Cirkus Cirkör's History
The first 10 years
Tired of dreaming big and living small, we decided to go for broke and make the dream a reality.
Cirkör is a play on the French words 'Cirque' and 'Coeur', circus and heart. Cirkus Cirkör started as a non-profit organisation in 1995. The first show, Skapelsen, premiered at the Stockholm Water Festival.
Cirkus Cirkör is today the most prominent circus company in the Nordics, with shows on tour worldwide and circus training for people of all ages and backgrounds. Everything began when Tilde Björfors and a group of artists who had fallen in love with contemporary circus took their first step towards the dream.
1995: From dream to non-profit
There are hardly any reasons for contemporary circus artists to stay in Sweden in the early 90s. But after having organised a 24-hour festival at Orionteatern in Stockholm with 200 young artists and creators on stage, more and more people feel compelled to stay here and build something new.
Some artists decided to stay in Sweden and started creating a show: Skapelsen (The Creation).
Karl wants the performance to be free from linear narration, Janne cares about the theatrical and poetic elements, Henrik wants more Rock n’ Roll.Tilde about Skapelsen
Skapelsen & Ur kaos föds allt
Skapelsen, directed by Magnus Lundbladh, premieres in the Royal Dramatic Theatre's tent at the Stockholm Water Festival in 1995. We are instantly welcomed into the international circus family thanks to the Australian circus group Circus Oz, the main guest act at the festival. They sent their audience to our stage and recommended Skapelsen to the great contemporary circus festival Tollwood in Munich the following year.
Artists in Skapelsen: Henrik Agger, Savanna Agger Forss, Johan Adling, Martin Bejting, Tilde Björfors, Rolf Brattström, Torbjörn Brokvist, Johan Edding, Magdalena Entell, Maja Forslund, Irya Gmeyner, Joel Jedström, Vidar Jedström, Siri Hamari, Minh Tam Kaplan, Nalle Laanela, Niklas Lindgren, Ann-Charlotte Lindqvist, Magnus Lundblad, Ylva Magnusson, Sebastian Melander, Miriam Rivera Godoy, Stefan Schöning, Annika Thore, Karl Stets, Jan Unestam.
Skapelsen evolved into our next piece when ten artists, six musicians, and two technicians developed the performance, and Skapelsen became Ur Kaos Föds Alt (Everything is born from chaos). We perform over 70 shows for sold-out houses all over the country.
The next step is to build an organisational body. Together, the creators of Skapelsen founded the non-profit organisation Cirkus Cirkör. Cirkör’s objectives and statutes state the will to establish contemporary circus as an art form in Sweden, artistically and pedagogically, develop and increase the possibilities of contemporary circus culture, put Sweden on the world map of contemporary circus, and inspire and be inspired by young people and street culture.
1996: 40 000 want to train circus!
Following the touring, there is an increased demand for circus training. We arrange circus schools and open circus training at Stockholm House of Culture, and during six summer weeks, over 40,000 visitors show up. After this summer, we realise we are not the only ones missing the art form in Sweden. Cirkus Cirkör's passion for pedagogy has been alive ever since.
1998: Super Hero Success
Together with film- and music video director Jonas Åkerlund, we nurture a common dream: an enormous outdoor performance. With too small a budget, no staff and no backing from a production company, we decided to go for it.
Super Cirkör, Under the mighty Western bridge, opened during Stockholm’s year as the European Capital of Culture. Film shown on a giant screen, motorcycles, and 30 circus artists require a stage that does not exist in Stockholm. We covered the Western Bridge in canvas, built a giant grandstand, parked caravans there for international artists to stay in, and opened the best bar that summer!
The venture is enormous, and bankruptcy feels impending more than once. But before the premiere, Jonas Åkerlund's music video for Madonna is released, and the show suddenly has the world's hottest director. The audience finds their way - people flock under the bridge every night, and Cirkus Cirkör has become generally known.
Tightrope walking in a wheelchair
We started our first circus courses for children and young people with disabilities. This branch of activity grows and develops. Circus educators, who want to discover what every child wants and can do unhindered by prejudices, refuse to read the children’s diagnoses before the training begins. At first, this raises resistance amongst the adults closest to the children. But when a boy in a wheelchair starts tightrope walking, the scepticism amongst the adults disappears.
2000: A Home in Botkyrka
Cirkör replaced the city centre with the suburbs and moved to Alby! Northern Europe’s most modern circus halls are inaugurated with a circus carnival and ribbon-cutting by the Prime Minister. Cirkör House becomes our base and home, and we fill the house with circus. We accept the first class of students for a three-year contemporary circus programme at S:t Botvid’s Upper Secondary School. The professional training programme Cirkuspiloterna, which we started as early as 1997, also moves in with us.
With the blessing of the Municipality, we began to invade schools in Botkyrka to reach out to our new neighbours and the local community. Circus artists and musicians with circus wagons, trucks, and a circus exhibition invade each school one day at a time. They occupy the corridors and classrooms, take over the lessons and let the teachers be an artist on a bed of nails.
The international breakthrough finally came the same year with the performance Trix. In collaboration with Orionteatern in Stockholm, the director Lars Rudolfsson and the band Urga, we created the performance Trix. After a sold-out season at Orionteatern, we begin our first major world tour. The Trix tour continued for two years, and in 2001, we achieved another dream – to perform at the most famous venue for contemporary circus, Parc de la Villette in Paris.
2002: Circus & High Culture
A national stage belongs to everyone - even a circus from suburbia. We found two challenges in one: to interpret Shakespeare's love tragedy Romeo and Juliet with as little text and as much circus as possible and to reduce the distance between the gilded auditorium at the Royal Dramatic Theatre and the concrete buildings of northern Botkyrka. Pretty soon, actors from the Royal Theatre trained with our artists in the circus hall, and we had buses ready to take the schoolchildren from Botkyrka to the premiere. Romeo and Juliet is one of Cirkus Cirkör's and the Royal Dramatic Theatre's greatest cow-pullers. All the performances are sold out for two seasons, and the production travels to Vienna for guest performances.
In 2002, we were asked to organise the divertissement at the internationally televised Nobel Banquet at the Stockholm City Hall. Nobel Laureates happily share the applause with balloon men and acrobats and talk about intuition and creativity as the primary sources of their scientific discoveries.
2005: Circus to the Academy
To lobby for Swedish university status for the circus artist education program is not a rapidly resolved challenge. After seven years of work, the Ministry of Education and the Cabinet Office made their final decision. In 2005, Cirkuspiloterna was resurrected as a tertiary programme at the University College of Dance in Stockholm.
After four years of preparatory work and dialogue with the Swedish Arts Council, Stockholm County Council and the municipalities in the Stockholm region, Cirkus Cirkör became a regional artistic institution in 2005. The institutionalisation is topped off with Cirkör's Tilde Björfors receiving Sweden's (and maybe the world's) first professorship in contemporary circus at the University College of Dance.