In caravans and on horseback, on the road with an ecological circus

Châteaumeillant (Cher), report

On the side of the road, drivers can’t believe it. Cars stopped, many of them took out their smartphones to immortalize the scene: six horse-drawn trailers moving slowly along the country road lined with fields. It’s not even 11 o’clock, but the sun is already hitting hard. Here and there, a few oak trees provide cozy shade for the animals and their guides.

This unusual train is that of the Bidon circus. Since 1976, the troupe has traveled the roads of France and Italy. François Rauline, known as « François Bidon »is one of its founders: sitting at the head of the first caravan, he leads the way.

Until September, the circus will travel through the Center-Val de Loire region, crossing Indre, Cher, Nièvre, Allier and Creuse. © Mathieu Genon/Reportre

He’s impressive, François, with his long white hair and his rather rough look. « In the 1970s, I was a bronze engraver in Paris. I dropped everything to travel », says the 75-year-old, with sparkling blue eyes. On the way, he met a former trapeze artist who lived in the forest in eastern France. It’s this fairytale-like love story that made him want to start a circus « old » with horses and caravans. And that, while he had no experience in the field.

François Rauline, known as François Bidon has been on the road since 1976. © Mathieu Genon/Reportre

O romance finally finished, but the idea did not leave him. François returned to the road and formed his troupe with couples of musicians he had met during the trip, and his new companion. He bought some horses and made the trailers himself. Self-taught, the group of friends learned several numbers on the job. « We couldn’t even juggle three sticks, people were dying of laughter. They laughed more than in the traditional circus », laughs Francisco. hence the name, « candy circus »which has remained ever since.

Forty-six years later, after thousands of kilometers covered, the troupe has changed a lot. The group of friends broke up, new acrobats came, came, left. This year, the group (a dozen people) was completely renovated. With no amateurs this time, most artists went through circus schools or conservatories. « But we don’t present technique, we don’t claim to be the bestemphasizes Francis. What we want is to surprise people, to touch them. »

Francois Bidon: What we want is to surprise people, to touch them. » © Mathieu Genon/Reportre

praise of slowness

This year, until September, the Bidon circus will travel through the Center-Val de Loire region, crossing Indre, Cher, Nièvre, Allier and Creuse. The pace of the tour is determined by the pace of the horses: they travel a maximum of 25 kilometers per day and stay several days in the same city. Equipment too heavy for them, or too heavy for the trailers, is transported upstream by truck. A rhythm that forces us to celebrate slowness.

In trailers, they do not travel more than 25 kilometers a day. © RD

« Before, we moved like thisrecalls Daniele, 27, accordionist at the Bidon circus. It’s fascinating, it’s long, it’s the opposite of the lifestyle “normal” where you have to go fast. Here, you have to plan a day to go from one city to another. This boundary imposes a healthier rhythm on you, you are more in the present moment. » « We disconnect, artists like people who come to see us, confirms Luna, a 28-year-old trapeze artist. It’s a small bubble that moves at the speed of hooves. »

Unfamiliar with horses, Circassians had to learn to guide them. © Mathieu Genon/Reportre

At twelve strokes, after a few hiccups – a mare that found itself free on the road and a caravan that almost ended up in the ditch – the procession finally arrived at Châteaumeillant (Cher), a small town of almost 1,800 inhabitants. There, the circus attracts all eyes. An elderly lady watches them pass in front of her window, a man leaning against her gate waves at them, two women approach to film and greet them. « We go where the people live »exposes Francois. « I think it’s great to go places “lost”where there is not necessarily a theaterviolinist Amandine, 32, abounds. You meet people you don’t usually see, from social backgrounds you don’t usually mix with. He breaks barriers. »

Juggling, trapeze, accordion… the talents of circus performers are varied. © Mathieu Genon/Reportre

Once in front of the main square, it’s time to unhitch the horses, assemble the masts, the track, the stands… The artists will live there, in their trailers, for a week, before dismantling everything and heading back to Lignières ( close to 1,400 inhabitants). « In show business, it’s common to go 500 miles, play two dates and come home, laments Ephraim the tightrope walker [1] 26 years old. In these cases, we experience less representation, there is less density. Here is different. » In all, more than a hundred show dates – named « Everyone has their own dreams » — are planned from May to September.

Cirque Bidon has planned over 100 show dates in 2022. © Mathieu Genon/Reportre

To live in a community

Until then, we’ll have to learn to live on the road, all together. At Cirque Bidon, unlike other circuses, everyone must participate. Everyone received a horse a month and a half ago to take care of, everyone has to help with the housework, set up the circus, dismantle… mast in their lives.

Among the tasks of the circus: the assembly and disassembly of the circus. © Mathieu Genon/Reportre

The beginning seems a little difficult: bursts of voice sometimes escape from trailers. But Circassians remain optimistic. « We know each other, see each other’s limits. will unite us »guarantees Amanda. « It is by doing that we become professionals. The more we train together, the less stressful it will be. »confirms Océane, a 28-year-old juggler.

The Bidon circus settled in Châteaumeillant at the end of May 2022. © Mathieu Genon/Reportre

Before entering the track, all obstacles disappear – as if by magic. With a contagious good mood, the artists alternate between equestrian acrobatics, wire, hoops and small sketches – all accompanied live by the musicians. « We offer people images that make them dream, unexpected, without adding gimmicks or special effects.says Francis. The goal is to take people with us. » The formula seduces: at Châteaumeillant, young and old say they are seduced by the representation. And, perhaps even more so, for the universe that is offered to them. With glowing eyes, some point to the trailers. As if they too dreamed of hitting the road.

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