Cirque du Liban was established in 2007 by a group of young people, initially performing in various theatres and on the streets.
It now has its own official tent, and its new show, "Atlantis Circus", has attracted more than 22,000 spectators for its public performances, and twice that number for private performances since it opened in November 2013.
Izak Abou Sari, one of Cirque du Liban's founders, spoke to Al-Shorfa about these developments on the eve of the circus' departure to Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Al-Shorfa: What is the story of your new show, "Atlantis Circus"?
Izak Abou Sari: "Atlantis Circus" is a production of Cirque du Liban, Lebanon's first world-class circus. Cirque du Liban, which was founded in 2007 as a small company, has now become a real circus company, with its own tent and animals such as tigers, lions, monkeys and snakes. "Atlantis Circus" was a major production with acrobatic and animal performances.
Al-Shorfa: How has the Lebanese public responded?
Abou Sari: The reaction has been positive. When we announced our show for November and December, we did not expect great attendance. But we were surprised to sell 22,000 tickets for our public shows on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays each week. This is apart from our 42 private performances for schools and private institutions and associations, which means that 42,000 people saw our private performance, as our tent accommodates 1,000 for every show.
Al-Shorfa: Can we say that Lebanon now has its own circus company?
Abou Sari: Yes, and I say that with pride. It was our dream from the outset, and we have achieved it today, after we spent a long time traveling between Lebanon and the Ukraine to learn how to manage a circus company and rehearse acrobatic presentations.
Al-Shorfa: Tell us about the animal performances.
Abou Sari: We are now sharing these performances with foreigners until we get to a stage where foreigners are no longer needed. I train the animals, which have been the property of the circus for a year and a half, after I received special training on taming and training wild animals in South Africa. I also perform with some of the fiercest tigers in the world, which we brought from Siberia. In practice, we will not need foreign trainers for the animals in seven months.
Al-Shorfa: Is the Lebanese circus team skilful?
Abou Sari: Yes, and the evidence is that the public cannot distinguish between the Lebanese and foreign performers. They thought they were all foreigners, and did not believe they were Lebanese until they spoke to them. Cirque du Liban has a team of mostly Lebanese performers. They were young when they started with us, and they continue to improve their skills daily. Our team currently includes 32 people, 20 Lebanese and 12 foreigners, aged between 13 and 29 years.
Al-Shorfa: Did you expect to achieve what you have now accomplished?
Abou Sari: Our goal from the beginning was to establish a circus for Lebanon. Today we have achieved our goal. But we still have many dreams. We aspire to become global, beyond Lebanon and the Arab world. While we develop our skills, we are working on global projects in the pipeline, such as the Dubai festivals.
Al-Shorfa: Where will you perform after Lebanon?
Abou Sari: Some members of our company are performing in Saudi Arabia for one month, and we are preparing to perform with the Australian circus in Dubai. We also signed a contract with the Mexican circus for animal performances for five months in Dubai, and we will have additional performances in Qatar in February.