What a circus: Mt. Soledad’s French-American school becomes a big top
by Kendra Hartmann
Published - 01/03/13 - 04:35 PM | 12270 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marion Achard and Farid Abed juggle bowling pins in tandem during a performance at the San Diego French-American School.                                                 Photo by Don Balch I Beach & Bay Press
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Just before breaking for the holidays, the students at the San Diego French-American School at Mount Soledad got a special treat. On Dec. 12 and 13, they gathered in the school’s auditorium for a chance to see a very European tradition: the French circus.

Slightly different from what many Americans think of when they hear the word “circus” (there were no animals, trapeze or death-defying feats), the Tour de Cirque consists of just two performers: husband-and-wife team Marion Achard and Farid Abed.

The small cast and simple sets didn’t hinder the performance. For nearly an hour, Achard and Abed kept the rapt attention of the students with their intricate juggling, tricks and sleight of hand. Just when it seemed they couldn’t add another ball or bowling pin to a juggling routine, three more were thrown in. Though the performance, set to music, didn’t contain any dialogue, the story was perfectly told through the actors’ movements and expression.

Achard and Abed brought their show to the United States on a six-month journey of North America by camping car. Traveling with their three young children, they started in eastern Canada, making their way west and then south to the U.S., traveling deeper into California. From San Diego, they will eventually travel down into Mexico and up the Eastern Seaboard before returning to their native France.

The pair completed a similar tour of West Africa in 2009, performing the show “Derrière la Porte” (meaning “Behind the Door”) 33 times in eight countries. Wishing to experience another part of the world — and bring their art to an entirely different audience — they embarked on the North American tour in September. Using the built-in network of French international schools that dot countries the world over, the performers were able to lock in shows all over the continent. They have kept an online travel journal of their trajectory, allowing fans to watch their progress as they “Manger, boire, dormir … et rouler” (meaning “eat, drink, sleep … and drive”) through three countries as a family.

Their children, meanwhile, seem happy to be along for the ride. While their parents are performing in France, Achard said, they stay home and attend school. While they’re traveling for several months at a time, however, they come along and stay up to date with school through the Internet and France’s National Center for Distance Education.

“They’re happy to be with their parents,” Achard said, though they sometimes miss the camaraderie of school. When they’re back home and attending school every day, however, they often ask when the next tour will be.

For more information about Tour de Cirque, visit cirk.fr/index.html. To follow the performers’ journey through North America and to learn about “Derrière la Porte,” visit cirk.fr/Amerique/Plaquette-Amerique.html (sites in French but can be translated into English).

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