Circus City artists strike because of robot?

ROTTERDAM 1-4-’24

His performance 'Acrobot' is still in development, but is already causing a lot of unrest among the other circus artists at Circusstad Festival (May 1-5, Rotterdam).

Daniel Simu developed a robot as an acrobatics partner with windshield wiper motors in the joints for his circus act. Daniel received nothing but appreciation for his previous work as a juggler, slapstick acrobat, clown, fire eater and illusionist. But now that a robot is taking over the tasks for which another circus artist is normally hired, a large number of artists feel the need for a short strike.

'Real emotions'

Scott Makowkse of Duo No Nonsense: “I would never trade my acrobatics partner Sanne for a machine, even if I could double my income with it. The audience wants real people with real emotions.”

'Bread robbery'

Patrick Cramers, chairman of the Circuspunt, which represents circus interests: “I understand that artists feel threatened. For example, scripts are already being written with AI for circus performances. It feels like bread robbery. We shouldn't go that way.”

Menno van Dyke, artistic director of Circusstad Festival, is surprised by all the fuss. “We stand for innovation and inclusivity,” he says. “If Daniel wants to experiment with a robot, I think that should be possible. But demonstrating is a right and we offer every space for that.”

Circusstad Festival takes place from 1 to 5 May on the Schouwburgplein and in the cultural institutions around it (Theater Rotterdam, de Doelen, Luxor Theater). There are also performances at the Maritime Museum and in the Laurenskerk. There is no fence around Schouwburgplein. Everyone is welcome for a snack or drink, to participate in a circus workshop or to buy tickets for the performances on site.

Such a strike seems like an April Fool's joke. And that is it. However, that does not make Daniel Simu's act with his robot any less brilliant and the questions his act raises remain just as topical. The artists are still keeping the exact moment of a 'short public-friendly' strike during the festival a secret. During his performances (May 3, 4:15 PM and May 5, 12:30 PM in HAL Theater of Theater Rotterdam), Daniel will in any case be left alone by the striking artists.

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