Lots of people used to say they would, but few actually ever do ... run away and join the circus, that is. But those who do end up under the big top say they couldn't imagine doing anything else.
I grew up with parents who didn’t have a television, VCR or a Blockbuster around the corner. They were enthusiastic circus-goers, so my early childhood memories are filled with the archetypal mix of circus smells—animals, sawdust, spun sugar, popcorn—and sounds, like the enthusiastic ringmaster or the noisy brass section of the circus ensemble.
It’s fascinating to realize how many Scandinavian and Scandinavian-Americans you run into in all aspects of life—even the circus. A few years ago we did a portrait on Swede, Carlos Svenson, who is among the world’s premier equestrian performers, globally renowned for both classical and comedic acts on horseback.
I still have a vivid memory of what Carlos said about life in the circus: “You either have it in you or you don’t, and once you enter, you can never go back. Life as a circus artist is different from anything else—there simply is no half way.”
Today’s circus is different from the classic circus of my childhood. For one, there’s no longer a big top. Imagine a modern dance/circus performance dealing with red blood cells, the human immune system, hormones, disease, vocal chords, sperm, stem cells and neurons.
That was our first encounter with the Stockholm-based Cirkus Cirkör early in the new millennium. The show was “99 Percent Unknown,” and this winter they visited New York’s BAM with another show, “Inside Out.”
These days, you don’t run away, but circus life—even the modern form of it—is perceived as different, as evidenced by our portrait of two of the visiting performers of Stockholm’s Cirkus Cirkör.
If, like me, you grew up to the seducing tunes of Joao Gilberto and his Brazilian bossa nova sound, exploring the duo behind Kings of Convenience, whose inspiration comes from the Norwegian fjords rather than the fazendas of Brazil, will be a revelation.
Travel editor Bo Zaunders’s trip to the far, far north along the same coastline that inspired the two musicians’ sound also strikes a chord.
It is amazing how Scandinavian clothing styles in the U.S. are quickly becoming synonymous with H&M, the Swedish based fashion giant. Needless to say, as demonstrated at Scandinavian fashion events, there are many other designers in all of Europe’s northernmost countries. Scandinavia’s largest fashion events in Stockholm and Copenhagen are just around the corner—the trend-setting capitals are once again changing face to become giant runways for trendy Nordic brands. Stockholm Fashion week kicks things off and not one, but two large fashion fairs are hosted in Copenhagen (info: www.stockholmfashionweek.com, www.cphvision.dk, www.ciff.dk). The shows may be in Denmark and Sweden but the first Scandinavian design brand ever to be accepted to the official “ON” cat walk show during the Paris Fashion Week was Finnish—more of an art brand and artfully introduced in this issue, After the Circus.

About the cover: Anna Lagerkvist of Cirkus Cirkör, preparing for the first show at Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York. Photographed for Nordic Reach by Kristofer Dan-Bergman.