International circus troupes take centre stage in a festival line-up that aims to surprise, says director Josephine Ridge.

Oliver Milman  |  |  28 July 2014

The flexible delights of circus performance will be the major focus of the 29th Melbourne festival, supported by an array of theatrical and musical acts.

Circus performers from Australia, Asia, Europe and north America will all feature in the 17-day festival, with groups including Cirque Eloize, Nanjing Acrobatic Troupe, Circa, D’Irque & Fien and Circus Oz.

Josephine Ridge, Melbourne festival director, told Guardian Australia that the amount of circus performances will “surprise some people”.

“It’s not necessarily expected that an international arts festival will concentrate on circus,” she said. “But it’s an important component of the cultural landscape in Melbourne. It has strong historical roots here with NICA [National Institute of Circus Arts] and Circus Oz, and we can do it here in a way that no-one else can.

Ridge continued: “Circus is in its moment, I think. More and more artists are drawing upon circus skills: people in theatre and even musicians. This will be the first festival in Australia to take a proper look at it.”

Aside from lithe acrobats, the festival will also contain a number of genre-flexing performances including When the Mountain Changed Its Clothing. This epic production, created by Heiner Goebbels, features 40 teenage Slovenian girls in a theatrical piece that crosses over into musical territory.

When the Mountain Changed Its Clothing Heiner Goebbels’s When the Mountain Changed Its Clothing. Photograph: Wonge Bergmann

The Trisha Brown dance company will performance a retrospective of its eponymous founder’s work, while music offerings include DJ Heff Mills, Irish-American group The Gloaming and guitarist Pat Matheny.

While international in reach, Ridge’s programme aims to reflect and develop the diverse qualities of Melbourne’s own artistic scene. “We don’t want it all to be over in 17 days,” she said. “We want to provide a meaningful opportunity to professional and student artists, as well as international and local ones, so they can learn from each other.

“By their very nature, festivals have to keep evolving to be topical and relevant. I’m keen to reflect the history of the city but also to point to its future.”

Melbourne festival runs from 10 to 26 October at 30 venues across the city. Tickets go on sale on 1 August

PHOTO CREDIT: Cirque Éloize Melbourne festival Cirque Éloize from Quebec, one of several circus troupes to feature in the 2014 Melbourne festival. Photograph: Valerie Remise