Letní Letná celebrates two decades with international stars and domestic premieres

Interest has grown in new circus over the past 20 years, making Letní Letná the biggest festival of its kind in the region.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 11.08.2023 15:00:00 (updated on 24.08.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

Letní Letná celebrates two decades, presenting the pinnacle of new circus. The 20th edition features returning foreign stars as well as the best of Czech troupes. From Aug. 16 to Sept. 3, these artists will showcase their acrobatics in circus tents in Prague’s Letná Park.

The free opening show, a tribute to new circus, is performed just twice – on Aug. 16 and Aug. 17 at the new reservoir in Letná Park. Swedish ensemble Circus Cirkör will perform alongside water ballet performers from Prague's SK Neptun and acrobats from Cirk La Putyka, Losers Cirque Company, and AirGym Art Company.  

"With this performance, we want to celebrate the genre of the new circus and show how far we've come in the 20 years of our existence. We've connected one of the most popular international ensembles, Circus Cirkör, with Czech artists and water ballet performers. We want the audience to leave amazed and enthusiastic about the new circus and also see that the Czech Republic is on par with the global scene," Ivana Pěkná Vrbíková, the executive director of this year's festival, said.

This site-specific performance tailored for Letná will take the audience both above and below the water's surface. This homage to the new circus will offer a poetic and visually stunning experience, blending aerial and water acrobatics in captivating formations.

An international festival of new circus and theater, Letní Letná, is unique in Czechia and surrounding regions. It offers evening performances, a theater program for children, and accompanying events, some of which are free. Most performances except some aimed at children have no language barrier. The venue in Letná Park has relaxation zones, refreshment stands, and bars. Tickets for the jubilee Letní Letná "crème de la crème" are available on the festival website.

"This anniversary edition offers a moment to reflect, and our progress is truly remarkable. The evolution of new circus in the Czech Republic over the years of Letní Letná's existence is astonishing," festival director Jiří Turek said.

In the early days of the festival, the domestic new circus scene was in its infancy, but now, the quality of many Czech ensembles matches that of the international stars who come to us as guests, he added. "The audience's perception has changed too – circus is no longer synonymous with straightforward entertainment and daring stunts. People attend the festival for a range of emotions and deeper themes, including those explored in our domestic productions," Turek said.

19 Years of Letní Letná Festival in Numbers:

  • 394 festival days
  • 570,000 attendees
  • 2.3,000 performances
  • 39 foreign projects from 18 countries
  • 7 co-produced projects
  • 1,045 children in the summer camp
  • 69,000 photographs taken
  • 69 days of two winter specials, LeDní Letná
  • 6 cities hosted Letní Letná
  • CZK 244,300 raised for Zdravotní klaun charity
Cirque Aïtal. Photo: ©Vyacheslav Iroshnikov
Cirque Aïtal. Photo: ©Vyacheslav Iroshnikov

The 20th-anniversary foreign lineup offers French-Belgian collective Collectif Malunés collaborating with performer Kasper Vandenbergh, UK's NoFit State, which merges circus with music, dance, and film, France’s Cirque Aïtal, which will create a poetic bohemian atmosphere under the stars, and Canada’s Cirque Alfonse, which will turn farm life upside down.

There will also be premieres of new works by Czech-based Losers Cirque Company and performer Eliška Brtnická in collaboration with international artists.

No Fit State. Photo: Letní Letná
No Fit State. Photo: Letní Letná

Losers Cirque Company will present their latest creation Loop in a premiere performance on Aug. 16. They will also present two pieces from their repertoire.

Another Czech premiere, Crossing, will unite Czech performer Eliška Brtnická with four artists from four countries, each known for their individual solo work. Italian artist Eleonora Dall'Asta, Finnish artist Ilona Jäntti, and Japanese artist Aki Yoshida. Together, they explore aerial acrobatics in a performance that will be unveiled on Aug. 24.

Aki Yoshida will also present her show Ruten, a movement-based poem that combines dance and acrobatics to navigate life's challenges. These are just a few of the highlights. For the full program, visit the festival website. Many shows sell out in advance, so buying tickets early is recommended.  

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