Direction of the Wasteland of the Belle de Mai, in the very popular Third arrondissement. There stands, not far from the gare Saint-Charles, What a Circus! , the opening weekend of the Biennale Internationale des arts du cirque (BIAC) 2019. On the vast site of this former tobacco factory, everything is still very quiet on Saturday, shortly after noon. The members of Archaos, the company organizer of the biennial, have lunch with members of the invited companies, to Large Tables, one of the buildings that make up this unique industrial complex. On the menu: stew, lentils, and a good mood, despite a hint of tension: “so far, all is well!” laughs Guy Carrara, co-artistic director of the festival. Because the issue of these first two days is important: it gives the pulse of the Biennale, drawing the public. Like two years before, the organizers have bet on the free for most performances of the opening, without sacrificing quality. “The idea is to stimulate the desire to go to see the paid performances to come, but also to attract new audiences”, explains Pascal Scuotto, in charge of press relations, while finishing promptly its share of flan with apricots.

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To 13 hours, to kick off the weekend, the first curious venture in the exhibition Crossing Appearances , dedicated to the magic new, a movement based on the diversion of the real. Despite a serious cold, Raphaël Navarro, artist invited to the Biennale, this, unlimited, works, dreamlike, like a painting that changes color, or more troubling, as these pipes cartoons that look like too much of snakes…

On the roof terrace, the acrobats of Landscape flitter

nearby, on the rooftop terrace overlooking the Wasteland, the two acrobats Landscape flutter an eyelash on curious mobile sculptures, captivating the attention of spectators whose number is increasing by the minute. In the audience, Claudine and Francis are in love. These pensioners of the Hautes-Alpes are fans of culture to the sauce marseillaise. “We love coming here to see shows. The proposed offer is different than elsewhere, more creative,” says Claudine. Both came in curious to enjoy the creations free. To see their air delighted, it’s a safe bet that they will have a few paid performances in the weeks to come.

The tight-rope walker Caroline Coupat / Le Figaro

But the most impressive is yet to come, with the entrance track to the tight-rope walker Tatiana-Mosio Bongonga, under the eyes of the crowd now very compact. The sound of music-severe and throbbing, the young woman is progressing, very high in the sky of the Wasteland, seeming to glide rather than walk. She starts dancing, climbs up a stretch of steep, descends, is the large gap on the wire and eventually suspend in the void, under the eyes, dumbfounded, to a public fascinated. All of them, without any fastener to hold it in place in the event of a fall. “It’s going to fall?” ask, scared, the children, their parents and facing inwardly to the same question. But no, after a final poirier surreal, the tightrope walker finally joined the land, to a standing ovation by an audience. “It is really beautiful!” All smiles, Belkacem seems to be delighted. This inhabitant of the neighbourhood of la Belle de Mai didn’t see such a thing by bringing their children enjoy the play areas of the Wasteland, as every weekend. “I wasn’t aware that there was this festival,” he says. But I’m really super glad that it is happening something so beautiful here in the district, it is awesome!” enthuses the father of the family.

Belkacem is not the only one who came with his children. The court Jobin, at the entrance of buildings, is in the middle of the afternoon, full of families and games for children are attacked. The employees of the Wasteland have a lot of work to do to keep the public from pushing the metal barriers to enter the skate park for the adolescents in the neighborhood are trying so badly to practice their favorite hobby. If among them, some do not, frankly, interested in the arts of the circus, others have let themselves be seduced, and “have seen several shows,” says Kader, the agent of mediation on the site.

7000 visitors

nearby, the small Lua as high as three apples, rises with enthusiasm on inclined planes used in general by the skaters. “I never miss the BIAC,” says his mom, Maria, a musician marseillaise coming “spend the afternoon”, between two interruptions to retrieve the bambine eager to explore the world. Like Maria, the regulars in marseille for the festival seem to be in the majority among the people present in this first day. Even if others are novices, like Gilles, who grid a cigarette in the sun. He took himself of passion for the circus lover is now a year old and came to see the professionals ‘with their friends circassians”.

The circus artists contemporary Mongolian Carolina Coupat / Le Figaro

While later in the afternoon, we squeezed into the stairs to try to see the second representation of Landscape . Another possibility: to clump together in the long corridor inside, in front of Jurte , an impressive show of acrobatics come straight from Mongolia – the artists, dressed in costumes decked, do not come back to attract such a large crowd. It continues until Enva , a work of poetic and burlesque show with acrobats dressed in straw bales. You will probably see unfortunately not much else. Too much of the world.

© Migration Photographer The show Jurte.
© Angels The show Enva © Davide-Garrone Andrew Hidalgo to the BIAC 2019 to Marseille. Caroline Coupat

Despite this mass of festival-goers to regulate, Moon, security officer, rest zen. “We must remain vigilant, of course, but it really is a good child, with many families and children,” says the one who from his position has been impressed, like everyone here, for the benefit of the tightrope walker. In the late afternoon, as the sun declines, and with it the temperature, the families are leaving little by little the Wasteland. Those who remain, there are still many, take refuge in the Large tables to attend the final performances of the day. The artist André Hidalgo brings calm and gentle with Tendrure , halfway between juggling and dance. This staging is poetic and soothes even those who only a moment before grumbled, disappointed not to be able to see all the shows they wanted to because of the crowd.

While some learn some sleight-of-hand with the association des magiciens de Provence, other, clink glasses around a glass of mulled wine. For the organizers, it is time for a first balance sheet. “At least 7,000 people are coming in and all the shows have been full,” said a delighted Guy Carrara. “It bodes well for the second day and for the rest of the Biennale, one can only hope that the box office catches fire,” he continued. “Tatiana has caused a real euphoria in people,” adds his sidekick Raquel de Andrade, the other co-director of the BIAC. To discover until February 10.