La Grande Parade
This piece was commissioned for an exhibition of Fernand Léger's circus paintings at the Tate gallery in Liverpool. A series of vignettes inspired by specific paintings and Léger's love of the French circus blended circus, clowning and choreography, and were performed in the large entrance lobby of the gallery.
Circus was a lifelong passion for Léger. Its blend of lyrical beauty, life-affirming danger, and symbolic richness inspired a book (Cirque, 1950) of images and text, celebrating his delight in the spectacle and the idea of circus. For Léger, circus was a high art form: ‘When I am lost in this astonishing metallic planet,’ he wrote, ‘with its dazzling spotlights and the tiny acrobat who risks his life every night, I am distracted.’
This book, as well as the historical context of the circus that Leger love to watch in Paris and New York, inspired the performance at the Tate Liverpool, which happened 8-9 November 2018.
Devised and performed by students at Edge Hill University, La Grande Parade brought to life trick cyclists, acrobats, horses and clowns, as well as meditating on the fleeting magic of performance and the sense of the circus ring as an eternal cycle. Dance, music, comedy and text combined to produce a poetic reimagining of circus through the eyes of Léger.