La Ruche (the hive), the area of the festival dedicated to circus arts and street theatre, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Living In Nyon met up with Patrick Chambaz, the man who made this space happen, and has been making circus and street arts happen at Paléo for the past few decades, alongside Marot, a circus artist who helps run La Ruche during the festival and has been working with Paléo for over twenty years now.
Living In Nyon met up with Patrick Chambaz, the man who made this space happen, and has been making circus and street arts happen at Paléo for the past few decades. We also spoke to Marot, a circus artist who helps run La Ruche during the festival and has been working with Paléo for over twenty years.
The Ruche makes us dream and wonder every time we enter this little slice of utopia, and here is sneak a peak behind the red curtain.
Patrick Chambaz, 56, creator and programmer of La Ruche
“I’d say that what I do is “choisisseur” at Paleo, I choose the street theatre and circus arts companies, I’ve done a lot of different things in my life, photography, music, physical theatre, when as was in school, I chose as many different courses as I could, as my grades kept falling I kept trying new artistic courses, and I somehow ended up getting my diploma! My parents told me I had to train for a real job, so I did an apprenticeship as a vendor in a photography shop and seeing as I already had some practice at photography, I got to develop the photos. I was already part of a band at the time, Parenthèses, we were quite successful, we played quite a bit, we did the off festival at Montreux, and then when the band started not doing as good I started singing solo, and I had quite a bit of success, I played quite a bit abroad.
Then one day my father died, I was abroad, and I learnt of his death, I’d already started programming street theatre for the Festival, and I was in Aurillac, in a phone box, (there were no smartphones back then), and I was with some producers, and it made me stop and think really hard, I decided I needed a break. My father supported me a lot, emotionally but also materially. I’d just had a second child, a girl, and I was less enthusiastic with the music, and the more I worked for the festival, the less I wanted to continue music.
I think of myself as a “metteur ensemble” (putter together). It’s creative work, trying to create a new universe from all the artistic universes of the artists I want to share. The idea is to give the people who come here the possibility to enter a new world of wonder, not just a series of unconnected shows but a whole whose conception has been thought about.
Crazy Idiots and the success of street theatre at Paléo
Street theatre has been around for much longer than the Ruche – from the very start actually. I started off programming musical animations between the concerts, and then one day I heard about a whole festival devoted to street theatre, in Aurillac. So I asked Daniel if he would pay for my trip there – you have to keep in mind that Paléo was still pretty small, still in Colovray and the budget wasn’t huge. So I came back with two troupes, one of them called the Crazy Idiots.
They were three guys dressed up as penguins, with tailcoats and orange beaks, and one guy playing the clarinet. They cost me half of my entire budget, and when I said so everybody was really cross that I’d spent so much money on them. I was told never to do anything like that again.
But when they came to the festival, they were so successful, the press talked about them, and it made Daniel Rosselat realise that it was something interesting. We were moving grounds the year after that, and Rosselat decided to double my budget.
The first few years weren’t easy, I had to convince everyone that these people had their place in the festival, we’d get ready to play and then an unscheduled sound-check would start, I had to fight a bit to get street theatre recognised. We built the Crique in 1996, a circular space dedicated to circus arts, but there were still some really sceptical people. The Crique worked really well straight away!
Working through the year
I start working for the next edition in August, I go to festivals and discover the shows I really want to bring to the Ruche. Then in the autumn I start thinking of a way of putting these shows together, finding a theme, some kind of unity, and in the spring I start getting started on ideas of scenography and logistics, sign the contracts. There’s a double temporality in my job, the first part is very lonely, and then during the festival it’s all about sharing what I’ve worked on over the year. I really enjoy both parts!
I try and find shows that bring me new emotions, that create a new experience, leave the trodden path to discover people who explore new ways. I try and find that little something that makes you want to come back.
We get to live some pretty crazy things in this line of work, it’s full of wonderful people and new experiences- some of which we couldn’t pull off today! For example, a troupe called “Turbo-cacahuète” had installed completely transparent shower cubicles at the entrance to the festival, with transparent shower curtains, and people would go and shower completely naked! We wouldn’t be able to do that today anymore.
The latest funny story was when Marot (see right below) went to buy some tiered seating and he ended up leaving with a small puppy as part of the deal!
If I had to sum up the Ruche in one word, it would be “dazzling””.
Marot, 58 years old, circus artist and teacher
“I’m called Marot, and I’ve been coming to Paléo for 22 years now. I started coming as an artist, then as a partner and now as a volunteer. It’s a privilege to be here each year, I come here with my whole family and it’s great.
I look after the Ruche, and this year I also brought along a group of young acrobats, the collectif M et Vous ( and I coach them a bit, show them how to adapt to the grounds, interact with the crowd, share my experience.
I spent over twenty years of my life as a circus artist, and I’ve always loved sharing and transmitting what I do, so I ended up opening my own circus school under a circus tent, and then ten years ago the town council asked us to renovate an old swimming pool, so I’ve now been running the “Cité du Cirque” in Le Mans for ten years.
Patrick Chambaz saw us play twenty years ago in Avignon, so that’s how we came for the first time. He then asked me to build some props for the festival, I built a palc (a wooden stage used by circus artists) and came to Paléo for about ten years with it. And obviously, over time, it evolved into a tale of friendship with the people at Paléo. I actually played on the main stage a few years ago with Tryo (who played again this year), they were looking for circus artists to create visual pictures throughout the concert.
I must have played about ten times at Paléo, some years easier than others- for example, in 1997 we were supposed to play six times, but the weather was so dreadful, we had to cancel the first four performance, stopped the fifth after quarter of an hour and then finished the last one under the pouring rain- just because we really wanted to at least finish one show! We’ve been pretty lucky with the weather this year so far (nb: we spoke on Wednesday…)
I love the Ruche, because the people who work here are an incredible mix, you’ve got people who do completely different things all year round, nurses, doctors, and who gather once a year for this incredible adventure. We’re a team of about sixty people who take care of catering for the artists, welcoming them, decorating etc. It’s like a big family, and the kids of the people who used to work in the very first Paléos are now growing up and starting to work here to, it’s great.
There’s also something completely magical about arriving a week or two before the festival in an empty field, and to see the result when the festival opens!
I admire Patrick’s knack of creating this really consistent, coherent universe each year, he really knows how to offer us something that’s appealing content wise, with a real intention and that keeps surprising us, even after scouring most street theatre and circus festival for the past thirty years!”