The graduates: ESAC final-year students defy gravity

As happens every year, the final-year students of the Ecole Supérieure des Arts du Cirque (ESAC) present their graduation show, Exit, at Les Halles. It’s the final step in their training before they enter the professional world. Meet four of the artists about to take flight.

1620 Esac Camille
© Saskia Vanderstichele

Camille Judic

Camille Judic’s (France, 24 years old) first idea for her graduation performance was to draw her inspiration from Freud’s theory of the unconscious, playing on the balance between the id, the ego, and the superego. “Through work and experimentation, the concept evolved. Circus is a living art form. I kept the idea of different personalities, but I wanted it to tell the audience a story.” Camille started out quite late, taking a circus module at her college in Vannes, in Brittany. “I started out with aerial silks. The first time I was onstage, I felt transformed. My body buzzed with every movement.” After attending the ACaPA in Tilburg, in Holland, she chose aerial straps. “The equipment leaves your body a lot of room to move. It’s just an attachment on your wrists. It’s a tool that gives you a lot of control from the ground. It’s also very physical, like aerial dance. Because I repeat the movements every day, I no longer need to concentrate. They are like any other movement for me. The technique is just a tool for conveying other things.” She is in no hurry, optimistically planning her future, step by step. In July, she is running classes at a festival of aerial dance, after which she will be directed by a Dutch choreographer, along with another aerial straps artist. As well as performing, Camille also used her sewing machine to make her stage costume and those of six of her classmates. “It’s something I really enjoy. When I’m too old and my body has had enough, I’ll set up as a costumier!”

1620 Esac Luca
© Saskia Vanderstichele

Luca Lugari

Luca Lugari (Italy, 27 years old) presents a performance in which he juggles with three clubs. “I like creating a relationship between myself and the objects. Onstage, the clubs become characters with which I convey different emotional states.” Hanging out in parks with his friends, he started juggling rather than playing football. He would practise in his room with three lemons. “I always loved that feeling when you manage to keep three objects in the air. It’s very powerful. Juggling leaves you a lot of freedom; it’s like dance, you create movements.” After Modena, he went to Turin to take classes at the FLIC school, where he never deviated from his preferred discipline. “I like being onstage, it’s always a challenge. You have to cope. There are days when it comes easily and others when it doesn’t go so well. There is no magic formula.” At the ESAC, he learned to organise his training and to put together a performance. In the future, he sees himself more as a creator than as a performer. This summer, he will go back to Italy, returning to a street theatre company that he set up with a few friends. “I like the rapport between the audience and the artists. You are on the same level, which makes interaction and participation easier. The circus has its own language. You create images like metaphors that you share with the audience, and that each person can relate to their own experience so they can travel inside their own heads. Unlike in theatre, you are not telling a story from beginning to end, you are telling a thousand.”

1620 Esac Mikayla
© Saskia Vanderstichele

Mikayla Dinsdale

In creating her performance, Mikayla Dinsdale (USA/Canada, 22 years old) delved into chaos theory, injecting it with a childlike energy and a lot of imagination. “I fill my circus performances with joy, fun, and amazement. It’s an art form that takes you out of the ordinary. If it doesn’t, I don’t see the point.” To start with, the young American learned by herself and in preparatory classes after school. Very quickly, she was drawn to aerial performance. She worked hard on her technique and chose the hoop to have a better chance of being accepted into the school in Brussels. Arriving in Europe was an eye-opening experience. It was a total culture shock. “I come from Fairfax, a little town north of San Francisco. There is almost no circus culture there. People only know the big names like Barnum & Bailey or Cirque du Soleil. Fortunately, I have family living in Canada, where I was able to see more interesting shows.” Her four years at the ESAC have shown her how much work is involved in learning to do this job. “When I saw the videos of my performance at the exam, I was amazed. It completely surpassed what I was capable of doing when I arrived.” Right now, she is happy but tired. “For the last few years, my life has been all about circus and school. Now, I need to take a step back and go home to California. I’m not sure what I want to do afterwards. Cabaret, work with a small troupe, or create my own project. There are so many possibilities.”

1620 Esac Rocio
© Saskia Vanderstichele

Rocio Aimé Garrote

Rocio Aimé Garrote’s (Argentina, 25 years old) performance holds a mirror up to her audience. “My starting point was who I am, where I come from, and what I have done. It’s also about what has been won and what has been lost. I added colours, rhythms, and other touches that make up a circus performance.” She also drew inspiration from music, which played a big part in developing the performance. “I worked with a musician. I also like to develop pieces in silence, but when I find the right music, it pushes me to go further.” Rocio came to the circus quite late, at 18 and almost by chance, when she accompanied a friend to an aerial silks class. When she arrived in Buenos Aires, she hadn’t yet made her mind up between theatre and circus. She started out with aerial equipment before choosing Chinese pole. “It’s usually only practiced by men because it requires a lot of strength, but you also need to be supple. Aerial equipment adapts to your body, but the Chinese pole doesn’t move, so it’s the body that must adapt. If you make a wrong movement, you fall.” She is not planning to return to Argentina, where there aren’t a lot of opportunities for circus artists. She has plenty of projects lined up over the coming months. “Since I started as a circus artist, new opportunities come up every year. I am working on a show with another girl from the ESAC, an acrobat. I have also started a Chinese pole duo with a guy in second year, with whom I have already performed at a few different festivals.”

> Exit 17. 20 > 24/6, Les Halles

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