20 STORIES OF CIRCOSTRADA - CELEBRATING THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE NETWORK: Shifting perspective - an article written by Dan Bartha

An Article written by
Dan Bartha
and edited by
John Ellingsworth
29 January 2024
illustration: Marion Jdanoff

The first Circostrada event I went to was the annual meeting in Split in April 2023. Of course, I was very curious
to see what it would be like. In the programme there was a Diverse Body.ies workshop hosted by two
artists, Jasmina Bilalovikj and Zlatko Mitreski. I was quite sure that we, the Circostrada representatives,
would be more like an audience for the workshop, watching a presentation from the core company or
hearing about their work. But there was a surprise: for this workshop, we were the bodies. With around 35 of
us in the room, the two trainers started, very slowly, to get us working together and feeling comfortable. Their
improvisation exercises were perfect icebreakers for our group of mixed abilities, and got everyone out of
their comfort zones — and we could see results beyond the laughter provoked. The workshop lasted an hour
and a half, I think, but I didn’t feel the time pass at all…
This year, we are celebrating 30 years of FITS – Sibiu International Theater Festival. Its roots trace back to
the early 90s. After the communist regime fell in 1989, it was suddenly possible to travel again. Constantin
Chiriac, the festival’s founder and current president was working as an actor, touring festivals and cultural
events in Europe, and he became interested in bringing the work he saw there back to Romania.
In Sibiu, there are many spaces for outdoor performance – it has a large square, a small square, pedestrianised
streets, all of them linked together and concentrated in the historical part of the city. And so
FITS programmed outdoor arts right from the start. We had Teatr Osmego Dnia and Teatr Biuro Podróży
from Poland, DAH Teater from Serbia, Aktionstheater Pan.Optikum from Germany, Cie Transe Express,
Cie Malabar and Cie Carabosse from France, Faber Teater from Italy, Xarxa from Spain – companies that
were foundational in promoting outdoor arts in this part of Eastern Europe.
I worked with Constantin Chiriac and joined the festival from its first edition, running the logistics. So I
have seen the whole evolution of the festival, including the turning point in 2007 when Sibiu became
European Capital of Culture and Romania joined the European Union. In 2011, after more than a decade
of working in logistics, where I was responsible for the accommodation, the travel, all the transfers
and connections, I became quite frustrated because I could never actually see the performances I was
helping to organise. Instead I was stuck indoors, in a small room where I coordinated everything by phone.
So I had a year when I took a break, and in this year I discovered the street: I walked all around Sibiu and
saw the beauty and magic of the street and of outdoor art performances. When by chance a colleague
left our team, I switched responsibilities and took charge of the outdoor events programme.
Ever since, I’ve tried very hard to educate myself and learn all I can about this field – to become familiar
with artists and companies, but also to develop an understanding of how to develop the sector at home.
In Romania, we have started to see some festivals take small steps towards presenting outdoor arts, but
there is a lot of work still to do to develop the field.
Circostrada is a way for us to connect with colleagues who’ve faced the same problems — particularly
on a regional level — but it is also a way to expand our perspective about what this sector really is.

Dan Bartha is Programmer and Outdoor Events Coordinator for the Festivalul Internațional de Teatru de la Sibiu, Romania.

John Ellingsworth works as a writer and editor in the cultural field. He has worked on projects and publications for Kulturrådet, IETM – international networkfor contemporary performing arts, Dansehallerne, ELIA – European network for higher arts education, Flanders Department of Culture, Youth and Media, EDN – European Dancehouse Network, and others. He also works as a data analyst and researcher for the cultural mobility network On the Move, recently authoring several reports on digital mobility and environmental sustainability in the context of cross-border collaboration.