Circus in Champagne : compagnie OFF - les "Girafes". Photo : Philippe Cibille
France is undoubtedly at the forefront of innovation in the field of circus arts, for which it has earned international recognition.
That recognition is due first and foremost to the quality and inventiveness of its circus artistes, but it is also the fruit of active promotion by France’s cultural network abroad, supported by the Institut Français. Regular appearances by representatives of the new circus abroad have fuelled demand from both professionals and audiences, in South America in particular.
This gave rise in 2009 to the founding in Buenos Aires of the Polo Circo (the Buenos Aires circus centre), a project engineered by Institut Français departments and by our Embassy in Argentina, in partnership with numerous local and regional authorities, and that made it possible for a hundred or so French circus arts performers and professionals to travel to Argentina.
Street theatre companies of the likes of Royal de Luxe, La Machine or le groupe F are unique, and are invited to appear at some of the most prestigious events staged all over the world.
As with the new circus, their international fame is the outcome of the groundwork laid, often over many years, by the French cultural network with its overseas partners.
At the invitation of Michèle Bachelet, President of the Republic of Chile, the giant marionettes of the Royal de Luxe company attracted crowds of close on two million thronging the streets of Santiago at the opening of celebrations to mark the bicentenary of the country’s independence in January 2010.
Contemporary French theatre owes its international breakthrough to support from initiatives by the French cultural network and by the Institut Français: organising tours, establishing residencies and coproductions with local partners or setting up presentation platforms for French theatre.
In 2012, the Institut Français supported tours both by individual artistes, such as Philippe Quesne’s tours of Australia and Europe, and by companies, including the world tour by the Les Sens des Mots company.
As a general rule, operations supported by the Institut Français may take the form of:
"exceptional" events staged by leading institutions such as the Comédie Française, the national theatres or major companies such as le Théâtre du Soleil;
projects of various formats based on contemporary creation and artistic renewal. Those foreign institutions most receptive to French works are very often those whose programmes encourage research and new discovery (small-scale forms or visual theatre are particularly popular).
As with the other artistic fields (dance, music and visual arts), the Institut Français has devised a platform for identifying and promoting French theatre showcasing contemporary production: Focus théâtre. The festival is aimed at professionals both French and foreign, offering a framework around which the cultural network can organise its invitations to foreign professionals.
Dance performance by "compagnie DV8". Photo : Jiri Volek
The vibrancy and richness of the French dance scene has made the discipline extremely attractive to audiences abroad for over 20 years.
In addition, performing on the international stage is a major factor in the economic development of many French companies, which enjoy worldwide recognition in a very wide range of aesthetic registers.
Overseas tours receive support from the Institut Français plus private or public funding raised by the Institut and by the French cultural network abroad.
The support provided is not merely financial, however. As part of the active promotion of French dance abroad, a number of operations have been set up:
France Danse, which seeks to create a keynote French dance event in conjunction with a partner or group of partners in a particular city or even countrywide;
the Conservatoire itinérant de danse classique: aimed particularly at countries with a strong classical tradition or with their own major repertory companies, this travelling conservatory is particularly active in northern Asia, and in China in particular. In 2010, the Conservatoire and the Canton Ballet together created a version of Coppélia choreographed by Charles Jude, Director of the Opéra de Bordeaux Ballet;
the Biennale de la Danse in Lyon: a Focus Danse event presents a showcase for young French creation to an audience of international professionals.