentieth century. Part of the European circus movement in the late 60s and 70s, “Cirque Nouveau” (“new circus”) began as an underground art form that soon began to attract large audiences. The Cirque Nouveau movement developed simultaneously in Europe, Australia and North America. Today, the strongest presence of this creative movement is in France, where performances are featured at city fairs and holiday celebrations, and 400-odd circus schools have evolved.
In response, in part, to the realism of film and most theatrical representation, as well as to the declining popularity of big top, three-ring circuses, as well as the political climate of the 60s, performers began combined traditional circus arts with concepts drawn from the theater to form a new performance style. Clowning, aerial arts, and acrobatics were fused with contemporary storytelling and thematic concerns, treated abstractly rather than literally.
The execution of these principles varies greatly, from lavish spectacles blending dance, music and circus arts, to surreal performances presented by humble ensembles of two or three. The emphasis, however, is always on the visual and sensory rather than on the narrative or linguistic. Cirque Nouveau is body-centered—real people doing real things—with the emphasis on beauty rather than danger. The thrill of the performances is derived from the virtuosity of the performers and the new and surprising combinations of classical physical comedy, large scale visuals and theatricality. The ideals of Cirque Nouveau have influenced many distinct practitioners, including the Cirque du Soleil and, most familiar to CST audiences, James Thiérrée.
– Contributed by the CST Education Department