How do the performers of Panama Pictures experience corona restrictions? What do they sacrifice? And what does it give them? Kyra Perez Riquelme is a Liberal Arts & Sciences student; she does research at the crossroads of Cultural Anthropology and Performance Studies. “I use the experience of the individual as a starting point.” With six circus companies, including Panama Pictures, Kyra is now investigating the impact of the pandemic on circus performers. “I analyze how their bodies cope with such a situation.”

For several weeks now, Kyra has been observing performers during their rehearsals in the Panama Pictures studio. “I look at their physical experiences and make fieldnotes of them, to reflect on them later. Academically, very little is known about circus; the experience of performers is barely mapped out. I think contemporary circus is an incredibly beautiful art form and want to explore that field further. What does it look like? Who works there? How do they physically deal with certain situations? And what if those change?”

The idea of linking her research to corona restrictions arose last year, when the pandemic decisively paralyzed public life – and with it the daily activities of many circus performers. “Being able to perform or not, the postponements and cancellations, the financial consequences, each performer deals with it in their own way. What I am investigating now is how each of them reacts physically to such a situation. The subtitle of my research is therefore: ‘The resilience of circus as an art form in a time of pandemic’.”

Her research is still in its early stages, but Kyra has already observed some striking reactions. “You can see that some performers are relaxing with the elimination of performances; they are now demanding a little less of themselves and living on in relative peace. They feel that their bodies are in better shape now that the expectations are lower; they experience what the performances used to require of them physically. And a number of them use the space to go deeper into their work, to discover new forms. They use the spare time to create. As one performer said: ‘That’s the only thing left to do really, we just keep creating and creating’.

For some, however, this period of physical rest also has a downside. “You see some artists’ repertoire seeping out of their bodies. Because they perform so little, they are less secure in their bodies and their movements and techniques fade into the background. Then there are those who just can’t live without performing. It bothers them so much that they stop and start doing something else.” For as different as the reactions are, one thing all circus performers have in common. “Yes, everyone I spoke to misses the audience. Without spectators, there is no circus.”