By Marchel Eang
For anyone in the circus community who hasn’t heard of Mad Skillz (nothing to be ashamed of either), simply put, it’s one of the best annual ground-circus festivals in Vancouver! The festival is three days long and is hosted at CircusWest. Mad Skillz celebrates mostly object manipulation: juggling, staff, poi, diabolo, and contact – but there’s also the occasional person that pulls out something different, like a unicycle. This year, the rou-cyr made an appearance as well and many people had the fun of trying it for the first time.
During the day from about 11am to 6pm there is an open gym juggling jam at CircusWest. It’s the perfect time to practice those stills that are giving you trouble and meet new people. These new friends often understand your juggling problems and can help you! Throughout the open gym time are workshops led by various artists in the community. You can learn anything from clowning, to juggling, to hoop, to how to better yourself as a business person if you’re interested in the business aspect of being a performer. All the workshops are an hour to two in length and open to all skill sets.
Following open gym on Friday and Saturday nights, there are a series of performances and parties.
Friday was night at Sideshow Studios (a shared studio space owned by a collective of Vancouver circus artists) featured the Emerging Artists of Vancouver’s circus community and was followed by the Renegade Juggling show. The Emerging Artists showcase was open to all ages and featured many performers from CircusWest; you may have even seen them in the May production of Blue Sky Circus!
After that showcase is a more adult-oriented juggler’s sketch-comedy cabaret called the Renegade Showcase that was for audiences 18+.
Saturday night was the Mad Skillz Gala which featured jugglers and artists from all over North America. Due to the venue, this year’s gala was unfortunately 19+ but there was a live stream of the show hosted at CircusWest for those who still wanted to watch, which was a party on its own!
All in all, I would highly recommend this festival to anyone interested in circus. Everyone’s extremely friendly and the open gym jams are the perfect time to learn new skills or try a new prop. Youth are encouraged to come by as well; we had a couple of boys, aged 9 – 12 from Portland who could juggle 5 clubs… WOW!
Don’t miss it next year!