Letní Letná opens with a big bang

The 15th year of the contemporary circus festival runs for two weeks

The Letní Letná International Festival of Contemporary Circus and Theatre began Aug. 15 and runs until Sept. 2 at a popup tent village at Letná park near the Chotkovy sady entrance.

The opening night featured a free performance to give people an idea of what the festival has to offer. The same show will be repeated Aug. 16 at 8:30 pm. Most of the rest of the program requires tickets, and shows do sell out so advance planning is a good idea.

As the sun fell Aug. 15 in a large field behind the main tent, “a new star” was seen: the circus performance titled De Nova Stella (“On the New Star” in Latin) by Daniel Gulko. The title refers to a book by astronomer Tycho Brahe, who lived in Prague.

The 80-minute-long De Nova Stella encapsulated the fast-paced, colorful spirit of the 15th annual summer festival. The performance features over 30 people from the Czech Republic, France and Italy. Audience members saw clowns, men launching themselves off of swings and see saws, and men and women flinging themselves through the air without any harnesses or restraints.

While the crowd for the opening show was mainly local Czech people, the performances are ecumenical. With barely any spoken words, except an occasional interlude given by the clowns in English, these performances speak through lively brass instrumental circus music and beautiful choreography that anyone in the world can understand.

“I have been coming here every year for four years, and I have tickets for next week,” says Iva, who brought a large blanket to sit on and have a romantic night with her husband. “This is my first time at the first performance and I really liked it, especially the woman on the rope and all of the jumping.”

One performer did an acrobatic performance in a loose rope, swinging into the overhead scaffolding and at times hanging by her feet. The solo act by the female acrobat was praised by others in the crowd as well.

“I was so scared she was going to fall,” says 10-year-old Noemi, who’s favorite part of the show was when the woman launched herself into the air above the audience. The entire crowd sucked in a loud gasp, and then let it out as they watch the women catch the rope again, making the trick look easy and effortless.

13-year-old Agata came to De Nova Stella to watch her teacher juggle and jump on seesaws in the show. She trains unicycling and hanging acrobatics at her circus school in Mlýn.

“Since I know how it is, I’m not scared for them. You have to hold on super tight and know how to catch on if you start falling, and that even when you mess up, you know you have people around you that know how to help you,” says Agata.

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