Monday, January 6, 2014

First of it’s kind in the US, the 2014 Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival brings shows from around the world together January 7-12.

Here at ChiIL Mama we cover a vast array of family friendly theatre, music, arts, entertainment and urban lifestyle, but circus is our passion and first love.   So we were way beyond stoked to hear about The Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival in Chicago this week.   It's like a family reunion for us!   The more we read about the lineup, speakers, workshops and management, the more we realized we either already personally know or have covered/filmed/reviewed and/or shot stills of the vast majority of people involved in The Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival.   
Now our challenge is how to share the basics along with loads of our original coverage without 10 page posts!   Our best option looks to be a big, running series of features.   

Here's the basic scoop below, performance schedule and ticket links.   We'll be elaborating with loads of original content, more in depth features on each show, and photo filled recaps.  

So, check back with ChiIL Live Shows like we vote in Chi, IL... early and often.  This will be circus immersion week for sure. Get your tickets early and escape the Arctic Vortex to catch as many of these live acts as you can & experience the rest vicariously through our pages here and at our more adult sister site, ChiIL Live Shows
2014 Chicago Contemporary 
Circus Festival

2014 Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival is the nationʼs first contemporary circus festival, and it flies into the Windy City this January 7-12, 2014. Chicagoanʼs of all ages can experience seven genre-defying national and international circus companies for four days of daringly moving full-length contemporary circus shows, and two late-night cabaret* style performances, as well as workshops, seminars, discussions and parties. Performances will be held in the Athenaeumʼs main stage and black box theaters, as well as at Links Hall. Tickets start at $20.00, and festival packages are also available starting at $135.00. Tickets for all shows (at various venues) may be purchased through the Athenaeum box office 773-935-6875 or online at For more information go to

“Delightful... Go see it!” ~CBC Radio Canada

Click here for ChiIL Live Shows sizable SmugMug Gallery of Original Circus Arts Photos.   Our photo gallery includes an array of Contemporary and Traditional Circus Arts... major players and local favs including:
  • Cirque du Soliel
  • El Circo Cheapo
  • The Actor's Gymnasium
  • The Midnight Circus
  • The Ordinary Acrobat Book Tour-Duncan Wall/Circus Now
  • CircEsteem
  • Ringling Brothers
  • Cirque Shanghai
From tiny, hilarious clown shows to large scale ensemble-based spectacles, from the intimate to the outrageous, the 2014 Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival will blow the doors off the idea that the circus is only a Big-Top, multimillion-dollar extravaganza. Since the mid to late 19th century, the “traditional” format in American circus has been viewed as clowns with big shoes, glittery show girl costumes and elephants standing on one leg. In stark contrast, the contemporary circus (originally known as nouveau cirque), well-established and respected in Europe, Canada, Australia and other parts of the world since the 1970’s, is a mix of human circus skill, theater, dance and music. This contemporary genre of circus tends to focus more attention on the overall aesthetic impact, on character and story development, and on the use of new media, design, and original music, to convey thematic or narrative content provoking emotional engagement.


**ChiIL Mama's ChiIL Picks List--Best Fam Friendly Shows This Week:   American Youth Circus Organization Showcase** Athenaeum Theatre  SUN 1/12/14 @ 1pm
Produced by the AYCO, this show features 40 young artists ages 6-21 from 13 states showcasing their circus artistry.  (*AYCO performers include Chicago youth from Actor's Gymnasium and CircEsteem.   Click the links for loads of ChiIL Mama's original features on both.)

*NOTE: There is partial nudity in Ricochet, the Cabaret shows may not be appropriate for kids under 17, and Honeybuns is an 18 and older show. 

Attrape-Moi by Flip FabriQue Athenaeum Theatre: FRI, 1/10/14 @ 4pm SAT, 1/11/14 @ 8pm, & SUN, 1/12/14 @ 5pm

The Way Out by The Acrobatic Conundrum Athenaeum Theatre THUR, 1/9/14 @ 7:30pm, & SAT, 1/11/14 @ 5pm

Smoke and Mirrors* by Ricochet AND

Muualla/Elsewhere by Ilona Jäntti’ Athenaeum Theatre FRI, 1/10/14 @ 7:30pm, & SUN, 1/12/14 @ 8pm
*NOTE: There is partial nudity in Ricochet

El Circo Cheapo Cabaret* by Aloft Circus Arts Athenaeum Theatre  FRI, 1/10/14 @ 11pm, & SAT 1/11/14 @ 11pm
*NOTE: the Cabaret shows may not be appropriate for kids under 17

Cherepaka (the death of a turtle) by Andréane Nadere Leclerc Links Hall THUR 1/9/14 @ 6pm, & FRI 1/10/14 @ 8:30pm

The Rendez-vous by Krin Haglund Links Hall THUR 1/9/14 @ 8:30pm, & FRI 1/10/14 @ 6pm

Honeybuns* by Dean Evans Athenaeum’s Black Box Theatre THUR 1/9/14 @ 9pm, SAT 1/11/14 @ 9:30pm, & SUN 1/12/14 @ 6:30pm
*NOTE:   Honeybuns is an 18 and older show.   Don't let the playful costume fool you.   Honeybuns is raunchy, irreverent, and brilliant... and we're not just talking about the hue of his bloomers.   He WILL take you out of your comfort zone.

Running in Corduroy by Brian P. Dailey Athenaeum’s Black Box Theatre FRI 1/10/14 @ 9pm, SAT 1/11/14 @ 6:30pm, & SUN 1/12/14 @9:30pm

(*AYCO performers include Chicago youth from Actor's Gymnasium and CircEsteem.   Click the links for loads of ChiIL Mama's original features on both.)
American Youth Circus Organization Showcase** Athenaeum Theatre  SUN 1/12/14 @ 1pm
**Produced by the AYCO, this show features 40 young artists ages 6-21 from 13 states showcasing their circus artistry.

ATHENAEUM THEATRE, performances will be held in both their main stage and black box (studio 3) theatres. The theater is located at 2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, IL 60657 / 773-935-6875

LINKS HALL is located in Constellation (the former site of the Viaduct Theater) at 3111 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL 60618 / 773.281.0824
TICKETS Tickets start at $20.00, and festival packages are also available starting at $135.00. Tickets for all shows (at various venues) may be purchased through the Athenaeum box office 773-935-6875 or online at For more information and group ticket inquiries, go to

WORKSHOP CONTACT INFORMATION For more information on professional development please visit For more information on skill-based master classes contact

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE SEMINAR OR CIRCUS NOW Please contact Duncan Wall, National Director, Circus Now at US: 347.587.8107 or CAN: 438.936.7503
ADDITIONAL LINKS OF INTEREST Speaking Circus / Chicago  II Speaking Circus / NYC  II Circus Now   An editorial in the NYTimes about the rise of creative circus.

MORE INFORMATION For more information go to
Co-producers Shayna Swanson and Matt Roben and their team have been working collaboratively to curate and produce this first festival with the purpose of creating a new and educated audience for circus in America. The festival is organized as a not-for-profit, with Links Hall acting as itʼs fiscal agent. Festival discussions and workshops are being organized by Circus Now. For more information on professional development please visit
The first of its kind in the United States, The Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival brings daringly moving acts and shows from around the world to perform, teach, and network from January 6-12, 2014. The festival showcases genre-defying companies and performers creating circus in an entirely new, and completely inspiring way. Tickets for all shows (at various venues) may be purchased through the Athenaeum box office 773-935-6875 or online at For more information go to

Matt Roben, Co-Producer (and the only guy I've ever met in person who can pull off a dual handlebar mustache!! (**click here for more of ChiIL Live Shows' photo features of Matt Roben's Midnight Circus work)

Matt Roben, Co-Producer for the Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival, a six day event featuring contemporary circus companies from around the world which will take place in Lakeview from January 6-12, 2014. Matt Roben is a circus performer with over 24 years of professional experience as a clown and actor. Originally from Saratoga, CA, Matt grew up performing in musical theater and after graduating high school was fortunate enough to attend the prestigious National Circus School of Montreal where his focus was acrobatic bicycle and clown. He has been performing for the public in venues as diverse as backyard birthday parties to the stage of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra with everything from a bicycle act on a cruise ship to the top of a 60' sway pole overlooking the skyline of Dubai. He has been seen in circuses, USO shows, musical and straight theater, television, commercials, movies and voice over. He has performed circus on the high seas and in North America, South America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia with companies such as Royal Caribbean, MSC, The New Pickle Circus, Cirque Productions, Poet Productions, Aloft Circus Arts and Midnight Circus. In 1997 he competed in the Acrobatic Bicycle World Championships as the only American in nearly two decades to do so. In the early 2000's, while back in the San Francisco Bay Area, Matt performed in a number of theater shows and as a cast member on the television show Stand UP It's Thursday Night and produced the Spring Comedy Competition in San Jose, CA. He was also a founding member of the short-lived Dusk Beat Circus.

Since moving to Chicago a decade ago Matt has worked with Lookingglass Theatre, iO Theater (formerly Improv Olympic), Actors Gymnasium, Aloft Circus Arts, Emerald City Theater Company, The Artistic Home, Midnight Circus and Lyric Opera of Chicago. He has taught circus for nearly every circus organization in town and performed as a clown doctor in all of the major Chicago-land Childrenʼs Hospitals. For the last six years he has been a cast member of Midnight Circus as a musical clown, acrobatic bicyclist and performing his comical chair balancing routine. He performs a "melancholic" mime piece with several of the nation's premier orchestras as the comical host and emcee of Cirque Musica. Matt is a monthly favorite in Alofts' El Circo Cheapo Cabaret with his acrobatic bicycle act or musical comedy duo act, The Amazing Gamberoni Brothers.

In addition to circus Matt has done commercials for Clabber Girl Baking Powder, morning-DJ Rover, and the Como Restaurant. Matt was also featured on billboards and in magazine ads nationwide for Hewlett Packard doing another one of his passions: flying his hang glider. You can see him on episodes of Jerry Springer as a juggling stilt-walker and as an entertainer in the movie Outing Reilly. He is an experienced trade-show presenter and emcee for companies such as Zirmed, Manitowoc, NTN, Visit Britain, Intel, Pogo Linux and many more, bringing his unique brand of comedy and circus skills to the rather "conventional" convention market. Finally, you can catch Matt every Monday at Chicagoʼs Shedd Aquarium where he is a scuba dive presenter in the Caribbean Reef Tank, hand-feeding stingrays and fish and educating the public about life underwater.

Shayna SwansonCo-Producer

Shayna Swanson, Co-Producer, is a ground breaking, award winning aerial and circus acrobat, whose work pushes the limits of physicality and emotion. She recently won the “Best Performance of Festival” Award at the American Aerial Acrobatic Festival, and a Special Prize at the Circuba Festival in Havana and was featured at the Huishan Acrobatic Festival in Taiwan and Collision Arts Asia Festival in Malaysia.
Shayna has been creating and performing aerial works that have been described by the Chicago Reader as “truly heart-felt and creative” for over 12 years. After studying dance and sociology at university she decided her true place was in the air. As a former competitive gymnast and diver, her work naturally fused difficulty, strength and intricacy with thoughtfulness and surprise. Shayna developed her aerial voice though independent study of the body in vertical space, but refined her skills through training at Circus Maniacs and with private tutors like Elsie and Serenity Smith, Fred Deb and Norboul Meirmanov.

In 2005 she received the Glenn P Davis Scholarship to the Aerial Dance Festival, awarded every year for excellence in aerial choreography. That same year Shayna formed her own company “Aloft” and, with a CAAP grant from the City of Chicago, produced the critically acclaimed full-length show “Rolling Blackouts”. In 2006 her choreography was selected into the repertory of Thodos Dance Chicago and featured in the Best of Dance Chicago Showcase. Also that year the Chicago Reader named her a “Mover and Shaker” of the Chicago dance scene. Her work was also presented at the International Circus Performerʼs Gathering in Brattleboro, Vermont, and at many Chicago dance festivals. Shayna formed the Aloft Loft in April 2006 to provide a supportive and vibrant community training space for physical artists of all sorts. Since its founding Shayna has created 3 full length shows and 4 interactive performance parties. She was the co-aerial director for the first and second incarnations of the massive church/circus hit “Imagine Christmas”. “El Circo Cheapo Cabaret” is Shaynaʼs newest project: part talent show, part vaudeville, part punk rock warehouse show, “El Circo Cheapo” has toured across America, selling out shows weeks in advance.

In addition to producing and creating her own shows, Shaynaʼs work has been seen at the Pegasus Variete in Germany, the Kim Tom Clown Festival in Shanghai, Olympic festivities in Hong Kong, Vivendi Cabaret in the Cayman Islands, resorts in the Caribbean and with shows like Cirque Voila, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Cirque de la Mer, The Coorʼs Light/Maxim Model Search Tour, New Vision Cirque, The Big Aerial Show, The Midnight Circus and Circus Smirkus. Corporate clients include The Macau Board of Tourism, Deutschebank, Absolut, Seneca Niagara Casino, Harrahʼs, Ford, Air France, KA Furniture, Mori Seiki and many more.

More Details:
El Circo Cheapo Cabaret
Starting in the early 90ʼs and continuing through the mid-part of 2008, the New Circus Movement, as embodied by Cirque du Soleil, involved lavish, technically complex productions. But in this post-recession world everyone is trying to do more with less. El Circo Cheapo Cabaret was born out of this moment.

What is “The Circus” when you peel away elaborate sets and the profusion of special effects? At circusʼ core is the relationship between the performers and the audience. Part vaudeville and part reality-TV, on stage there is the performer, their apparatus, music and the audience: nothing more. The performers communicate with the audience, and the audience, through applause, gasps, tears and laughter, communicates with the performers. This is the framework that El Circo Cheapo began with 5 years ago, and 120 sold-out shows later, it's what makes El Circo Cheapo Cabaret unique—everyone, regardless of education, age, culture or background can, and will want to, participate in it. The result is a fresh and honest show that makes a profound connection with any audience. This is circus as it has always been intended--powerful, honest, dangerous, intense, hilarious and passionate.  This special festival edition is being chosen and planned by the production team at the CCCF and features some of the best circus artists in America.

Flip Fabrique
Flip FabriQue is a young organization born out of the common dream of a group of friends, all from the world of professional circus, to create a company which incorporates personal experiences and, above all, utilizes the full potential of each artist. These world-class artists have performed hundreds of shows for numerous companies including the prestigious Cirque du Soleil and Cirque Éloize. Flip FabriQue takes a creative and collaborative approach created entirely by the artist and the director. Embracing the qualities and strengths of each unique performer reveals the magic of Flip FabriQue.

The Acrobatic Conundrum
The Acrobatic Conundrum Eight strangers find themselves in a room with no exit. They are isolated from the world in a bunker where supplies are scarce. In the absence of enough, the new arrivals see themselves in a different light: vindictive and kind, desperate and hopeful.
With no allies but each other, eight disparate personalities vie for survival, connection, and a way out.

The Way Out is 90 minutes of heart-stopping acrobatics, aerials, theater, dance and video projection. Under the artistic direction of Terry Crane, with choreography by Elizabeth Rose, it is a truly contemporary form of storytelling using the raw physicality of the performers.

Ricochet Weaving delicate metaphor with jaw dropping spectacle, RICOCHETʼs unique brand of poetic acrobatics has taken the world by storm. Using lyric physicality and virtuosic circus technique, RICOCHET draws from rigorous backgrounds of classical and contemporary dance, aerial acrobatics, and the commitment to experimentation and improvisation to explore the internal landscapes of the human experience. The company of two; Cohdi Harrell and Laura Stokes, based out of rural New Mexico, travel the world over performing and teaching. Hailed as being “vital to the growth of contemporary circus in America,” their work has played to sold out theaters from Seattle to Croatia, never receiving less than a standing ovation.

Krin Haglund
After touring the world with Quebecʼs most innovative circus companies, Krin Haglund presents her one- woman theatrical circus show where she plays both MC and cast. A “deft comedienne,” Krin shares “surprising skills in circus and acrobatics” including her mad cocktail of aerial feats, Cyr wheel and clown.

No stranger to eccentric characters, Krin is an original cast member of Cirque Éloizeʼs Rain, directed by Daniele Finzi Pasca, which performed to sold-out crowds around the world. With Rain she became the first woman to master the Cyr single wheel. Krin has also toured with the 7 doigts de la main (7 Fingers) hit shows La Vie and Loft. With the hot cabaret La Clique her aerial tissue routine was praised as “dynamic, expressive and original.”
She has also performed with Cirque du Soleil, Riksteatret National Theater of Norway, Amanda Palmer and toured with the Dresden Dolls as a performer and MC. Her work is supported by TOHU-Cité des arts du cirque.

Andréane Nadère Leclerc
Cherepaka is the death of a Turtle. Inspired by Deleuzeʼs Logique de la sensation and Francis Baconʼs paintings, Cherepaka is a scenographic composition that explores the duality of eternity and death, and the human desire to live.

This essay tries to go beyond the curiosity of contortion - to make this acrobatic language a physical language capable of stimulating the audiences imagination.
Contortionist Andréane began her circus career at nine years of age. Driven by a desire to harness contortion technique as a malleable material that is capable of generating a world of sensations and imagery beyond the spectacle, she now creates her own experimental and conceptual performances (Di(x)parue, Cherepaka, InSuccube). In 2013, she obtained a Masterʼs Degree in Theatre at UQAM. She is currently working on Eat Me (Tangente, 2014) and Whore of Babylon, a co-creation with the Tiger Lillies. 

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