The Circus Art Anthologies

The circus arts Anthologies, a multi-media site to discover and understand the different circus disciplines, developed within the framework of a partnership between the Centre national des arts du cirque /Cnac - France and the French National Library (BnF).

The circus arts Anthologies

A multi-media site to discover and understand the different circus disciplines, developed in partnership with the French National Library (BnF).

The circus arts anthologies provide, in the shape of a multimedia website, an exploration of the circus disciplines since their beginnings through a cross-disciplinary approach.

The aim is to make mostly new images and resources available to the general public, and to trace a path from the most ancient practices to particularly innovative and creative contemporary circus shows.

The first axis is devoted to acrobatics, and reveals an art form that pushes the body to its utmost limits, and which began long, long ago.

The four axes of the circus arts anthologies

• Acrobatics
• Juggling and Magic
• Clown Arts
• Animal Training.

The first part of the website, focussing on acrobatics, is already online.

Specialist expertise

Philippe Goudard, Jean-Michel Guy, and Pascal Jacob, members of the scientific committee, along with Marika Maymard, Arnaud Thomas, and many other authors, worked together to provide an intertwining look at the history and development of the circus arts, approaching the field from multiple aesthetic, technical and historical viewpoints. Their abundantly illustrated work provides numerous interpretations and is completed by feature articles that are also of interest to researchers, students and professionals.

Exceptional imagery

The website provides access to particularly rich images including:
- print, poster and photograph collections preserved for several centuries by the BnF Performing Arts department,
- the Cnac photograph and video collections as well as specific audio-visual productions created by the Cnac that portray the vitality of the contemporary circus.

The first axis of the Anthologies: Acrobatics

During ancient times, in Sumer, in Egypt or at the outer reaches of the Indus, acro- batics was often linked to funeral ceremonies. Jumps, balancing and flexibility served a «warding off» purpose by opposing the present death with a sequence of figures representing the irrepressible vitality of life. And this was how some of the fundamental disciplines in the history of acrobatics, such as jumps, balancing, contortion, Icarian and equestrian games appeared, evolved and blended. All of these floor techniques would soon be combined with propulsion machines, mobile engines and apparatus that drove the development of aerial acrobatics in particular.
The acrobatic axis comprises: 1,050 images, 226 video extracts from shows, 22 artist interviews, and 15 videos presenting circus techniques.


The website will be completed in 2018 with the addition of the «Juggling and Magic» axis as well as «Clown Arts» and«Animal Training.
The website will also be available in English and Spanish.


The circus arts anthologies are supported by the Ministry of Culture, the Grand Est Regional Council and the Departmental Council.