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The festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain currently ranks among the most prestigious circus showcases. It was founded in 1977 to provide the opportunity for young circus artists to present their art to an international jury. Hundreds of artists from all around the world apply for the participation in the competition, with dozens of them eventually competing in Cirque Phénix in Paris. The 41st edition (30 January – 2 February) saw the performance of Czech acrobat Filip Zahradnický for the first time. He brought Special Price Académie Fratellini and Special Price from the festival jury. The awards are an international success not only for Filip but for Czech contemporary circus in general. Veronika Štefanová met Filip Zahradnický after his return from Paris.

How did you actually come up with the idea to participate in the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain?

One of my professional dreams was to get to the festival. I was inspired by many excellent jugglers who have been at the festival and succeeded. Moreover, Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain is one of a few festivals with a competition included which provides space for contemporary circus. The others – like the one in Monte Carlo – focus rather on the traditional circus. Apart from the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain, I was intrigued by the Swiss festival Young Stage, focused on young progressive acrobats. Yet I managed to get to Paris for the first time and I thought I would give it a try.

What does the application to Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain involve?

The application itself – the textual part – was not demanding at all: it was about one page of basic data and information. The video attached to the application was more important as it decided about my participation.

When you received the confirmation letter from the festival, how did you start preparing?

At first, I gathered information from my friends-jugglers, who have participated in Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain, about the course of the event, their impressions and the way to prepare for it. The answer was I should enjoy it! It was the answer that surprised me, but they were right in the end. It is important not to get crazy, not to take it too seriously and to play it call, although you know thousands of viewers in the tent (about 3,000) watch you as well as those watching TV. And I truly enjoyed it as I met great people at the festival. All competitors behaved really nice to each other, there was great atmosphere backstage, we supported each other, and the festival team was incredibly willing and nice.

What about the preparations right before the beginning of the festival and the festival alone?

It took four days before everything was rehearsed and prepared. It was necessary for every contestant to rehearse their performance on the stage in order to feel the space, which is about 15x10 meters – a truly big stage. The festival was divided into Show A and Show B, which means that 24 contestants were divided into two groups with 12 people and two blocks. Show A started on Thursday, acrobats from Show B performed on Friday and all of us played twice on Saturday – in the afternoon and evening. We were waiting for results until two a.m., then came a person, holding a piece of paper in his hand and I found my name there, which meant I could also perform on Sunday with all the other award-winners in Cirque Phénix.

What were your feelings when you first entered the ring in Cirque Phénix?

It was more relaxed than I expected. One of the reasons was that we all worked as one team. Each of us wanted the performance to be successful that even we as the audience could enjoy it. Moreover, there are several traditions associated with the festival, like a flag run at the opening I participated in with the Czech flag. We did not take this part of the festival super seriously.

The 41st Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain saw your performance Vermilion. This was your graduate performance at AMoC in Copenhagen. You are still working on it and improving it. What shape did you present in Paris?

The juggling performance Vermilion is based on manipulation with circles I use to juggle and transform into a stylized puppet. The performance is now 7 minutes long and there was special live music at the festival, which means that musicians learned the original piece I sent them and accompanied me live at the festival. I made up the legend with Vermilion as a red mythical bird from Chinese mythology. The bird keeps flying and never lands on the ground, which is a great parallel to juggling because objects should not fall on the ground either.

What artistic challenges are to come in 2020?

On March 6-23 I will be performing in Jatka78 in Memories of Fools, Cirk La Putyka’s original performance from Berlin. I have also decided to work on my solo performance, which should be about 45 minutes long and I would love to stage in both indoors and outdoors. I will also rehearse new production with Thomas Monckton, I got into his team thanks to an audition. There will be acrobats and performers from Great Britain, Italy, Slovenia, and New Zealand. The premiere will be on 1 October 2020.

Filip Zahradnický is a Czech contemporary circus performer and juggler. The journey to the contemporary circus was rather fortuitous and long. The first step was when he was 13 when he first attended the juggling course in KC Zahrada. Since 2010 he attended the Centre for Contemporary Circus CIRQUEON, where he kept improving his juggling skills, as well as acrobatics, acting, and motion. In 2014 he enrolled in The Academy of Modern Circus (AMoC) in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he was inspired by the experience of the leading Scandinavian jugglers, teachers with experience from the prestigious Jacques Lecoq school, and others. In 2018 he graduated with Vermilion and has toured in Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, and Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain. He has participated in some Czech and international projects. Since 2012 he has been a member of the contemporary circus company Cink Cink Cirk and has performed at festivals in Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Latvia, Poland, and other countries. His projects include performances at CIRCLES at the CIRCA festival in Auch, France, many performances with the charity organization Magiciens du Monde in French hospitals and institutes. He has participated in the social and circus project in Mardin, Turkey, Bearded Ladies with TinCan Company in Odense, Denmark, or Prague Days in Berlin with MIME Prague.

author of the interview: Veronika Štefanová