The festival's history
The festival cirqu' is exceptionally connected to the Alten Reithalle Aarau. Thanks to the hall's central location, the idea of the cirqu' was born within its brick walls.
The Alte Reithalle was built for the cavalry in the 19th century. Until 1972 it was used precisely for this purpose and then later for private horseback riding only. Already 50 years ago people would go around saying that, "If you want to ride a horse in the old cavalry hall, you need to join the club NOW, since they will be tearing it down soon".
Fortunately, the Alte Reithalle is still standing and currently being renovated. It will be reopened in 2021 as an adaptable stage for various artistic performances like the theater, the contemporary circus, dances, and concerts.
The purpose of the Hall had long been unclear, and theatrical and cultural groups of Canton Aargau had equally long been fighting for a suitable platform for their artists. Finally in 2011, the theater Tuchlaube Aarau began to use the Alte Reithalle for their summer events. This was a great success thanks to the size and the atmosphere of the hall.
Already in 2012 - the second summer season - a contemporary circus performance, "Mädchen Mädchen" by the group Roikkuva from Aargau, was shown. A year later, Roman Müller and his company Tr'espace performed "ArbeiT" and in 2014 "Le Cercle".
Roman Müller was fascinated by the Alten Reithalle and immediately recognized the building's potential. Since the contemporary circus has always had special place in his life, being an artist himself and considering many of the performers like family, he wanted to create an ambitious contemporary circus festival. He then presented the idea to Peter-Jakob Kelting, the director of the Tuchlaube Theater Aarau, who gladly gave his full support. The contemporary circus finally became a deciding factor in the future plans of the Alte Reithalle.
The festival project started in 2015 with a five-day event and was named cirqu'4 (why start with cirqu'1 when the circus had already appeared in the hall the previous three summers?). That year, the guest performers were the French company Un loup pour l’homme with the piece «Face Nord» and Jörg Müller with both «Mobile» and «c/o».
In 2016, cirqu'5 had already lasted eight days and showed highlights like «4x4: ephemeral architectures» by the British artist Gandini Juggling in collaboration with the Argovian Philharmonics, and Jani Nuutinen with «un cirque plus juste».
By 2017 cirqu'6 had already reached the target duration of ten days and could finally be called a festival in the exact sense of the word. The program included 11 productions, for example «Pour le meilleur et pour le pire» by Cirque Aïtal and «La Cosa» by Claudio Stellato, for a total of 33 performances in front of more than 5000 spectators.
Now, not only is the circus shown in the Alte Reithalle, but in the whole city of Aarau: the Tuchlaube Theater, the City Museum, the Kasernenareal and the train station square are involved in the organization, and for the festival opening day the old town is transformed in an animated stage.
The festival has now become a biannual event. In 2019, cirq'7 ...More than 5000 spectators were present in Aarau and had the opportunity to view a series of unique and sensational performances, like «Le Vide – essai de cirque» by Fragan Gehlker und Alexis Auffray, «VORTEX» by Phia Ménard or «Fidelis Fortibus» by Circus Ronaldo. In addition, the general meeting of the European Network Circostrada took place during the festival for three consecutive days, bringing an exceptional audience to the scene.
Three factors mainly contributed to the festival's success: the fact that the city of Aarau has never before hosted a prestigious festival in the performing arts, the fact that the Alte Reithalle offers a special place apt for new artistical content, and the ongoing rapid development of the contemporary circus in the last several years in Switzerland.
Although several other theatrical stages in Switzerland, like the theater Vidy in Lausanne or the Theaterspektakel in Zürich, have often shown artistic circus productions, the contemporary circus had never been able to establish a solid base in this country. Funding institutions and theaters had often considered the circus as not eligible. In the last years, this assessment has finally changed and the contemporary circus is now included in the Federal Council's new cultural message. The festival cirqu' started at the right time and, thanks to its charme and exeptional quality, it highly contributed to the development of the contemporary circus.
Contemporary Circus Arts Festival, Aarau
The ten-day festival for contemporary circus art cirqu' takes place in June every odd-numbered year. The Alte Reithalle Aarau is the festival center, but productions also take place at other venues in Aarau.
The program includes new, independent and innovative productions in addition to some well-renowned pieces that have shaped the circus all over the world. The program also includes some productions which will be performed for the first time in Switzerland.
Since 2012, the “Alte Reithalle Aarau“ has been a venue for contemporary circus. Since 2015, this unique performance location has hosted the festival cirqu', which not only brings international productions to Aarau but also promotes the Swiss circus scene.
cirqu' Aarau is a member of the European Circostrada network and of the Swiss Association of Swiss Circus Professionals, ProCirque.
The cirqu' team is made up of members of the Association Cirqu' Aarau and the festival’s organizers. We are also supported by the Theater Tuchlaube Aarau and numerous other key partners.
In 2014, Roman Müller had the novel idea to launch a festival for contemporary circus in the “Alten Reithalle in Aarau“. Only one year later cirqu’ was a reality. As artistic director, he works full time for the festival and is known to impress with his new, somewhat crazy creative ideas.
Roman – a juggler by trade – has lived the circus for 20 years. With his company Tr'espace, which he founded in 2002, he performs worldwide and has been awarded numerous international prizes. He was a juror of the European CircusNext Edition 2015/16 and is a ProCirque board member.
Madlaina Bundi-Alder has been on board since the start and as a true blue Aarauer provides us with a special connection to the city. She not only maintains the finances at cirqu', she is also responsible for management and media-marketing.
Madlaina has both a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Communications, and a Master's in Comparative Media Studies both from the University of Lucerne. In 2014, she completed her further education at the Stapferhaus Lenzburg, specializing as a cultural manager. Since then she has worked for various cultural projects. We are happy to say that today she works full time for cirqu'.
Laura Olgiati has been with us from the beginning and is an integral part of the Festival team. Not only is she involved as a producer, but she also supports the entire festival with her in depth knowledge of the European contemporary circus scene.
Laura studied international relations in Geneva before starting and completing training as a cultural manager in London. She has worked for the Kaserne Basel, the Basel Theatre Festival and the Wildwuchs Festival. Between 2013 and 2017, she worked in London at Crying Out Loud, a leading contemporary circus production office in the British and European cultural scene. Today, she is cirqu’s only producer, and is co-managing other cirqu’ projects together with Roman.
Alongside Nik Friedli, Edith Szabò is the technical co-director of the festival.
Since 1994, Edith has worked as light designer, stage technician and technical director at Theater Tuchlaube and Theater Marie. At the moment, she is a freelance technician for theatre, dance, circus and variété shows.
Alongside Edith Szabò, Niklaus Friedli is the technical director for cirqu’ and is the point of contact for all technical matters.
Niklaus trained as a sound engineer (SAE) in Zurich, successfully completing the basic and specialist event technology courses SVTB. Niklaus also completed the basic and specialist course for assessment and achieved the title "Event Specialist EFZ." Between 2007-2018 he worked at the Tuchlaube Theater, first as a theatre technician and after being promoted as technical director. Between 2013-2017 he was also the scenographer & co-director at the company Jungen Marie. Over the last years, he has also worked on stage, light and sound concepts for various freelance groups.
Coordination of Volunteers and Circus School Contact
Since joining cirqu’6 in 2017, Hannes Flück has become a valuable member of the core cirqu’ team and is responsible for the important team of volunteers. He brings with him a flair for organization and the ability to gather and motivate volunteers. He isn't new to the circus: His enthusiasm and fascination with contemporary circus is based on his own experiences in an amateur circus.
Since a very young age, Hannes has shown an interest in archaeology: He studied prehistory and early history, medieval archaeology and ethnology at the University of Basel from 1997-2004 and has been working for various cantonal archaeological projects in Switzerland since graduation. Between 2009-2015 he returned to the University of Basel as an assistant and doctoral student in provincial Roman archaeology. He completed his PHD in 2017.
Ute Classen is a very important advisor for cirqu’. She is an experienced theatre producer and is specialized in contemporary circus, the development of which she has followed meticulously over the past 25 years.
She acts as an interface between artists and organizers and has in depth knowledge of both fields. She not only handles activities as producer but she also acts as a program scout for theatres and festivals. Aided by her extensive network of international contacts, she provides strategic support for artists in administration, production and tour planning.
At cirqu' she is a behind the scenes advisor for many things as well as the contact person for questions and projects requiring international cooperation.
Board of trustees
The Executive Board of the cirqu'Aarau is made up of:
Ernst Jäggli (General Manager City Theatre Langenthal), Nadine Tobler (Head of ThiK Baden) and Olivia Müller (Lawyer at Leiser Meyer Müller in Aarau).
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