It is currently not possible to take an education in new circus (contemporary circus) in Denmark. All attempts to launch such educations have had the financial support removed and has been shelved. For young people like Kaare Rugsted and Nicklas Topp Havlit, the wand and the white rabbit have been replaced by a good portion of realism and harsh self-discipline.

By Karoline Noer
Journalist student at DMJX

When Kaare Rugsted was 9 years old, he was given a piano and diligently started watching piano tutorials on Youtube to become better at it. But one day, instead of just posting another piano lesson on the Youtube channel, the online piano teacher instead threw a video of a card trick on the Youtube channel. A magical card trick. Full of confidence, Kaare walked up to his grandfather-like figure, Herluf, and showed him the new trick.

“He absolutely loved it. And so it was a lot more fun than playing the piano for him.”

And so the magician’s seed was planted at Kaare’s. Next time Herluf came for a visit, he surely should have a new trick ready to show.

For the shy Kaare, magic was a challenge and a way to get in touch with new people. Although it was shelved a bit in high school, while Kaare focused on being young, the magic never stopped. It was still a thing he shared; just with Herluf and himself. That’s how it was until a friends told him that he could make money on it. A good chunk of money actually.


Taking a distance from the classic magician

In 2014 The Acadamy for Untamned Creativity (Akademiet for Utæmmet Kreativitet), in collaboration with The Academy of Modern Circus (Akademiet for Moderne Cirkus), started Denmark’s first advanced circus education at bachelor level. Expections were high, and although the education aroused great interest from similar educations abroad, the government chose not to extend the evaluation period. Thus Denmark’s only formal education for circus artists closed in 2018. Today the school’s artist line is the closest you get to a similar education.

With smiling eyes, wearing a red windbreaker, Kaare leads the way into the premises of the Kaospilot education rooms. The Kaospilot (Chaos Pilot) education aims at providing students with knowledge, experiences, and skills in the field of social entrepreneurship, and Kaare is currently on his 4th semester, as he mentions while pouring the coffee. After a few years as a full-time magician, it fell naturally for Kaare that the magic now has faded into the background:

“It’s about learning some other values. To perform as a magician at the traditional Danish family birthdays and then to go home and prepare alone, that’s a damn boring story”.

Instead Kaare dreams of bringing elements from the art of magic with him to other parts of the entertainment industry:

“For example, if I end up working in the event industry, you could guess which drinks people order at the bar.”

“They’re on stage because they can’t help it”

Through a scratchy phone call, Stine Pilmark, acting leader for the Academy of Untamed Creativity, phrases the question: Maybe we should just cram a bit more realism into the new circus industry? She herself asks, “how many magicians does Denmark really need?”

Stine explains that the values that students learn from them are more important than what they actually end up doing. It is first and foremost a playground with room for errors and U-turns.

“I get just as happy when the young people tells me that they’d rather be a carpenter than a circus artist. You can take the creative values with you without having to work with it professionally.”

Stine interrupts herself and explains that she is trying first and foremost to teach students the harsh reality of life as an artist. That you also have to wash floors and serve coffee latte. That those who actually end up on the stage are those who cannot help it. Those who cannot hide their talent away.

Several magicians report that there had been a direct education for magic, they wouldn’t have chosen to go that route anyway. The 18-year-old magician, Nicklas Topp Havlit, who has been performing magic since he was 10 years old, plans to train as an ambulance rescuer. Not because he necessarily wants to give up magic, but just to have a safety net.

“Only a few succeed in being able to make a living from performing as full-time magicians. Almost all the great magicians also have a commercial education in their back pockets”, says both Nicklas and Kaare.

Nicklas’ talent for magic is gained through a good deal of stubbornness, perseverance and passion for the world of magic. Because he simply cannot stop. Through Youtube, self-paid seminars and congresses, both in Denmark and abroad, has he renewed his talent. He doesn’t feel that he has been lacking support in his search for the magical world.


The magician gets a makeover in 2021

Back at the premises of Kaospiloterne, Kaare Rugsted shrugs a bit, as the talk falls on Danish magic.

“There’s a lot of sexism and slapstick humour within the industry. I don’t spend much time with other magicians, and I actively think about not falling into the classic sexist boxes “. Kaare tries to avoid saying it directly, but he is booked exclusively by provincial Denmark who books him for
shows. When he arrives, people often shout about whether it is the stripper who has arrived. When Kaare then enters the stage, the penny drops for most. For female magicians, there are almost none.

“For the most part, it seems as if Debbie from marketing has received a bag of money the entertainment, and then I have to guess how much money she will pay me.” And then, magic does not goes well with very drunk people.

As the coffee cups are being emptied, Kaare proudly shows around the open rooms of Kaospiloternes locations. Here he unveils his scruples regarding the world of magic:

“I actually don’t know if I would book a magician myself. I’m desprately trying to innovate ways to use the profession. See how we can get away from ‘the soup, roast and ice cream concept’. “

During his recent internship at Kaospiloterne, Kaare did an internship at a magic shop. Here he was given free rein to see how he could reinvent what magic can do.

“I did a project where I had to find out whether different industries might want to do something involving magic. Among other things, I came in contact with ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, Aarhus, to see if they wanted to do something with art, identity, lies and magic. In reality it is not so much about the magician being able to guess what’s written on the bloody piece of paper or which number you are thinking of. It’s more about the experience you bring from there”, he says.

But what does the future hold for Kaare and the art of magic? With a wry smile he admits that he would probably rather start a culture house or a folk high school than make a living from being a magician.

“But I’m a chaos pilot, and we’re not that good at choosing a single thing. So I guess there will always be room for magic in some way or another.”

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