Með því að smella á „Samþykkja“ staðfestir þú að vafrakökur séu geymdar í tækinu þínu til að auka notendaupplifun, greina notkun síðunnar og aðstoða við markaðsstarf okkar. Skoðaðu persónuverndarstefnu okkar fyrir frekari upplýsingar.
Skilmálar um notkun á vafrakökum
Þegar þú heimsækir vefsíður gætu þær geymt eða sótt gögn í vafrann þínn með vafrakökum (e. cookies). Þetta er oft nauðsynlegt fyrir grunnvirkni vefsíðunnar. Vafrakökurnar gætu verið notaðar til markaðssetningar, greiningar eða til að sérsníða síðuna, t.d. til að geyma kjörstillingar þínar.

Persónuvernd er okkur mikilvæg. Þess vegna hefur þú möguleika á að slökkva á ákveðnum tegundum af vafrakökum sem eru ekki nauðsynlegar fyrir grunnvirkni vefsíðunnar. Þessi útilokun getur haft áhrif á upplifun þína af vefsíðunni.
Stjórnun á vafrakökum eftir flokkum
Alltaf virkt
Þessar vafrakökur eru nauðsynlegar fyrir grunnvirkni síðunnar.
Þessar vafrakökur eru notaðar til að birta auglýsingar sem eiga betur við þig og áhugamál þín. Þær geta einnig verið notaðar til að mæla árangur auglýsingaherferða eða takmarka fjölda skipta sem þú sérð auglýsingar. Markaðsfyrirtæki setja þær inn með leyfi rekstraraðila vefsíðunnar.
Persónulegar stillingar
Þessar vafrakökur gera vefsíðunni kleift að muna stillingarnar þínar (svo sem notendanafn, tungumál eða svæði) og veita betri og persónulegri upplifun.
Þessar vafrakökur hjálpa rekstraraðila vefsíðunnar að fylgjast með virkni síðunnar, hvernig gestir nota hana og hvort það komi upp tæknileg vandamál. Þessar vafrakökur safna ekki upplýsingum sem auðkenna gesti.

Episode 8: Eyrún & Jóakim - circus artists

For the latest episode of the Performing Arts Centre Iceland podcast, host Salka Guðmundsdóttir was joined by circus artists Eyrún Ævarsdóttir and Jóakim Meyvant Kvaran who are founding members of the contemporary circus organization Hringleikur. As part of a dedicated group of circus professionals building a platform for this form in Iceland, Eyrún and Jóakim had plenty of insights to share.

Welcome, both of you! When I was preparing for this interview, I was astounded to realise that Hringleikur was only found in 2018. It seems like you guys have been around for longer. You certainly burst onto the scene and have already gained a strong reputation for high quality work. So take us back to the early days! Who were the people who came together to found the company and why?

Eyrún: If we look at the history of circus in Iceland, it’s very short. I would say that real circus activity is only around 15, maybe 16 years old at the moment. Then there was this group that formed that was called Sirkus Íslands. We joined as teenagers who were just interested in seeing what this was – like, is circus even real? And that started rolling, that group started making shows together and training. From there on, some of us decided to go get an education in this, get a circus education abroad. After we returned, people started getting different ideas about how they wanted to work and what type of work they wanted to create. Then this group wanted to develop the field a little bit more decided to together found this organization Hringleikur.

Whatever the weather

And what were your thoughts when you formed it? What was the initial aim?

Jóakim: Well, Sirkus Íslands always had this classical circus aura to it, that atmosphere, and our aim with Hringleikur was to have a platform to do something that isn't that. To have more freedom to be experimental.

Eyrún: The family circus or more traditional circus style can be a lot of fun and it's beautiful in so many ways but circus also exists in many other different ways. Contemporary circus is something that has been growing in Europe and around the world for several decades. And that was something that we were really interested in exploring. Where would that go here in Iceland and how should that exist?

As you say, contemporary circus is definitely gaining traction as a form. I do think more and more people are familiar with what it might entail. Here in Iceland many people have seen some of the outdoors events that you do, so will be familiar with what's happening. But of course the idea of the classical circus lingers, we think of the tent, of tightrope dancers, clowns throwing pies, elephants – I think we can all hear the crack of the whip of the lion tamer. Tell us a bit about contemporary circus and what forms it can take.

Jóakim: Yeah, so it's a big question that people a lot smarter than us are struggling to actually answer –  what is it exactly – but what makes me interested in it is how incredibly open and fluid and varied the art form is. There aren't a lot of boundaries as to where it ends, what it’s not.

Eyrún: I would say that the core of contemporary circus could maybe be described as one way of using these circus disciplines that were found in the circus before, like the acrobatics, the juggling, the mystical virtuosity of the performers – it’s new metaphors and performances using this as the medium for any type of work, saying anything you want – a story or you can do poetry, you can do whatever you want with it basically, just taking it as the language rather than a certain aesthetic.

Whatever the weather - outdoors version

In some ways it reminds me of the artistic situation of contemporary dance, because that is also a form which really has no boundaries.

Eyrún: And I would say that circus is for sure a neighboring field, but for me, the difference between circus and dance is that often in the circus you have an object in some form – sometimes an actual object that you're juggling or you're climbing on, sometimes it's another person, sometimes it's a floor, but you're somehow relating to the space around you and objects that are either being manipulated or are manipulating you in some way.

Like you already mentioned, Sirkus Íslands was a very big catalyst for circus arts in Iceland. But what combination of events made it possible to do circus on a professional level? Was it following a wider trend in our neighboring countries? Why this moment?

Jóakim: I think the number one driver of Sirkus Íslands and its creation was that we had an Australian circus artist and street performer arriving here, realizing that there was no reality of circus here. He saw a blue ocean here with room for something that he was able to make or deliver. His efforts attracted like-minded people and artists who grew together into what Sirkus Íslands eventually became. I also think that worldwide there was a sort of circus curiosity, in the ether somehow.

Eyrún: Some of these people who started doing circus with Sirkus Íslands and became interested in doing this realized that universities existed and that all this world was out there. We went out to explore that and then decided to come back and continue developing that – also ride on this really powerful wave that was this group. At this point the group had bought a circus tent and we had been touring with that around in Iceland which was a huge crazy adventure. We saw that there was some interest in circus, that it could really reach audiences and build bridges between so-called higher and lower culture, even different locations or areas in the country, between people speaking different languages.

Audiences wanted to come to the circus. Sure, circuses had come and gone in Iceland but it was always this alien thing that would never really leave anything behind. It was kind of this crazy thing where they built a tent and people saw something dreamlike in there and then it's just gone – like, did it even happen?

Whatever the weather

It must be exciting to be working on something that is a relatively new form in your particular culture. Of course, we might see it as a drawback that we don't have a circus arts history to connect to, but you have a kind of blank page. It’s a very dynamic moment when a generation becomes the pioneers of a discipline.

Eyrún: I have to agree with you. Like the two of us, we went abroad and studied and at least for me one of the main things that drove me to come back and to start doing this work was to see what is actually possible when you have a blank page. People don't really know what it is, what we're doing, so we are basically introducing to them an art form, a discipline or a genre that does exist elsewhere. Building all of that is of course a lot of work, but it does open a lot of doors too.

Jóakim: I remember a classmate of mine at university, he turned to me and and asked: So Jóakim, you're a first generation circus artist in Iceland. I said: Yeah, there was nobody else, and he replied: That has to be either incredibly difficult or absolutely amazing. I think it’s both!

Three years ago you created your first fully produced performance, a show called Whatever the Weather, a touring production co-produced with Midnight Theatre Company. You took the outdoors version of the show to various locations around Iceland in, well, presumably all sorts of weather so tell us a bit about this show, your first fully produced performance. Were any performers blown away by the wind somewhere?

Jóakim: Not quite, we were quite lucky! But we also created the show for any weather.

Eyrún: The concept and original idea for this whole project comes exactly from what we've been discussing. There isn't that much knowledge or infrastructure for circus. It's rare that venues have enough ceiling height or large enough stages or are able to have a touring production come in and do their thing. So we were kind of thinking, okay, we can’t be sure that we will have access to theatres. How can we make like a full-scale production, our first contemporary show that we would like to tour with? We decided to see if we could make an outside show and then the real situation of that blew up into our face: having to deal with the weather.

Jóakim: Shirtless and in glitter pants or something!

Eyrún: Exactly! A part of circus artists’ work is sometimes having to perform at these commercial gigs or different events. And I don’t know how many times I've had the situation of it being like the first day of summer and, yay, really great festival happening and I'm there performing in a catsuit or something and it's snowing … I really felt that we had to find some way that would make sense of this situation. Okay, we want to make an outside show, but it has to address the weather and be adaptable. From there, we started to talk about how the weather actually relates to us. Like if you're performing, if you've tried performing on silks in wind, that does change what you're doing. So we played with this as an active thing, in the creation process, the whole concept.

Jóakim: Yeah, that was our opening for the show. And in that process we just found so much material – all the stories, all the feelings that you have about the weather.

You're literally working with your body and our bodies are of course very influenced by for example temperature and humidity. I’m sure you have to adapt to what's happening with the weather.

Eyrún: Yeah, for sure, and we have different versions of the show. Sometimes we decide to change something because it's more windy or more rainy or something. A happy kind of thing that we found was that if it’s wet, my aerial rope gets grippier. It's easier for me to hang on it, which was a surprise.

Jóakim: On the other hand, it's the opposite for me with my acrobatics on poles, that becomes absolutely useless in the rain. So the whole act moves from: Look at the acrobatics I can do! to like: I can barely climb, let's see, I hope this works.


You both did your BA in Circus Arts at CODARTS in Rotterdam, a well-respected programme in the contemporary circus world. Of course you will have studied the foundation of circus arts and its history but there must be a lot of specialization involved as well.

Jóakim: Yes, all of us had to learn the foundation, both physicially and academically, but then we also had to decide on a specialization.

Eyrún: You had to choose your discipline that you would focus on and do more intensive work with, exploring your creative process throughout the education in this discipline, with one supporting discipline. I worked with aerial rope, and then as a supporting discipline, I had some floor acrobatics. Since finishing the school, I've also been moving into partner and group acrobatics.

Jóakim: My number one specialization was an acrobatic or aerial apparatus called the Chinese pole which is around six meters high, where I do aerial-ish acrobatics but the difference is that it's standing on the ground.

So you were teenagers when you kind of walked into the Sirkus Ísland. How did this happen? I'm really curious about your journey, especially because it's not a typical thing to pursue.

Eyrún: My way into this was actually getting to know Jóakim and some other people through a drama club that I was part of. In this one show that we were making, a few guys came and did diabolo, which is a form of object manipulation, and I had randomly learned this on a holiday in France when I was 11 or something. I was like: Hey, I know how to do this, they asked if I wanted to join the act. I found out that they were going to this training that was called already at this point Sirkus Íslands. They were meeting, I think it was like two times for a week, late in the evening in a gymnastics hall when it wasn't being used by others, so this was like a moment when this group of weirdos could come and do their thing.

Jóakim: Do some juggling.

Eyrún: Exactly, juggling or even aerials or acrobatics, basically training together. Being a physical person, I've always been into that sort of thing, climbing or getting better at sports, but I never liked the competitiveness of sports. Finding this just felt like you had a playground where you were allowed to just play and do whatever you wanted, but you still had this path and you could get better and better and move up with your abilities. Then after finding out how you can also just use this as a creative tool and actual performing art, I was completely hooked.

Jóakim: I have a weird story about how I found this. A friend of mine and I were walking and we saw a unicycle in a shop window. I had never seen a unicycle before except in animated shows, I hadn't really realized before that those things were real. So me and my friend decided to learn how to ride one. We thought, okay, this exists, we have nothing better to do because we're seventeen. Let's learn how to ride the unicycle. And what happens when you ride the unicycle around anywhere, I think, is that other people who are into unicycling or any sort of circus will find you and aren't shy about saying hello. That’s how we met Lee, or Wally, who was head of Sirkus Ísland and told us: We’re doing some training and I think you might like it, we're not doing unicycling, but you can do almost anything else. That’s how I got into it and it was just a weird hobby to do, an interesting way to spend an evening once or twice a week. But then we were able to train a bit more often and then we were making shows.

Eyrún: We all kind of realized, wow, okay, we have something here. That was really the driving force, that this was a group of people who found this thing that they were interested in doing together and were able to do it together, like 15-20 people training regularly.

That’s very Icelandic, in that sometimes it takes very little to make a lot happen – there will be a moment and maybe just a handful of people but because it's such a small place you can really grab that moment.

Jóakim: Yeah, like we had no idea of how you're supposed to make a show, so we just made our show in our own way, just rented a theatre and made a show that happened to be alright, for what it was. It wasn't terrible, we were all very young. We didn't know the rules, so we just invented our own in many ways.

Last autumn you produced a show called MegaWhat? and it was performed at the Elliðaárstöð power station, which is emerging as a new location for all sorts of events and outings. I've also seen you appear at events there, just out in the woods. This time you brought circus on a date with science, right?

Eyrún: Yeah, absolutely. This one kind of came out of a similar situation – I don’t want to say problem, but we always have our eyes and ears open to different places that might be interesting to perform in. This match was made between us and Elliðaárstöð which is just like this incredible space, the first power station in Reykjavik that was running the electricity for the city for many years but has now been turned into a museum and is being developed into this really interesting area. It’s located in a beautiful natural area in the middle of the city and they had this great team of designers that have made the visuals of the whole place really interesting. A lot of the objects that you can play with are speaking into where all this came from – like pipes and electricity things. So that was something really interesting for us, all these little spaces and places we could cram ourselves into or climb on top of, kind of hide behind.

Jóakim: It still has this essence of functionality and the science that made it all happen. It made us think about the similarities between circus and science, or arts and science. And we wanted to make a show that reflects the overlap that we saw there.

Eyrún: Exactly, because, as I also mentioned earlier, this reality of the circus – there is a circus apparatus hanging from this roof and it has to hold a certain amount of weight and stuff like that, and there are going to be forces that will be really big going onto this rigging point. This relates in so many ways to a lot of industries, the power industry and the fishing industry. And some of the tools and the objects that you can find in these different fields, they actually link. So our art form that's using this in a creative way, in a playful way, how can this form exist within the functionality of spaces that have been used for other purposes?

There was an outreach aspect to the show, in the sense of participatory elements, but also through the pricing of tickets on a sliding scale. I really get the sense that you want to get more people experiencing circus and also directly taking part. And the form of your company is in itself an inviting one which gives a sense of professional community building. Can you tell a little bit about how Hringleikur is structured?

Eyrún: Yeah, so Hringleikur is a member organization which means that anyone who is interested in being part of the circus community, building the circus scene here in Iceland, in whichever capacity, is basically welcome to join. I think we're over 40 members at the moment, which is really exciting. It's a place where people can come and train together or create stuff together, get opportunities to perform. We've been trying to find the best ways to execute that, how to make it more inclusive and functional. But that is the main idea, that it should be a platform for people who are interested in doing circus and developing the circus field. I would say that circus has this open kind of feeling to it and historically it has always been something that any cultural sector or level of society should be able to go to and enjoy. It can be a tool to unite people and it shouldn't only be for the people who can afford tickets. Of course, we are also in the situation that we are basically building the audience for circus. We have to convince them that this is something interesting and worthwhile to go to see, and there isn't an existing group of people that will always buy a ticket.

But practically speaking, what is the professional environment like for circus arts here in Iceland? I mean in terms of funding, housing, opportunities for international collaboration … like you already said you are introducing circus as a professional performing arts format. There's a lot of convincing to do, I'm sure, within the system as well.

Eyrún: Yes, but I have to say, though, it's not so much the convincing that has been hard. I've felt that people are actually open towards this, especially since we can say we have an education and this is an actual real thing, which often helps when you're working in Iceland to say: in other countries they do it like this. But I think all people working in the performing arts in Iceland will say that the main thing we're lacking is money and maybe the understanding and respect for our field. If you want to have a functioning performing arts scene, or actual companies creating something that is good and has value and quality, then you have to present them with certain infrastructure. Like stages existing that have high enough ceilings, that have personnel that can support the artists that come, even having producers, all of these things just basically existing and being available to artists. We are often struggling with this situation that if you want to be an artist, you have to also be the producer and the light technician and all of the other roles that are there. What I would really love to see happen would be to be able to perform in venues that are able to hold circus and just generally shows – it’s very normal for performing arts to need some height and for the light design and all the things.

Jóakim: But we have been quite lucky with a lot of things. We have a training facility at the moment, which was a huge explosion into the scene here, having one area where you're able to train technique and create as well. We had a space before where we were able to train technique but as a creation space it was really not excellent.

Eyrún: Yes, very challenging, it was a gymnastics hall that was of course being used for gymnastics. We are just basically guests in that space and can use it when they're not using it. Which has been so valuable and still is. But in relation to being a professional artist who needs to work in certain ways, it's very difficult to have to always move yourself out, or you can't play the music or there's somebody there. Being able to close off the space and work focused, that's such an important thing. But we now have this first circus space, although this is not a future solution unfortunately, because we will lose that space. At the moment there's also some residency spaces popping up here in Iceland that we've been able to make use of. But when these spaces are being created, if the needs of circus would be considered that would make a huge difference for us.

What are your ambitions for Hringleikur?

Jóakim: I want to make sure we are able to move ahead to makes more shows, have room for more artists and performers, whether they are amateurs or professionals or just hobbyists who want to train. I would like to be able to make room for everybody who is interested in circus as an art form

Eyrún: I think that is such an important part of sustaining this. When something is based on individuals doing something, or founding something, or running something, it has a big risk of falling apart if that person then stops doing it. So I think Hringleikur needs to find a way to make this organization really sustain itself, having clear space and a platform for different people who want to do the different things and structures that can support that. We are on the way already and we have some creative series projects happening at the moment, trying to find ways to really keep up activities, keep the community active. From there you can grow whatever you want, basically.

Jóakim: Make sure that whoever arrives after us, be it within Hringleikur or not, has a little bit easier or clearer pathways than we did. I think that's our role – to help make way for whatever happens next. Yeah.