Sunday, 13 April 2008

Vilanova Regaining its Circus Profile

This weekend, with the Festivalet de Primavera, it is a circus time in Vilanova. As the diminutive of the Catalan word for festival suggests, it is not a grand scale event but it has a symbolic value since it is a chance for this town to gain back the reputation it used to have when we talk about circus in Catalonia. The kind of circus I refer to is, of course, cirque nouveau, i.e. no sad animals lead around in the ring, but a focus on entertainment; acrobatic skills, choreography and humor, all at the same time.

Back in 1997, it was the towns Reus and Vilanova i la Geltrú which started to organize the annual festivals Trapezi. For financial reasons, in 2001, our town decided not to participate, but that resulted in such a strong public protest that it was back already the year after, however, since then with a lower profile. While Reus will celebrate the big “Trapezi – la fira del circ de Catalunya”, May 14-18, with proper performances, “Circ Trapezi/Vilanova”, May 30-June 1, will be a presentation of acrobatic acts and happenings in public places around the town. Our version of Trapezi is true to the European tradition of vagabond artists visiting fairs and marketplaces but, let us be honest, it is a low-key event.

Therefore, the Festivalet de Primavera – in a way a public rehearsal for Trapezi and coming tours during the summer - serves as a reminder about Vilanova's intentions. Most of the artists who participate also live here under the scheme Centre Residència La Vela. This is a permanent meeting point for circus training and production which these days consists of two tents, a number of caravans for the artists to live in and an administrative office. The initiative to La Vela was originally taken by our ajuntament, but last year the Catalan government decided to up-grade the status of circus among cultural expressions and I guess that La Vela was a good starting point, since it already existed. In 2008, the Generalitat will contribute € 520.000 (ten times the amount in 2007) as an investment to improve the quality of the facilities.

Yesterday afternoon (Saturday), we went to the outdoor show by Cruzando el Charco, a Chilean circus company which has just arrived here. Since we appreciated what we saw, but felt that it was much too short, we changed our plans and stayed for the Gala (inside the main tent – this show will be repeated today Sunday at 12.30.) by La Vela’s residents, as well.

The location of the Festivalet adds to the natural attraction of circus, since you are in fact invited to where the artists do not only practise but also live. Surrounded by the typically Mediterranean rural landscape of the Masia d’en Cabanyes, at least my wife and I slowed down and relaxed, although we were only a few hundred meters away from the populated areas of the town.
If not before, so in 2010 when Catalonia’s national centre of circus will open up at Forum in Barcelona, there will be more competition for the money. Still, I hope that that Vilanova will continue to promote this art, not only because I like it, but also because we have some kind of a brand to preserve. What we saw at el Festivalet today were not top class artistic skills, but that does not matter when you come as close to the action as you do here.

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Uns amics de Barcelona no han volgut venir per veure aquest 'festivalet'. No tenen cotxe i pensen que la comunicació en tren amb la nostra ciutat és força complicada. Personalment hi seria d'acord però, clar, això no vull reconèixer en anglès, com és un secret nostre. No tinc res contra en ZP, però que la Maleni seguirà com ministra del Foment...

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