Co-founders and Directors of the CCCF Shayna Swanson and Matt Roben want to let you know about a crazy new project.

About a year ago, the two got the bright idea to make the first circus festival in US history, giving it a heavily contemporary slant…now, January 6-12 brings the first Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival, bringing 7 national and international circus companies to town for 5 days of shows, workshops, seminars on the “state of contemporary circus”, parties, cabarets and more.

These shows are so varied and nowhere near what your parents and certainly not what your grandparents would think of when they hear the word circus: a solo 50 contortion show about the death of a turtle (Cherepaka by Andreane Leclerc), a gut wrenching duo about how capitalism numbs our personal interactions (Smoke and Mirrors by Ricochet) and a joyous, technically astounding show by Flip Fabrique, comprised of a group of Cirque du Soleil artists who wanted to get more out of their performing voice. The festival features artists from Canada, Scotland, Finland and every corner of the US in family shows, adult only shows, youth shows, and multi-media shows.

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Be prepared to throw out whatever notions you have on what the circus experience is, because this festival redefines and rejuvenates with innovation while not only thinking outside the box, but blowing that box to bits.

We caught up with Co-Producer Matt Roben for some insight into the shows, how everything came together, and why it seems that the United States is just so darn far behind the rest of the world when it comes to cool circus shit.

So, what is the Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival and what does it mean to you and your crew?
CCCF is the first festival in the US to feature contemporary circus performances presented over a week of time in three theaters around Chicago. There are professional development workshops and there are skills based masters classes. We are bringing together performers and circus fans from all over the world and showing them work by some of the most exciting companies out there. It is going to be a chance to see 11 different shows, attend 23 different discussions, 10 masters classes and party with everyone you should have already met if you didn’t. This is about making connections and expanding your understanding of the art you are creating.

What can folks expect when they enter the metaphorical tent? Or will there be an actual tent?
What folks can expect is to have their socks knocked off by the insane skill level of these performers. There is no tent. These are all in theaters. Though they won’t be in tents they will be intense. (Sorry I just couldn’t help myself there)

How long have you been planning the event and how did everyone involved get involved?
About nine months ago I sat down with Shayna and said, “Look dude, you have been thinking about this festival idea for years. Lets make it happen. And so we did, we got a website, we starting promoting it and then everyone we know also said YES! and we just kept rolling with it. People heard about it and wanted to be involved. Everyone sees the need for this in the US and was willing to help make it happen.

How did everything come together for the show?
Bit by bit. We asked for submissions and we got 400 of them. We watched every single video and tried to pick a wide range of shows that would show just what is out there. We realized we needed some tech help and so we put out a call to friends. They responded. We realized we needed help manning an info booth and so they helped with that too.

Has the ridiculous cold (earlier this week, Chicago was in the midst of a polar vortex, in case you’ve been living under an ice ball) effected the festival in any way?
The cold has been a fairly non issue but the snow storm caused a TON of travel delays and really made for some interesting schedule changes but everyone dealt with it like champs. Baggage has been lost with entire shows’ props and costumes but the community of performers here rallied together to cover it.

What do you hope to accomplish by bringing this show to Chicago?
This is already a well established and respected art form in the rest of the world and has been for 40 years. We are trying to make it the same here. There is just not the same awareness or understanding of what this genre of performance really is. We have so much to learn as Americans related to circus. We just want to see people share their ideas, experiences and knowledge, make connections and come away as bigger, better, and more bad-assier!

Where will the festivities be taking place?
The shows will be at the Athenaeum Theatre Thursday-Sunday in the Main Stage and Studio 3 Black Box and at the Links Hall/Constellation on Thursday and Friday.

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As you can (hopefully) see, Chicago is at the forefront of cutting-edge circus performance in the US, and we have Shayna and Matt and all the wonderful folks involved to thank for improving on the state of the circus.

For more information, to buy tickets, or to donate to this noble cause visit:

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