When The Circus Came To Town

Cuban National Circus, Arrecife, October 2019

You may have seen the elegant tents pegged on the Rambla Medular in Arrecife or noticed one of the scores of posters all over the city centre announcing that, for most of October, Cuba’s National Circus had been in town. Whatever the old romantic tales might have us believe, becoming a circus artist is not as simple as running away from home to star as a daring young man on a flying trapeze. Nor can any starry-eyed girl simply flee domestic drudgery to join a touring circus company as a ring-rider of silver stallions.

In Cuba, at least, all members of the island’s National Circus have first to complete the academic course work compulsory to all students. Only then will they be considered for a rigorous four year training programme as a circus artist. Under its title of Circuba, the National Circus of Cuba currently employs around twenty qualified artists aged between nineteen and thirty.

Circuba offers ´an invitation to joy and a remedy against darkness and daily stress.´ In fact, the advertising as we entered the tent promised us that we were about to be ´transported directly to the wonderful and radiant island of Cuba.´

It was certainly true that what we saw tonight was a million miles away from the Chipperfields´ or Billy Smart’s circus of our own childhood days. As Dave Davis of The Kinks said in his first, and only solo hit, The Death Of A Clown, ´nobody wants lions tamed anymore.´

So, this was not a circus of wild animals or prancing horses but was instead a more modern circus of aerial work, rope work and trapeze work and of gymnastics and human pyramids as high as those in Egypt. There was a footballer demonstrating Ronaldo’s step-overs and tricks at the speed of light using his digit finger on each hand to spin balls at different speeds. Not a ball was dropped, not a hoop missed as every practitioner in each discipline showed themselves to be so well rehearsed that it all seemed spontaneous. Everything was performed against a live musical and vocal accompaniment, all to those irresistible Cuban beats.

We were reminded time and again of Skylight Circus in Rochdale, UK, which is a similarly (local) government funded operation and not only puts on similarly spectacular shows but also engages the disaffected, disenfranchised and physically disabled of the community into life affirming courses of circus skills.

Circuba even had a vibrant, not to say sexy, dance troupe who gyrated and contorted themselves to those sudden changes of tempo in Cuban music, and by them we were also reminded of Can’t Dance Can, a local revenue funded organisation which Dee and I served as trustees. So whilst I wasn’t seeing a circus I could equate to those I witnessed as a child, I was certainly seeing skills and vitality I associated with two of the best arts groups I ever worked with in the UK.

It is too simplistic to bemoan any loss of tradition when those traditions have been replaced by improvements that render the whole show a safer, but still far from risk-free, affair. The big top was still a billowing striped tent that dominated the skyline, with a bright and colourful entrance way with vendors of candy floss, pop-corn and ice cream there close at hand.

Yes, the ticket-taker photographed on his mobile phone the tickets we had printed out at home after ordering them by plastic card at some anonymous on line site, and although I’m not sure in what way, I am prepared to concede this must signal progress of some kind. These tickets were purchased at an advance discounted price of only nine euros, and would prove to be incredible value.

As we followed a tented tunnel into the arena (a bit like walking down the players entrance on to the pitch at the pitifully named University of Bolton stadium where that town’s grand old Bolton Wanderers play), we noticed that this three ring circus was actually a one ring circus. Tonight there would be no smell of greasepaint either, as clowns do not make-up anymore, but there was likely to be a roar of the crowd as hundreds of people were streaming in alongside us.
A radio announcer told us the show was about to start, and our fellow circus fans burst into a round of applause that was immediately drowned out by one of the loudest blasts of music I have ever heard.

The show was staged against this music throughout the ninety minutes duration apart from whenever the strange, childlike, clownish central character took charge. He had no words, communicating with audience and fellow circus artists alike, through a weird whistle, so rhythmic that we could almost tell what he was saying.

The problem with me giving you clues as to who he reminded me of is that those clues would be so culturally specific. Who apart from those from the UK would know what a Krankie was? There is only really the UK and Albania would have any idea of what I mean by Norman Wisdom style humour, and maybe even only those who remember Sunday Night At the London Palladium in black and white would know what I mean when I describe him as having a Max Wall walk. In fact, he was an absolute dead ringer for Cockney comedian Lee Nelson who starred a couple of times on Live From The Apollo which means you’ll be able to catch him throughout the year on repeats on Dave !

This guy, part clown, part narrator (without words) was all those and more. This was a comedy genius worth the price of the ticket on his own. Picking ´volunteers´ (who weren’t) from the audience he cajoled them into making fools of themselves whilst excelling their own expectations, and ours, at the same time. He led them through skipping rope routines that defied gravity and belief and had them doing the moonwalk and Fred Astaire steps as if they had been doing so all their lives.

Throughout this whole circus performance, though, he engaged with their circus artists in their own acts and so he pole-danced, he juggled, he gave a gymnastic routine, was an integral part of the human pyramids and held them together in the same way as he held together the entire evening: with a sure footedness and lightness of touch bellied by his arrogant, cocky, cheeky and seemingly couldn’t care less manner.

In fact he was a consummate professional, as were all his colleagues, ensuring that in the audience candy floss became entangled, popcorn spilled and ice cream melted whilst people sat open mouthed, unable to believe what they were seeing on stage.

As Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber once said, and David Essex sang, ´Oh What A Circus, Oh What A Show.´ Nevertheless, even as the caravans pack up and leave town, there is still much to look forward to on the arts and cultural agenda before the end of the year.

Forthcoming events November / December 2019.

Two excellent visual arts exhibitions, at The Cabildo, remain open to the public. Insularia and Grabado En Linea each offer an opportunity to see artefacts rarely put on public display. The Cabildo is open from 9.oo am until 2.00 pm from Monday to Friday for viewing by free admission. Worth checking on Miguel’s what’s on feature on the Lanzarote Information web site, however, or via the Cabildo

Meanwhile, there are also two intriguing exhibitions collected at Cic El Almacen in Arrecife.

Que nos zurzan by Sandra March runs from Mondays to Fridays 10.00 to 21.00, and on Saturdays from 10.00 to 2.00 pm.

We usually hide the scars left by wounds in our body, because they are imperfections that socially move away from the ideal of canonized beauty and that we identify with that of a white body, naked, hairless and unmarked. However, from a symbolic point of view, wounds can also be interpreted as traces of biographical events lived or suffered, traces that should help us to reinterpret our past in a more free and unprejudiced way. Starting from different pieces and installations, Sandra March tells us about our scars such as seams or left-handedness that testify to our history.

Parallel activities include guided tours of the exhibition with the lively and informative Estefanía Camejo: Friday, October 25, 18:00 h.; Saturday, November 9, 11:00 h.; Tuesday, December 10, 6 p.m.; Saturday, January 11, 11:00h. All audiences. Free entry, until capacity is completed. Presentation of the Artist’s Book: Thursday, January 9, 2020, 19:00h. All audiences. Free entry, until capacity is completed.

Simultaneously, this incredible gallery space and restaurant is also holding El Dedo Índice by Pepe Vera. The index finger, the second finger of the hand, is the one used in almost all cultures to point, indicate, select, choose and also, curiously, to press the camera trigger, as an action associated with showing us the way of the gaze, a look at the that marks the inner self at the same time. With the index finger we decide and mark the line to where we can go, the limit and, therefore, the temptation to cross it as well. The index finger is, in this sense, an unattainable project, a search that does not cease, that seeks to give body to the incessant to look and observe everything that crosses in the path of Pepe Vera.

Parallel activities include guided tours of the exhibition with Estefanía Camejo: Friday, October 25, 18:00 h.; Saturday, November 9, 11:00 h.; Tuesday, December 10, 6 p.m.; Saturday, January 11, 11 a.m. All audiences. Free entry, until capacity is completed. Presentation of the Catalogue: Thursday, January 9, 2020, 19:00 h. All audiences. Free entry, until capacity is completed.

There is plenty of music to hear between now and the new year, even as we await confirmed details from the various choirs that will be giving carol performances as always at this time of year.

Meanwhile, though, look out for SU MAJESTAD, LA ORQUESTA Proyecto Sigue la Música, as part of the 36º Festival de Música de Canarias. This will take place at Teatro Víctor Fernández Gopar “El Salinero” in Arrecife on Tuesday 19th November at 8.30 pm : Admission is Free until full

Then, The Canarias Big Band will play behind vocalist Gerardo Nunez at the same venue on Thursday 21st November at 8.30 pm with admission only 10 euro.

The following night sees Ainara LeGardon playing live at Cic El Almacen on Friday 22nd November at 9.00 for the incredible admission price of only five euro. Ainara is an independant vocalist, guitarist and artist with more than 25 years of experience. He has developed a prolific canon in the field of rock, improvisation and experimental music, both individually and as a participant in various collectives.

Don’t miss a special contemporary dance event at Teatro Víctor Fernández Gopar “El Salinero” on: Saturday 23rd Noviember at 8.30 pm when Compañía Eva Guerrero perform El Fin De La Cosas. The admission price is only 12€.

Eva Guerrero’s dance company presents The End of Things with a visual reflection on how we relate, the decisions we make and how they affect the person next to us. With live music composed by Ainara LeGardon, this show speaks of that moment when you feel everything turn upside down but you keep going forward as if nothing happened, that moment when you lose your rhythm. It speaks of inertia and headwork, lack of control, of the animal, of what we would like to happen and what is actually going on. This explores the fine line between what we conceal and what we reveal in a performance that, thematically, sounds much akin to the Falls visual arts exhibition a year or two ago at Cic EL Almacen by Rachel Plans.

There is one of those unfortunate clashes of events on Saturday 30th November, albeit in two very different fields of music. Latonius & The Praise Theory, at Teatro Víctor Fernández Gopar “El Salinero” promise R&B, Soul and Gospel, for and an admission fee of 20 euros for a show that begins at 8.30 pm.

On the same night, however, there will be a performance by a section of The Lanzarote Ensemble at the church in Tinajo, at 8.00 pm and admission here is free until full.

We move into December with ballet from Ballet de Moscu El Cascanueces at Teatro Víctor Fernández Gopar “El Salinero” on Thursday 5th December at 8.30 pm. Customers should consult with the Box Office in advance about the varying tiers of pricing and / or check with to see The Moscow Ballet presents The Nutcracker, a Christmas classic.

A wonderful dream began in 1989 when director Timur Fayziev, soloist of the best Russian companies since his teens, founded the Moscow Ballet, his goal: to share and spread his passion for the world of ballet.

The Nutcracker is one of the most appreciated works by the public, with the unsurpassed music of the most admired composer of ballet music: the great Pyotr Tchaikovsky. It is a work full of fantasy; The protagonists Clara and the Nutcracker transport us to a fantastic tale full of adventures and delight us with sublime dances thanks to the original choreography of Marius Petipá and Lev Ivanov. Today, the Moscow Ballet prides itself on the strength of its experience, it is 25 years of uninterrupted international tours. His success lies in adding quality, commitment, passion for and with the world of ballet. On stage, the artists will be led by the soloists Cristina Terentiev.

Two nights later, on Saqturday 7th December we have Ls Tempestad, Ciclo Class_ik Lanzarote de la Fundación Nino Díaz again at Teatro Víctor Fernández Gopar “El Salinero.” Admission is fifteen € for a piece that sounds to be both educational and entertaining in its presentation.

As we move towards the festive season there is Cada loco con su tema by Vocal Siete, performing at Explanada del Mercado de Abastos, in Haría at 9.00 pm in another event that, like so many, is free until full.

This information is correct at the time of writing but it is always worth verifying if you are thinking of attending an event. Check with the venue or on Miguel’s what’s on column. Here at all across the arts will continue to try to keep you up to date with our news and previews, tell you what you missed or confirm what you saw with our reviews and where possible even bring you occasional interviews with leading players.