The Circus Art Encyclopedia

Circus art Encyclopaedia, a multi-media site to discover and understand the different circus disciplines, developed within the framework of a partnership between the Centre national des arts du cirque /CNAC - France and the French National Library (BnF).

A multi-media site to discover and understand the different circus disciplines, developed in partnership with the French National Library (BnF).

As a multimedia site, the circus art encyclopedia provides an exploration of the circus disciplines since their beginnings, through a cross-disciplinary approach. The aim is to display and make accessible to the general public an iconography and resources that are largely unpublished as well as to retrace the path, from distant practices in the past all the way up to the particularly innovative and creative shows of the contemporary circus.

This online encyclopedia is available in 3 languages : English, French and Spanish.

The four axes of the circus arts encyclopedia

• Acrobatics

Pushing your body to its limits, sometimes risking your life, is what is at stake in acrobatics with very distant origins which, like everything that approaches death, touches the sacred.
This is how fundamental disciplines of acrobatics will emerge, grow and interact: jumps, balances, contortions, Icarian games, equestrian games... and then, later on, they will be combined with propulsion devices and apparatus and develop aerial acrobatics.

• Clowns

Laughter has long been associated with the performing arts. Jumper, musical squire, trainer, august or white clown become symbols of the circus until the contemporary clown, in the role of a fierce loner or an empathetic militant, shifts the lines once again.

• Juggling and Magic

Juggling has been around for centuries. Its meaning evolves with the modern circus, the revolutions of amateur juggling and the "new circus". The drop, once shameful, is now a pretext for major innovations.
Another art of dexterity, magic makes the boundaries between spectacle and mysticism porous. After the great illusions evolving towards macabre fantasies, New Magic is nowadays established as an autonomous language where the arts come together.

• Dressage

If the horse is the first and main partner of the circus pioneers, very quickly all kinds of animals appear in small skits where they demonstrate their learning abilities. Even wildlife animals, also exhibited in circus-menageries. The training of wild animals fascinates people immediately and is nowadays more and more contested.

A section "about the circus":

- Aesthetics, forms and genres-
- Chronology-
- Circus fantasies-
- Iconography-
- Circus spaces.

A very rich glossary and bibliography are also available.

An exceptional iconography

Nearly 400 videos, mainly of contemporary circus,
1,700 still images from the BnF collections,
1,320 images from the CNAC collections.

With the expertise of many specialists

Pascal Jacob, Philippe Goudard, Jean-Michel Guy, members of the scientific committee, in association with Marika Maymard, and with Arnaud Thomas for acrobatics, Valentine Losseau and Raphaël Navarro for magic, and many experts, worked together to provide comparative perspectives on the history and evolution of circus arts, through a variety of aesthetic, technological and historical approaches.
Their abundantly illustrated summaries provide many insights and are complemented by substantive articles that will also be of interest to researchers, students and professionals.

The circus arts anthologies are supported by the Ministry of Culture, the Grand Est Regional Council and the Departmental Council.