Reinvention: Secret of Winning the Prize of Golden Clown
Art Exchange VOL.01/2014|By He Ruijuan

   

Big Springboard by Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe

Top Play by Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe

Diabolo Juggling by China National Acrobatic Troupe

Head Top Performance of Four People by China NationalAcrobatic Troupe

In 1983, Bowls on Head of Wuhan Acrobatic Troupe won the Prize of Golden Clown for the first time in the history of China. In 2013, another two performances of Chinese acrobatic troupe jointly won the Prize of Golden Clown. Over 30 years, Chinese acrobats have won the Prize of Golden Clown for 13 times. At the beginning of 2014, the participant shows of Suining Acrobatic Troupe of Sichuan Province and Wuhan Acrobatic Troupe won the Prize of Silver Clown. 

Monte-Carlo International Circus Festival (MICF) is the first one in the world, in which the high-level acrobatics, animal taming, antic performances all over the world gather together every year. The Prize of Golden Clown is the top prize of this festival, which is described as the Prize of Oscar in the circus field. Since the first participation in 1981, Chinese acrobats have won the Prize for 13 times with the total number of won prizes ranking the top, so that people remain indifferent to the news that Chinese have won again. At another high-level competition “The World Circus Festival of Tomorrow” (FMCD) held in France, Chinese acrobats reap many prizes as well. Behind such a succession of winning prizes, what bloods and sweats have been spilled? What is the secret of winning prizes? MI Lu, director of Acrobatic Center of CFLAC, heads the delegation of Chinese acrobats to participate in the important world circus competition every year. Over the course of twenty years like that, he commands everything concerning the competition at his finger tips and provides the answers to the questions. 

On what grounds these programs have been selected? MI remarked that to choose the program was closely linked with the competition field. On reliance of working experiences for so many years, he knew what kinds of programs were needed and which programs meant nothing because of the similarity with others. It was necessary to make such a choice. However, he pointed out that to choose programs was just the first step, and the vital step just followed up. In 2013, the performers of Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe presented the DVD of their own program to the organizing committee of FMCD by themselves in the hope of competing in this event. Upon viewing their program, the committee contacted MI Lu and put forward the wishes of revision and reinvention. Following the requirements, MI Lu negotiated with Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe and jointly set the direction of reinvention. After concerted efforts, the performers won the Golden Prize. “Anyone, including acrobatic troupes, acrobats or performing agents, can send the program DVDs to the committee, but it is only Chinese performers who will go through the unprecedented and indispensable process of receiving the art direction and reinvention from China Acrobats Association (CAA) for the intended participant programs.” Mi Lu commented. 

One of the secrets of winning the prize is the reinvention.” MI Lu said frankly. Recently, on the basis of mutual understanding and trust, CAA has established the mechanism of cultural communication and exchange with the organizing committees of several international circus festivals including MICF and FMCD. Some Chinese acrobatic programs will receive the attention at their very beginning. After having been chosen, the programs will go through the process of asking for and receiving the specific advice on the art improvement from the committee, which will set the direction of creation and ensuing production. MI Lu described the process as reinvention. Many troupes have never participated in the competition and naturally have no idea of the related art styles, while the majority of the programs are not initially produced for the world competition. Since the style of every competition varies from each other, the program should be specified as well. It is really necessary to make the reinvention. MI Lu introduced that MICF attached the importance to tradition and skills with many group programs, while FMCD emphasized the creative and individualized performances with many small-scale programs. The Chinese strong point was with the group program, as for the creation and performances, they were our Achilles’heel. 

Reinvention is the specific adaptation according to the field of competition after the program is set for the event. Two programs of Grand Teeterboard and Men’s Art Shaping of Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe were exemplary in 2012. The latter program imitated one Ukraine program which had won the Prize of Golden Clown in 1999. “If this Chinese imitation entered the competition directly, it must have failed” MI Lu put forward such an analysis. Considering this fact, the program underwent the process of reinvention with the view to eliminating the Ukraine elements and adding Chinese elements in order to bring national features to prominence. They brought the combination of Chinese “Yin” and Yang” (Positive and Negative) into the representation and Taiji boxing into props. Teeterboard came from foreign countries and was the traditional program of eastern European countries with Russia as the representative. When Chinese performed, it was necessary to break the foreign traditional performing forms. In the program of “Grand Teeterboard”, Chinese acrobats invented the performances of swinging bridges and shaking the palanquin in the world. As for two Chinese acrobatic programs in MICF, they were typical Chinese performances. “In order to integrate them into the field of competition, we needed to know which parts should be emphasized and what the audiences expected to watch with in mind the idea of breaking traditional ideologies” MI Lu remarked. As the above-mentioned programs possessed their features; the value of reinvention was how to enlarge this narrow art space, how to represent the application of foreign elements to Chinese performances, how to revive the Chinese traditional elements, how to put the daily common practices on the streets or in the park on the grand stage of international circus competition and bring out the brilliance. 

Reinvention calls for wisdom. “I compare the analysis of competition to feeling the pulse. Not until we have felt the pulse correctly can we reinvent our program and understand what the international current circus competitions and markets expect to find in Chinese acrobatic programs so as to get closer to the competitions and markets.” MI Lu emphasized that the most important secret for acrobats to win prizes was to reflect upon what we had done and which part failed to meet our requirement in the acrobatic production. “Only through the specific reinvention in accordance with the world competitions were we guaranteed to have the strength to achieve the remarkable goals. That was what the Chinese acrobatic circle should fully understand.” MI Lu concluded, “Some acrobatic troupes stopped the improvement after the programs were done. However, there is a proportionate relationship between the input and output, so we will bring out the truly excellent acrobatic programs after our consistent efforts for improvement”. 

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