The festival cirqu' is closely connected to the Alten Reithalle Aarau. Thanks to the hall's central location, the idea of the cirqu' was born within its brick walls.
The Alte Reithalle was built for the cavalry in the 19th century. Until 1972 it was used precisely for this purpose and then later for private horseback riding only. Half a century ago, it was often said that "if you want to ride a horse in the old cavalry hall, you need to join the club NOW, since they will be tearing it down soon".
Fortunately, the Alte Reithalle is still standing and currently being renovated. It will be reopened in 2021 as an adaptable stage for various artistic performances like the theater, the contemporary circus, dances, and concerts.
The purpose of the Hall had long been unclear, and theatrical and cultural groups of Canton Aargau had equally long been fighting for a suitable platform for their artists. Finally in 2011, the theater Tuchlaube Aarau – today Bühne Aarau – began to use the Alte Reithalle for their summer events. This was a great success thanks to the size and the atmosphere of the hall.
Already in 2012 - the second summer season - a contemporary circus performance, "Mädchen Mädchen" by the group Roikkuva from Aargau, was shown. A year later, Roman Müller and his company Tr'espace performed "ArbeiT" and in 2014 "Le Cercle".
Roman Müller was fascinated by the Alten Reithalle and immediately recognized the building's potential. Since the contemporary circus has always had special place in his life, being an artist himself and considering many of the performers like family, he wanted to create an ambitious contemporary circus festival. He then presented the idea to Peter-Jakob Kelting, the director of the Bühne Aarau, who gladly gave his full support. The contemporary circus finally became a deciding factor in the future plans of the Alte Reithalle.
The festival project started in 2015 with a five-day event and was named cirqu'4 (why start with cirqu'1 when the circus had already appeared in the hall the previous three summers?). That year, the guest performers were the French company Un loup pour l’homme with the piece «Face Nord» and Jörg Müller with both «Mobile» and «c/o».
In 2016, cirqu'5 had already lasted eight days and showed highlights like «4x4: ephemeral architectures» by the British artist Gandini Juggling in collaboration with the Argovian Philharmonics, and Jani Nuutinen with «un cirque plus juste».
By 2017 cirqu'6 had already reached the target duration of ten days and could finally be called a festival in the exact sense of the word. The program included 11 productions, for example «Pour le meilleur et pour le pire» by Cirque Aïtal and «La Cosa» by Claudio Stellato, for a total of 33 performances in front of more than 5000 spectators.
Now, not only is the circus shown in the Alte Reithalle, but in the whole city of Aarau: the Bühne Aarau, the City Museum, the Kasernenareal and the train station square are involved in the organization, and for the festival opening day the old town is transformed in an animated stage.
The festival has now become a biannual event. In 2019, cirq'7 ...More than 5000 spectators were present in Aarau and had the opportunity to view a series of unique and sensational performances, like «Le Vide – essai de cirque» by Fragan Gehlker und Alexis Auffray, «VORTEX» by Phia Ménard or «Fidelis Fortibus» by Circus Ronaldo. In addition, the general meeting of the European Network Circostrada took place during the festival for three consecutive days, bringing an exceptional audience to the scene.
Three factors mainly contributed to the festival's success: the fact that the city of Aarau had never before hosted a prestigious festival in the performing arts, the fact that the Alte Reithalle offers a special place apt for new artistical content, and the ongoing rapid development of the contemporary circus in the last several years in Switzerland.
Although several other theatrical stages in Switzerland, like the theater Vidy in Lausanne or the Theaterspektakel in Zürich, have often shown artistic circus productions, the contemporary circus had never been able to establish a solid base in this country. Funding institutions and theaters had often considered the circus as not eligible. In the last years, this assessment has finally changed and the contemporary circus is now included in the Federal Council's new cultural message. The festival cirqu' started at the right time and, thanks to its charme and exeptional quality, it has greatly contributed to the development of the contemporary circus.