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How terrified and excited can you be at the same time?

I have a dilemma: the longer I have been involved in the professional circus world the less I can tolerate being unfinished in my own work. But on the other hand I highly respect people who can just make up something, like a small performance, from scratch and try out new things with a really low threshold. 

I am very supportive and merciful towards others other than myself and my own work. Sometimes I feel I have to be so perfect that I won’t even start, like with this blog post (that I was supposed to work with slowly starting from kick-off in September). But here we go, just before the deadline, procrastination is over! I write this from my own and my collective's, Arctic Ensemble, perspective.

Rigas Cirks opening. Riga 2024

I have had quite a crazy year. After September I’ve had projects after another and practice periods after show tours, and even when I was on a holiday, it was so exotic that I felt like executing through it. I’ve had so many different things going on that I’ve started to lose the general excitement for circus and question my career path. And meanwhile the world around me is burning and genocides and massacres of different scale are happening all over the world and the countries in Europe are turning into colder and less welcoming spaces for art and all kinds of others. Violent and masculine leadership is visible everywhere we look and with my current resources it makes me feel quite helpless.

I have been struggling a lot with this programme. I have felt stupid for the most of the time while just trying to keep up with the academic tone of it and dreaming of a time when I’d have energy to work with this more. But then again, when chatting with other peer fellows of NHLP, I feel that most of the people have felt kind of underdogs or not doing enough in the programme. Maybe the amount of reflection that one has had to do with this and at least with me, opening up my work to the global context, has left me full with questions and empty with answers. But I guess like other skills, leadership takes time to develop. 

A dog near Riga

I think I have never worked so much during the last three months and I feel completely drained. It is really hard to stick to healthy working rhythms when you realize you just don’t have enough people to do the work that needs to be done. And by this I mean manual work like cutting pieces for gradin, drilling, sanding, painting and polishing. 

And then, behind everything lies the boogieman of the show we, Arctic Ensemble, have to create and both internal and external pressure on doing it well. It is our first large scale show with other professionals involved and it aims to sell tickets. But what is "doing well" anyway? We have a big top now. That’s a huge step already. Then we have good collaborators and a plan that is not relying too much on ticket sales. And we also want a long lifespan for the show, which means developing it on the way, so we have kind of admitted already that it will not “be ready” this year. Where’s the problem? 

I feel the downside of a hype when the tired and still a bit insecure mind turns all the excitement of people to expectations of people. And when you have not been creating anything new for a while, the pressure rises all the time. And it doesn’t really help when someone's grandmother asks: “Your previous show was so good, how are you ever gonna make anything better?” I would like to get away from this Good show / bad show binary, but in the end, that’s what makes the ticket sales go vroomvroom and that is why we need to get this thing going. 

Art near Riga

We are working on the borders of support, since we don’t even identify as artists all the time. We are like artistic entertainers. And in our company, the values are more in HOW we do more than WHAT we do. But yes, support. I feel that compared to the size and influence of our company, we don’t get much support. But then again, we are also a relatively young company (founded 2021) so maybe we’re still finding the way to explain our relevance to the funders. 

And then - what the fuck? In a way we have gotten everything  on a silver platter: we got big funding for the tent, we got national circus organization to collaborate in our premiere, we have well-known international artists rooting for us… And it is important at times to turn around and see all the work that has been done before us so we could be here in this position, waiting to turn another page of circus history in Finland. And now I start to sound that I’m full of myself so finally we lost the insecurity. But still, I believe in us and the things that we do and that it is US, every individual in our company with their own strengths and weaknesses that count and that has led us to this moment.

How terrified and excited can you be at the same time?



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