Brazil’s National Circus School’s Most Menacing CRISIS
In 1982, Brazil joined the international movement by inaugurating its official circus school. The decision came from the desire of certain circus families who had circulated in Brazilian territory for more than a century. There is no doubt that the emergence of the National Circus School, renamed in 2017 like ENCLO (Escola Nacional de Circo Luiz Olimecha) represents one of the major events in the long tradition of circus in Brazil. Given the many achievements throughout ENCLO’s career, we would like to highlight two: the in-depth renovation of its head office in 2013, offering an excellent facility for professional circus education; and recognition of the “professionalizing” diploma by 2015. It should also be remembered that in 1998, ENCLO students won the silver medal at the World Circus Festival of Tomorrow (France). In nearly 40 years, ENCLO has trained more than 2,500 artists, who have performed in circus shows around the world, consolidating the institution as an international benchmark.
However, the importance of ENCLO was not enough to prevent its existence from being recently threatened. In an unprecedented action, the National Arts Foundation (FUNARTE) (1) was completely changed, with immediate effect on ENCLO as well.
In June 2020, in the midst of a pandemic, when everyone needed good governance, the management of the school changed, resulting in a long period of silence and non-communication with the students. In addition, in December 2020, Funarte announced that the ENCLO facilities were to be renovated, so the place would be used for another purpose and the students’ circus activities would be moved to a new location. Several undemocratic decisions were taken, without any attempt at dialogue with the school community (teachers, students, staff, etc.). This is an indication that the RED LIGHT has turned on: We are in CRISIS! ENCLO is about to close!
Contextually, this crisis must be understood as part of a federal government program. For two years, multiple decisions have dismantled some vital sectors of Brazil: education, culture and science. A wide range of actions converge in the current Brazilian government in order to weaken, paralyze or even destroy certain institutions, and ENCLO has been another victim of this destructive policy. In short, Brazil’s young democratic system is seriously threatened.
While the pandemic is a time that can lead to disarticulation, we have seen the emergence of a great movement in defense of ENCLO. A strong mobilization – involving the sixty current students, former students, circus professionals, managers and the national artistic community – gathered more than 16,000 signatures in a few weeks, as well as more than a hundred videos of sympathizers pleading for the maintenance of the shared ENCLO. on the school’s Instagram (#ENCLOFica / Follow: @encviva). Other international circus schools, cultural organizations and scientific and artistic authorities have sent dozens of letters of support, attesting that the circus school is not a bubble, but is closely articulated with the cultural network within and outside of Brazil.
Quickly and positively, social pressure pushed politicians and civil society to side with ENCLO and, as a result, the authorities signaled in a new direction: reactivate school activities (bring together teachers, plan lessons for an online environment due to the pandemic, etc.). In addition, they updated the payment of scholarships to students and issued notes on “the importance and commitment of keeping ENCLO intact at its official headquarters”.
In spite of the great campaign of defense of the ENCLO, whereas it seemed to us that we had finally won some battles, the president of Funarte was sacked. As no replacement has yet been indicated, the ENCLO students and teachers lack a concrete interlocutor with whom to dialogue. In addition, two major battles remain to be faced: the semester budget allocation only guarantees student scholarships and the maintenance of the school until mid-2021. There is no guarantee of the selection of the next students. (course 2022-2023).
Thus, there is no allocation of funds for the ENCLO to continue to exist. It appears that the government’s cultural program, which includes ENCLO, is on the verge of deeply damaging arts education in Brazil. For this reason, we must remain attentive to these and other actions which seek to weaken art through undemocratic policies and which are unfavorable to culture and critical education. We must stand united to claim our national professional circus education program!
Circus Research Lab (UNICAMP – Brazil)
More about the CRISES at ENC-Brazil Hablemos de Circo (Podcast in Spanish) Support videos (in Portuguese) & Letters of Support (multi-language) More about FUNARTE and ENCLO By Mr. Marcos Teixeira, Former Director of FUNARTE and National Circus School (ENCLO) The National Arts Foundation (FUNARTE) is a Federal Government institution with the mission of elaborating and executing public policies for the arts. Created in the midst of the military regime, it was after the re-democratization that, paradoxically, it suffered the greatest threats. During the governments of José Sarney, Fernando Collor de Melo, Michel Temer and Jair Bolsonaro, Funarte suffered direct interventions that disrupted it and were responsible for its distancing from the artists and their original attributions, which are: to diagnose needs, elaborate and execute public policies so that workers from different artistic fields can live with dignity from their work; to balance, through these policies, the different stages of production between the different regions of the country and to spread artistic production throughout the national territory. In another unprecedented decision, the currently Brazilian president, Mr. Jair Bolsonaro, extinguished the Ministry of Culture. It is part of Funarte's mission to observe the market, correcting distortions, valuing the local culture, giving opportunity to the small artistic producer, enabling experimentation and enabling the development of artistic languages; regardless of the success achieved in the media or with the public. It is Funarte that reaches the most distant and isolated corners of the country, whether with resources, actions or just with its prestige and recognition, to transform the reality of local artists. No private institution, at any time, has had or will have this scope. Funarte is also the only public institution in South America offering a non-paid professional circus education. The ENCLO for over forty years has trained professionals who have spread throughout Brazil and the world, creating groups or acting in internationally known companies, such as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Cirque du Soleil, among many others. However, its importance goes beyond the training of circus professionals. Throughout its existence, ENCLO enabled the social ascension of countless students, from all Brazilian regions, or even from other Latin American countries, giving them an opportunity for an artistic career, helping their livelihood, and, in many cases, for their families also.