Cirkus Cirkör – Borders

On a trapeze, high above the floor, a woman swings back and forth, to the squeaking of the mechanical components mingling with Michael Jackson’s “Bad”, which is playing in the background. Tilde Björfors receives us in the Cirkus Cirkör headquarters to discuss their new show “Borders”.

Photo Magnus Åström

We sit down in the Cirkör building’s gym, on a couch with a crocheted cover. Work on Borders is under way all around us, and there are white plastic water bottles everywhere, waiting to be filled and
turned into musical instruments.

— When I was a kid, I used to travel by boat between Limhamn and Dragör. I would often try to sense the location of the border between Sweden and Denmark. I couldn’t understand how a border could run through something like water, which exists in a constant state of motion, says Tilde.

Borders is based on the concepts of borders and water – and one floor down from us in the cavernous circus hall, a group of performers are gathered around a ladder that leads to the roof. The ladder brings to mind the story of Jack and the bean stalk. A secret escape route through the clouds.

— The idea for Borders began when I read the book about the Romani girl Katitzi to my son Laban. It’s a pretty old book, and it was upsetting for me to realise that so little has changed. The Romanis still face the same hardships they did then, Tilde explains.

The idea for a show has to be something important; a matter of life and death, based on a desire to change the world, according to Tilde.

— Then, I read Fabrizio Gatti’s Bilal, which is about the situations faced by migrants and refugees on their way to Europe. It revealed to me what Europe does to the rest of the world. It’s basically butchery, all sanctioned by rules set by the EU. Europe is policing its borders more diligently than ever, while we keep getting reports of drownings caused by overcrowded refugee boats.

In many ways, Borders is about the quest for freedom and safety, but it’s also about crossing more personal borders that exist in the everyday experiences of circus performers.

— I left theatre a long time ago, because I wanted to get away from all the hierarchies that exist there. I was lookingfor a context with a more collaborative creative process, and I discovered circus. However, I soon noticed that circus has its fair share of hierarchies as well, but that maybe leaders and directors who can nudge the creative process along are a necessity. That doesn’t mean I’m the kind of director who tells people to take three steps to the right. I’m more of a “one and one makes fifteen” kind of person, she says.

In the large circus hall motion and stillness, body and mind, sound and silence are all blended together. While the training space might seem chaotic to those unused to this, Tilde insists that the circus performances created here are a necessary remedy to the harm done to humanity by the failures of our societies.

— Circus is so many different things. It’s a matter of life and death, but it’s also playful. It gives us with an opportunity to face the uncertainties of the world, and I think we need that. I think people who don’t get that experience will find it very difficult to live in the world today. We’re surrounded by so much chaos, and this gives art and culture an important task. That’s one of the advantages of circus as an art form; it both entertains and tells painful stories. That’s the very reason why it is able to touch people’s hearts.

From Magazine Subtopia #8. Text Josefina Larsson.