[This article was published in CircusMagazine #39 – June 2014]
[Author: Brecht Hermans – Translation: Craig Weston]
[Copyright: Circuscentrum – Please contact maarten[at]circuscentrum for more information]
The Flemish-Dutch duo Zinzi & Evertjan have only been active for three years, but already their star is rising on the circus firmament. Their own act ‘View’ has won scores of prizes and got them a place in the final of Holland’s Got Talent, but they have also worked for the Canadian company Les 7 Doigts de la Main, and have recently gone into premiere with the French Cie XY in the production’Il n’est pas encore minuit…’. Perfect moment for a short time-out, to look back.
Where and when did your love for circus begin?
Zinzi: “Circus was my hobby at a very early age. My brother and sister went to the youth-circus school Elleboog in Amsterdam. I followed them. I always felt at home among the people of the circus, a bit less like an outsider.”
Evertjan: “I started with circus much later. First I did athletics, and afterwards came in contact with circus quite by accident. My real initiation was a present from Saint Nicolas that was originally meant for my father: a unicycle. I stole it and used it to make our house a dangerous place.”
How did you meet one another?
Zinzi: “Through friends, because we were both looking for a partner.”
Evertjan: “I was working at school as part of a banquine trio, but a wrist injury spoiled the party. After the operation and ensuing revalidation I often considered stopping, especially because I wasn’t sure if my wrist could sustain this sort of work. Hand-to-hand was close to what I had done with the trio, and my body seemed to react well to it. So we decided to go for it. Zinzi and I are very different people, but technically things worked very well from the start.”
You were immediately in line for all sorts of prizes. It looks like it all came quite easily. But is that so?
Zinzi: “We have been very lucky, but we have also worked very hard. After graduating we did a lot of auditions, applied to play in all sorts of festivals and took whatever came our way. Even if it was badly paid. It was a way to get some experience. Often people saw our potential, but not everyone dared to take a chance on us.”
Evertjan: “From 2012 everything moved up a gear. We were taken for a gigantic production by Les 7 Doigts de al Main, played for several months in Germany, and also started with XY.”
Zinzi: “And after that we won a gold medal at the festival SolyCirco and got the news that we were invited to Paris by Cirque De Demain. Of course then you are on top of the world!”
Evertjan: “It was exciting to get more and more recognition from the professional world. When people who have really achieved something and are about twice as old as you are come and tell you they like what you are doing, that means something. But I don’t feel like we work less hard now than we did in the beginning. The only difference is that when we look at our agendas, we talk about 2016 and not about next week. Sometimes it is even frustrating, because there are a lot of great projects out there you have to say no to because you just don’t have the time.”
Your own act ‘View’ brings together the worlds of circus and dance. From where the fascination???
Zinzi: “In dance you can physically tell a story and show emotions. That is something that inspires me and also comes back to our act. What is so fine about this discipline is that in spite of the acrobatic difficulty it is easy to follow and can play just about everywhere.”
It seems to work: ‘View’ is popular with a very wide audience. Is it important for you that circus remains accessible?
Zinzi: “Of course we like to reach a lot of different people, certainly those who would not spontaneously go to see circus. It is one of my goals to surprise people, in the hope that they will come back. I don’t see why people wouldn’t like circus. But of course, there are a lot of prejudices. Once we played in a festival and afterwards a woman threw a euro in our hat. When she saw how much money was in there, she said we earn an awful lot of money for ten minutes work. There we stood, dripping with sweat in thirty degree heat, playing three times a day, with all of the necessary preparation. And five years of circus school. I really wanted to throw the euro back to her.”
With Cie XY you make up part of a performance with twenty-two acrobats. Do you have to fight to get to the front of the line?
Evertjan: “We work as a collective, where all decisions in the creative process are taken by all twenty-two artists. That is a social process. Sometimes I feel like we are politicians. We look together for the best compromise.”
Zinzi: “For me as a flyer it is sometimes difficult to find my place. There are a lot of flyers and they need a lot of bases for almost every number, which means we have to wait our turn. In the beginning it was confronting, because I do as many figures in our five minute duo as I do in this hour-long performance. But now I am used to it and realise it is not about that. I am learning a lot, not only technically, but also on other levels. French for example. My french used to be a disaster, but if you work with French people, you have no choice.”
Working creatively with another company, do you still have time to work on your own acts?
Evertjan: “During the creative process there was absolutely no time for that, but now on tour we want to continue to work technically. It was a conscious choice to focus on something outside the duo and start something new, but the itch is there. It is wonderful when we have a chance to go with just the two of us and play ‘View’ somewhere.”
Zinzi: “There has indeed been little time for other things. First we will finish this tour of the performance and then take a short vacation. With our street-show and the long tour of ‘Il n’est pas encore minuit…’ we will have our hands full this coming year.”
Evertjan: “Sometimes you have to force yourself to take a vacation. This passion takes its toll. Though I feel at the same time that is part of what is so beautiful about this work: it’s limitations. The time-limits of the body, the mental pressure of being responsible again and again for the physical safety of your partner. I realise I won’t be able to do this forever. That said, in XY there is an acrobat who is almost fifty years old, a nice example that perhaps I could.