Meeting with Javier Morales on the International Congress of Juggling and Circus Arts
With the upcoming CIMAC (International Congress of Juggling and Circus Arts) in September, the world of juggling and circus in Chile is preparing for an international infusion of creators as it prepares to share nature and the unique spirit of Chilean circus and juggling. Even as early as 2004, Chile’s contribution to the juggling world is well established and was recognized by the Washington Post with its article They took juggling balls and ran with them.
One of the forces behind this great juggling and circus congress is Javier Morales, himself a circus artist (clown and juggler). Morales is the director of the Malabicirco circus company and also director of CIMAC. His company Malabicirco is the oldest contemporary circus company in Valparaíso, Chile, made up of 10 grassroots members who “love the circus, the performing arts, independence and freedom”. We spoke with Morales about CIMAC’s plans in 2021 and the types of adaptations they have made to ensure the event not only survives, but thrives during the pandemic.
Kim Campbell: What is the mission of CIMAC?
Javier Morales: Producing joy, wonder and knowledge around the circus for the Chilean family and the artists of South America.
KC: When and how long will CIMAC last this year?
JM: CIMAC 2021 will be played in September from Thursday 2 to Sunday 12. This year, CIMAC will be online most of the time. There will be less in-person activities, so there will be no open appeal this year, but there will be more public acts like a line crossing two large buildings to surprise people in transit and visiting certain neighborhoods de Valparaíso with a circus truck.
KC: Can you give us a few confirmed artists from CIMAC? Will there be a headliner? Are there keynote speakers?
JM: This year we will have a four hour master class by Gandini Juggling. Craig Quat will lead a fifteen hour seminar on functional juggling and Bartolomé Silva who is the founder of Circo del Mundo Chile (Cirque du Monde) will participate with an eight hour seminar on directing for circus artists. In addition to this there will be the Gala Show with the best Chilean circus artists.
KC: Which edition is CIMAC?
JM: This edition will be the 12th version – we started with the first in 2009. We had to stop in 2018 because of some strikes on the building where we celebrate CIMAC. There was an occupation by some people there.
KC: Javier, tell us about yourself and your career in the circus.
JM: I started to love and train in the circus when I was 16, first as a hobby. At the age of 18, I went toUniversity of Playa Ancha (UPLA) to study English-Spanish translation and interpretation. During this career (five years), I started attending workshops and seminars on circus and theater in Chile and Argentina. My disciplines were in the circus, juggling and the clown. Then in the process of teaching circus to children and teenagers, I decided to get a graduate degree in education. And in 2020 I had planned to travel to Zaragoza, Spain because I got a scholarship to study my masters in live performances but due to the pandemic situation I have to study online. Now I have a masters in performing arts from San Jorge University. Since 2007, I have been the artistic director of the Malabicirco Circus Company, the oldest circus company in the city of Valparaíso. I wrote and produced nine creations. Since 2009, I have been the Director General of CIMAC.
It’s a great culture – you can see sports juggling, street juggling, and stage juggling in Chile. We have very good jugglers in our country.
KC: How many people work in your team and see CIMAC as a year-round job?
JM: Sixteen people make up the main CIMAC team (production, communication, audiovisual and artistic fields). Then during the activities, for this year, nearly 70 people including artists, technicians and others participate in the event.
KC: Do you have the support of government and local businesses to organize the festival?
JM: During the 12th year of the event, we got government support three times in 2017, 2019 and 2021. In Chile you have to ask for funding and wait and pray a lot. Local businesses are not too involved in artistic events.
KC: How did you come up with the idea of producing this festival originally?
JM: This idea was born with the aim of celebrating World Juggling Day (in June). Then we changed the title of the event to CIMAC due to the characteristics of the activities (we added other circus disciplines) and we looked for other dates for the celebration, because in June it rains a lot in Chile , and it’s winter. From 2019, we started celebrating it in August. During the event process (2009-2021), we looked for moments in the circus to discuss disciplines, teach, learn, show and create.
KC: How important is juggling in Chile?
JM: Juggling is the massive discipline of circus in Chile, in part because the most immediate circus discipline you have to learn is juggling. It’s a great culture – you can see sports juggling, street juggling, and stage juggling in Chile. We have very good jugglers in our country.
KC: What types of shows will there be in this edition?
JM: The CIMAC Gala will be presented by artists from the traditional and contemporary circus, from different disciplines such as juggling, unicycles, ball balance, trapeze, acrobats and more.
Then we will present Eureka – a show created in collaboration with Malabicirco (contemporary circus) and Golden Circus (traditional circus). The world of classic clownish routines has disappeared, replaced by the dramaturgy of the show.
We are going to have two vehicles that will go to different parts of the city. The first is the circus truck called Circo a tu Ventana (From the circus to your window) and the second is Comando RIE which is directed by Tuga, a famous Chilean mime.
To the public, we will present the performance of Go through lives. A man on a wire will cross the wire from one building to another. At 20 meters high, it will be a test for this really risky circus act.
KC: Have you noticed any emerging circus trends in Chile and are they affecting the tone and content of your events?
JM: Contemporary and traditional are the trends that drive the circus process in Chile. We are the unique event in Chile that invites these two circus lines to participate in CIMAC, and the experience of having them all together has been absolutely great, with simply positive results.
The overall impression is very good as the event has congress characteristics and has a high educational approach, not only for circus performers but also for children and non-circus families.
KC: What types of workshops will there be this year and who are they for?
JM: We have three seminars for professional circus artists, Staging for circus artists (Bartolomé Silva), Functional juggling (Craig Quat) and Juggling and movement (Gandini juggling).
We have five workshops for individuals and families; Slapstick and Clown (Malabicirco), Magic (Samyr Dorado), Juggling (Alvaro Palominos), Bubbles (Dirck Pajares) and Puppets. In addition we will have a first aid workshop for artists and the general public.
KC: People come from all over the world to attend. Do they come away with a better understanding of the importance of the circus in Chile?
JM: People from different countries come to participate in CIMAC activities. The overall impression is very good as the event has congress characteristics and has a high educational approach, not only for circus performers but also for children and non-circus families. Conversations, talks and conferences are generated which also bring the circus closer to the academic world. Thus, the topics covered are very varied and of general interest. Foreign artists are surprised at the level of production of the event, and obviously, this cross between traditional and contemporary circus artists catches their attention.
Guests and participants can visualize the great traditional circus culture that exists in Chile, since the traditional circus is an intangible heritage in our country. The contemporary circus has grown in strength over the past thirty years in our country, with many companies in different regions and extensive experience in social work.
All photos provided by CIMAC.