Drawing on twenty years experience as a choreographer collaborating in the creation of circus performances in Europe and South America, this paper will explore how a notion of hospitality can be offered as both a philosophy and a framing for the development of contemporary circus language. Written in response to the creative processes underpinning my work with the award winning contemporary circus company eia – CAPAS (2011), InTarsi (2016) - my research focuses on the minutia of acts of exchange between circus bodies during the enmeshing of the different physicalities found in hand to hand acrobatic techniques and released-based forms of dance. It is within the processes of devising collaboratively in circus, where creative tensions emerge, that a notion of hospitality reveals itself as a philosophy for action as well as a generative choreographic tool.
Derrida claims that, “[a]n act of hospitality can only be poetic" (2000:2), a gesture of giving and receiving that is in itself always an act of possible reversibility. For Derrida, hospitality becomes a lens and a means of re-thinking the political and ethical in that which is foreign to the body. In the melding of circus and dance techniques as part of a creative process, the artist encounters estrangement. Bodies of resistance adhere to what Zaccarini refers to in his Circoanalysis, Circus as Death Writing (2009), as “the moment in which years of accumulated embodied knowledge condenses in a ‘tightfisting’ of muscle and mind, the life/death moment where every cell strains to persist, wherein the organism lives most intensely because it is precisely living that is at stake.” In placing attention on how dance comes to circus as ‘other’ - through gentle acts of exchange, teasing textural qualities from ‘tightfisted’ embodiment, furthering the transgression of borders of self – the circus artist activates a philosophy-through-practice that opens up an understanding towards hospitality. Through the culture of encounter, hospitality in its questioning of how we arrive at borders, empowers the potential of difference.
Derrida, J. and Dufoumantelle, A. (2000) Of Hospitality. California: Stanford University Press.
Zaccarini, J.P. (2009) Circus as Death Writing. On-line publication.
- contemporary circus