A history of the Centre national des arts du cirque

The quest for an identity (1982-1990)

1983. Richard Kubiak, former director of the Polish circus becomes director of the planning association for a 'National Advanced Training Centre for the Performing Arts', assisted by Claude Krespin.
1984. Thanks to the partnership between the Ministry of Culture and the town of Châlons-sur-Marne (renamed Châlons-en-Champagne in 1988), and its mayor, Jean Reyssier, and the Champagne-Ardenne region and its president, Bernard Stasi, combined with the intervention of Jack Ralite, a site is chosen: the permanent circus of Châlons, which dates back to the end of the 19th century, is extended in 1984.
1985. The Centre houses three complementary organizations: the College of Higher Education for Circus Arts, the advanced and professional training section, and the documentation and research department.
It runs a four year course based on circus techniques including horse riding, the sister arts (music, dance and acting), and general education (anatomy, modern languages, etc.). The first class begins in September 1985.
On Monday January 13th, Jack Lang, the Minister of Culture, opens the 'National Advanced Training Centre for Circus Arts', as it was then known.
1987. Guy Caron, the founder of the Montreal National Circus School in Quebec, and artistic director of the Cirque du Soleil, becomes director of the Cnac.
The Cnac course now leads to a recognised qualification, with two different diplomas available: the two-year BATC, or Artistic Certificate in Circus Techniques, and the two-year DMA, or Diploma in Circus Arts Professions (baccalauréat + 2). The two qualifications are supervised by the Académie de Reims and the DMDTS (the Directorate for music, dance, theatre and shows, formerly the DGCA).
The students' course is punctuated with numerous public performances, including, in 1988, participation in the New Circus festival in London and, in December, a show directed by Ctibor Turba.
1989. Jean-Jacques Fouché is named acting director.
The Cnac participates in meetings with circus schools in Auch in 1989, and since then, this partnership with the CIRCa festival has continued to grow.
The first years are difficult. The divergent visions of the circus artist and teacher clash. Room for individual performance as well as the relation between artistic teaching and circus techniques are much discussed. The students play their game well by drawing on all these different approaches.

Art in the foreground (1990-2002)

1990. Bernard Turin becomes Managing director. A sculptor and plastic artist, notably in the field of ephemeral art, and an amateur trapeze artist, he is behind the Rosny-sous-Bois school.
1991. In September 1991, the 7th class of students arrived at Rosny-sous-Bois, for the four year course had been cut into two, two-year cycles parts. The first cycle, authorized to be taught at the Rosny-sous-Bois Circus School, leads to admission to the Cnac, where students can continue with a further two-year higher diploma, followed by a term dedicated to producing the graduation show.
Bernard Turin was director of the two schools until 1994.
The Cnac decides on a more demanding approach favouring cross-discipline teaching. A pedagogy of reproduction and teacher-student transmission is resolutely avoided, and the students meet teachers from all artistic fields.
The graduation show is the opportunity for the students to work as part of a group and with a director. In 1998, the programme is completed by a graduation show composed of individual performances, representing a course unit in the diploma.
1993. The Cnac broadens its horizons with an educational mission that spends several weeks meeting circus schools in Asia.
1994. Teacher training sessions are organized through until 1996. Several student public performances are organized with students from the advanced and professional training section.
1995. Le Cri du Caméléon, the 1995 graduation show directed by Josef Nadj makes quite a stir. The show tours from 1996 to 1999 in France and abroad.
1996. Louis Joinet, Senior Magistrate and president of the National council for circus ring arts, becomes president of the Cnac.
1998. With the help of the Champagne-Ardenne region, the professional integration unit is set up, encouraging students to take up the subject, notably through the diffusion of the show that arose from the Cnac programme.
At the Circa festival the Cnac brings together artists from all disciplines for a seminar on the circus and artistic writing, which leads to a publication.
Nourishing research and reflection is a constant concern for the Cnac, which regularly organizes meetings on the subject and on other artistic issues. In 2002, a conference on circus medicine also leads to a publication.
In a continued effort of dissemination, successive performances helped to raise public awareness of contemporary circus. In 1990, the 1989 and 1990 graduating classes tour throughout the summer as part of the Arts au Soleil festival. The Cnac regularly participates in the Furies festival and sometimes travels abroad. Thus in September 2000, the graduating class give public performances and workshops at the Red River festival in the United States. Since 1996, the graduation shows have been held in the big top space at the Parc de la Villette in Paris, as well as in other cities.
Apart from the graduation shows, the Cnac regularly presents shows directed or accompanied by creators, notably, Les Nuits Enchantées by Mozart (June 1991), with the 4th graduating class, directed by Mireille Laroche; Dialogue sous chapiteau, by the 6th graduating class with the Pierre Doussaint Company (June 1993); Fragments de désir, a performance by the 10th graduating class, directed by Moïse Touré (1998); C'est fou c'qu'on meurt de nos jours, a performance by the 14th graduating class with Gilles Defacque (June 1999).

New Research on Fundamentals (2003-2005)

2003. Jean-Luc Baillet, former director of HorsLesMurs, and Alexandre Del Perugia, an educator, take over from Bernard Turin.
The joint directors base their project on circus fundamentals and reorganize the Cnac into the following poles: 'School of Higher Education', 'research & resources', and 'nomade'. The educational approach looks closely at work in the circular space of the circus ring and the relation with others, and reintroduces an equestrian training with the "Horse as partner".
The "Off-Pistes" in particular at Arcs and in Seyne-sur-Mer, add an experience of different work contexts and encounters with the audience as well as looking for a different relation to the apparatus and movement.
2004. The continuing education programme proposes several longer courses in order to aid both artist and teacher.
From 2004 to 2006, the Cnac raises public awareness of the circus arts through the framework of local policy in Saint-Dizier, Sedan and Troyes. "School in the ring" an artistic education programme in partnership with the Ministry for National Education, questioned the intersection between children's games and circus artists. The experiment was the object of the DVD, Jeux d’enfance, jeux de cirque.

Maturity and new issues (2005-2012)

2005. Jean-François Marguerin, a civil administrator from the Ministry of Culture, becomes director of the Cnac.
2006. Bernard Latarjet, former president of the Parc de la Villette, becomes president of the Cnac.
The Cnac becomes an "associated pole" of the National French Library (BNF), for documentary, notably audio-visual, resources, composed of collections, recordings of school performances and company shows created at Circa for many years.
2007. The "Big top space" is created on a piece of land close to the permanent circus.
2008. The professional integration unit is reorganized. It begins with an internship with a company or cultural organization during the first year of the course. At the end of the two year course there are two further stages: firstly, the creation of a graduation show directed by an guest artist and followed by a tour, and secondly, help with either a personal research project or with finding a position in a company.
At the same time, the Cnac creates a new editorial policy based on research, transmission and education. A DVD, 'The Circus Spectrum' and the 'Quel Cirque?' collection, co-published with Actes-Sud are produced.
2009. The Cnac develops its international relations. It contributes to the expansion of newly created circus via the circulation of the graduation show. Long international tours combined with workshops are organized, in 2010 to Latin America and in 2011 to Morocco.
2011. The permanent circus is been completely renovated after more than a year's work. The CNAC celebrates 25 years of existence with an exhibition.
2012. Extension works at the Cnac on the Big Top Space are planned for 2012/13.
They include new training rooms and classrooms, administrative offices and student housing. Market realization of new buildings on the former wasteland of "Cooperative agricole marnaise" is attributed to the agency ARM ARCHITECTURE / Poitevin Reynaud in Marseille.
After four years at the helm of the Graduate School of Circus Arts (ESAC) in Brussels, Gérard Fasoli becomes director of the Cnac in December 2012.

Redeployment and transversality (2013-2021)

2013. Martine Tridde-Mazloum, General Delegate of the BNP Paribas Foundation is elected president of CNAC in January, after the end of the mandate of Bernard Latarjet.
The extension works are beginning in the spring for a period of 12-15 months.
Gérard Fasoli has developed a new project for the establishment, based primarily on research and continuing education. The Cnac has made a commitment to award two new diplomas in keeping with the European framework (L-M-D system: Bachelor's degree (Licence), Master's degree, Doctorate degree (Ph.D)).
2014. The DMA in two years gives way to a three-year national higher professional diploma for circus artists, the Diplôme national supérieur professionnel d'Artiste de Cirque (DNSP AC) (1st year at ENACR, 2nd and 3rd years at CNAC) at the Bachelor's Degree level. The Cnac received authorization to award the DNSP (national higher professional diploma) in the circus arts for a period of five years, in conjunction with the University of Picardie Jules Verne Faculty of Arts by a Bachelor's Degree in "Arts" - "Performing Arts" Course - "Circus Arts" Option.
2015Cnac is authorised to award the Diplôme d'Etat as Circus Professor (D.E Circus, level 3) for 5 years, jointly with the Ecole nationale des arts du cirque (Enacr) in Rosny-sous-Bois and Académie Fratellini.
The institution received a seal of approval during the France-Korea year 2015-2016 and developed its first professional training courses in Korea and Japan.
It also implemented the Chaire ICiMa / Innovation Cirque et Marionnette, in partnership with the Institut international de la Marionnette (IIM) in Charleville-Mézière. It initiated and developed several research projects in the field of materials (scenographic items, innovative textiles, …), gesture and movement (biomechanics, gesture analysis, illusion, Benesh notation adapted to circus arts, …) and terminology (creation of international references).
In June, works began on the Marnaise building site and CNAC’s buildings were in working order at the beginning of the academic year.
2016The Ecole supérieure des arts du cirque / Esac in Brussels and Cnac pool their expertise in order to offer a Certificate in Circus Dramaturgy – a unique and in-depth training on different approaches to circus dramaturgy and its implementation.
The first group of students obtaining the certificate has been awarded the Diplôme d'Etat as Circus Professor, following tests and a validation of acquired experience (VAE, Validation des Acquis d’Expérience in French). Cnac ensure the admistrative management of the VAE process.
In December, Cnac and the Bibliothèque nationale de France / BnF launch the circus arts anthologies – a multimedia site to discover circus disciplines since their origins, through a cross-disciplinary approach. They made circus iconography and its largely unknown resources visible and accessible to everyone. The online material is about acrobatics and three more topics are currently being prepared (juggling and magic, the art of clowning and dressage).
2017. Cnac extends the validation of acquired experience / VAE to the Higher National Circus Artist Diploma (Dnsp-AC, level 2) and to the title of Circus Technician.
2018The launch of CARP / CircusArtsResearchPlatform took place on 29 August 2018 in Prague, during the international symposium "Circus and its others". CARP is a website (french/english) providing free access to a collection of scientific resources in circus arts. It was created by the CNAC Châlons-en-Champagne and the Research chair ICiMa (FR), National circus school in Montréal (CA), Circuscentrum (BE), Circusinfo Finland (FI), Stockholm University of the Arts (SE), Universidade Unicamp (BR) in collaboration with many international researchers. This platform was created to promote research and to facilitate the exchange and circulation of university research in this field. CARP is a tool to stimulate collaboration between researchers, students and professionals interested in all areas of circus arts university studies.
2019. Frédéric Durnerin is elected president of CNAC in January, after the end of the mandate of Martine Tridde-Mazloum.
2020. Following some extensive work in connection with the new accreditation procedure for our training offer, the three-year DNSP course will be entirely based at the CNAC in Châlons-en-Champagne from the start of the 2020 academic year.
The new class (35th) recruited in the spring of 2020 is therefore the first to complete their entire course at the CNAC, and to be taught by the same teaching team.
The progress of these students is now accredited by the following qualifications:
- the Culture Diploma: National Higher Professional Diploma for Circus Artists (DNSP-AC), and, from 2023, a degree in Performing Arts and awarded by the University of Reims-Champagne-Ardenne (URCA).
This new system makes the national higher education offer in the circus arts sector easier to understand.
The École nationale des arts du cirque in Rosny-sous-Bois now offers a two-year preparatory training program.
The ÉNACR, the Académie Fratellini and the CNAC have joined forces to jointly organise the training leading to the State Diploma for Circus Teachers (D.E. Cirque).
2021. At the start of the academic year (late August), the Lifelong Learning Service will launch the first training session for the National Diploma for Circus Teachers (D.E. Cirque) at the CNAC in Châlons-en-Champagne. It is aimed at those who meet certain criteria and wish to pursue a professional career as a circus arts teacher. It provides access to the Ministry of Culture’s level 6 (bac+3) diploma, previously only accessible on validation of earlier experience.
The CNAC is also renovating and converting a hangar at the La Marnaise site, currently used for storage, into a training site for technical professions, circus safety and aerial work (work expected to be completed for the 2022/2023 academic year). The aim is to improve the training framework and trainee reception, ultimately developing activities. This project was created as part of the national aid package “France Relance” to improve the energy efficiency of State and higher education buildings.
Finally, the CNAC’s Resources and Research Centre is committed to developing an interoperable and harvestable portal (deadline 2024). It will bring together in a single location a set of already existing tools (databases, directories, CNAC.TV, etc.) with future tools, such as digital libraries for all collections held at the CNAC, as well as a virtual museum. Assembled and produced in the same ecosystem, these resources will support all users in the circus sector.
Gérard Fasoli has announced his retirement and will leave the centre at the end of the year.
2022. Peggy Donck takes over the direction of the centre on 1 January and appoints Mathieu Antajan as director of studies and professional integration.