Created in 2010 partly to tie in with and promote the new circus arts programme at the codarts conservatoire in Rotterdam, Circusstad is a one-week festival that puts on indoor work in two of the city's major theatres, plus a programme of open air and tented performance that all happens in a giant square in the city centre. The festival has a programming team that runs the spectrum from commercial to experimental producers and agents, and the work that gets chosen covers a similarly broad range – but you could say perhaps that, on the whole, it leans towards productions with a rough energy and aesthetic; work that's young, in a way, and not too poetic, and very cool.
In 2011 guaranteed hits of the programme are Race Horse Company's Petit Mal, at this point a world-conquering (or Europe-conquering) super-success, and Poetry in Motion's simple and touching Undermän – which would perhaps be a good accompanying piece for Cie Ea Eo's piece about friendship and diminishing kinospheres, M2. For exceptional (and sometimes very weird) skills, plus a raw enthusiasm and love of showmanship that sometimes overrides the afterthoughts of dramaturgy and structure (who needs them?), there's Circolombia's Urban. For a cooler (/colder) aesthetic try Circa's C!rca, a collection of the best bits from the Australian company's repertoire of ultra-contemporary circus. Sideshow is intrigued also by a couple of the in-progress, collaborative and informal projects from codarts: Café Perdu, a twenty-minute preview piece from course students that revolves around the songs of Serge Gainsbourg, plus a couple showings of work devised by circus students joining forces with hip-hop artists and freerunners.
« We use two theatres – one is a venue of 700 seats, the other has two spaces with 700 and 150 seats. And then outside it's a massive square that's actually the roof of an underground parking lot, so we have this restriction that we can have no more than 300 kilos per square metre and we have to use self-supporting big tops or small big tops. It's really an urban environment, and we look for performance that fits the city: stuff that's got a rough side to it, that's not too sweet. It should be a bit edgy; fresh and clean. I think that's what works in Rotterdam.
We do crossover projects because there's no circus culture yet but Rotterdam is really strong in freerunning and hip-hop. I see a lot of relations between those forms and circus – there are lots of differences, but they tend to attract independent people with strong minds, and so we connected them. Last year, in 2010, students from the circus academy joined with freerunners and dancers to create a presentation, and the great thing that happened is the circus academy hired the people from the hip-hop house to teach and they're going to work with the freerunners in their Christmas presentation. I'm surprised that it's happened so fast, but it's great and something we'll continue. »
Maaike van Langen, Circusstad Artistic Director (February 2011)