"We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing." Under this motto, the circus collective Jam.Shenanigans gathered during the autumn vacation in residence at Wisper vzw. The first colorful puzzle pieces for their performance clicked together playfully.

A floor strewn with brightly colored ball pit balls, floating airplanes made of styrofoam, and a half-finished toy train track: anyone entering the rehearsal residency of Jam.Shenanigans in Antwerp must resist the temptation to start playing with the set.

Mission accomplished for the rehearsing circus duo Henri Kangas (°1998, Finland) and Batist Van Baekel (°2000, Brussels). Because that is precisely the intention of their circus performance in the making, Shenanigans, which begins to take shape during this autumn residency as part of the MAD Festival. "There is a child in each of us," explains Batist. "But we sometimes forget this as we grow up. The performance we are creating emphasizes the importance of playfulness, imagination, and creativity – also for adults. We want to reintroduce our audience to their childlike side. We hope that spectators feel like playing with us at the end."

"Quite nerdy" 

Henri and Batist met at the Codarts Circus school in Rotterdam, where they graduated in 2021 and 2022, respectively. "At school, we noticed that, despite our different backgrounds, we have the same taste in circus", explains Batist. "We often played together after hours and also lived together for a while. That's how we developed a shared language."

"Another common ground is that we can both be quite nerdy", adds Henri. "When we start something, we are quite passionate. Not only in the circus field, by the way. At the moment, for example, we are delving into the sport of disc golf, a mix of golf and frisbee. There is always that fascination with pushing boundaries and getting better at something. Sometimes to the point of obsession."

7 days of experimentation and rehearsal 

During the past autumn break, Henri and Batist could immerse themselves obsessively in their circus performance Shenanigans for a week. During this lab residence, as part of the MAD Festival and in collaboration with Wisper vzw, Henri and Batist had 7 days of rehearsal space, professional support, and accommodation in Antwerp. A significant boost, emphasize the young creators. "It was a very nice, productive week", says Batist. "What a gift to tinker undisturbed with Shenanigans for a whole week, without much distraction or impressions from others. That delineation in time and space really helps."

"The advantage of such a multi-day on-site residence is that you get completely in the zone," says Henri. "It's more inspiring than, for example, a day in a rehearsal room in your hometown. We came up with dozens of creative ideas. In addition to physical rehearsal, we could also talk a lot, exchange opinions, think about lighting or music, etc."

Playful professionalism 

Are residences important for young creators? "Very important", emphasizes the duo. "In addition to rehearsal space, you get professional support. You can ask questions to people in the industry, get specific help or guidance, ... That feels very comfortable for emerging artists like us. Moreover, it gives you, as a young artist, a hint of professionalism."

Not unimportant, they both find, now that they are transitioning from school to professional life. However, they also want to retain their inner child. "We are gradually entering professional life," says Batist. "But we always want to look at the world with a playful perspective. That's what attracts us to circus. There's nothing immature or childish about it. It serves as a great driving force for creativity."

In the coming months, Batist and Henri will continue their creative exploration. The premiere is scheduled for the fall of 2023. Batist: "We still have a long way to go. But the major pieces of the puzzle are starting to come together. And this week has certainly contributed to that."