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Cirque-tacular Budapest | Dávid Harangozó

Cirque-tacular Budapest

The 120th Anniversary Jubilee Program-Series at the Capital Circus of Budapest has finished with a total 305 performances and more than 240,000 visitors. On top of that the 8th Budapest International Circus Festival was also held.

“The festival born here was a true miracle” starts István Kristóf, Manager of the Capital Circus of Budapest. “More artists joined this year's festival than ever before; from Venezuela to China, 14 countries with 30 productions demonstrated here in Hungary the current status of traditional and extreme circus.” The Jászai Mari Award winner does not talk to the wind – though, there, he also feels home since he is an acrobat. “This festival, traditionally organized every other year, has transformed Budapest into a circus capital”, Kristóf goes on, adding that currently, in professional circles, this is one of the most acknowledged and well received competition worldwide. The attending artists are among the world's best. Each country sends their most outstanding talent, as now it is a question of prestige to be here especially as those who run this profession, producers, managers, agents, are here too.”

Stone Circus

The Budapest Circus is the only circus in Europe that is open for the whole year, the circuses in Paris, Munich and Bucharest run only periodically. Having been the manager of the institution since 1988, Kristóf has faced the most different scenes: once the building was set to be bulldozed but at other times, it was promised to be renovated. “I was asked to 'dream' and so did I and had it planned and designed how a modern circus building should look like”, he reveals. The scale-model still stands in the great hall; however, the Hungarian State lacks the HUF 3 billion to revive the building erected in 1971. “Though, it would really be necessary, especially the flats in which the appearing artists live for several months in rotation”, adds the circus manager. “We have already had the ground floor’s seats replaced around the stage with more comfortable, ergonomic ones but the seats on the balconies will only be changed later on”, he says. “Yet, we bring the greatest and most up-to-par shows to Budapest, which are amended by the now compulsory show-elements, light-technique, outstanding costumes and the exceptional work of the orchestra.” The productions of the institution are supported by the sale of tickets.

“That's why I believe that the circus is not doomed. The circus productions match and fulfill the demands of the audience since it is the visitors who maintain this institution. The circus is continuously able to endure as it is expected to do so. The eight weekly performances produced a HUF 380 million income which is 10-12 % more than last year's due to the programs of the 120th anniversary. In order for the audience to visit the performances next season, the productions will have to be varied; the Hungarians go abroad and are replaced by representatives of other nations. “A circus artist has to compete with the whole world”, Kristóf explains. On the other hand, he or she must make no mistakes. According to Kristóf, perfection is the key to avoid accidents during seriously dangerous tricks. “De-concentration, fatigue, excitement or tension is out of question as the artist's life is at stake. “An artist, acrobat or juggler can only step on stage with 100 % knowledge. Accidents usually occur not because of the unpreparedness of an artist but are rather caused by external factors such as a power-failure or a loosened cable.

Circus Saga

Kristóf, himself comes from a legendary circus dynasty. He was literally born into the magic world of a travelling circus. “The circus convoy arrived at the market-square of Keszthely and my mother was in labor with me in one of the carriages. The tent was just set up when I was born”, he tells. “My parents were both artists, I spent my childhood travelling the country. When I was a junior primary school student, I went to school wherever the circus stopped, visited the head-master with a small notebook in which it was registered how much time I spent in the different schools. I cannot really tell for sure but I attended about 150-200 schools within four years,” he laughs. “My great-grandfather was also at the circus, my father was an acrobat and my mother was a trapeze artist. When I attended the Acrobat-Training Institution, I saw the movie Trapeze with Gina Lollobrigida and Tony Curtis. We've seen that film at least 50 times and though, my father wanted me to become a wild animal-trainer, I was relentless about being an acrobat. My wife is also an acrobat; she's also from an acrobat family, from the Sallais. In 1977, we won the Silver Clown Award, the Oscar award of the circus-world, at the Monte Carlo Circus Festival”, he recalls his career, then picks up his phone and speaks to a clown in fluent Italian. “For me, the most beautiful thing in the circus life is the travelling”, continues the manager and if a Russian, English or German clown called, he would speak their languages with the same confidence. “Of course, the constant travelling has its price: many times I couldn't stay at home with my old parents when I should have, and I know that my son might not be able to do so - but that's the way the circus works.

The next generation

My son, Krisztián gained fame worldwide as a gentleman-juggler and he was hardly let go from Las Vegas.” The talented young man has been holding his Guinness record for 10 years now: as a juggler, he is the only one in the world who does his trick with three cigar boxes, he throws up the middle box which spins on its axis four times then he catches it with the other two boxes. In Hungary, he organizes the circus festivals, besides this he is also a creative manager and he has not given up juggling. “The past 120 years were beautiful,” Kristóf says. “I'm not really sure what the next century will bring but I hope the circus will live forever.”

Réka Alíz Francisck

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