Vincent de Lavénère at Printemps Français 2015, Wednesday 3 June 2015

The annual cultural festival Printemps Français, organised by Institut Français d’Indonésie has begun in May and will span throughout June, with performances lining up across eleven cities in Indonesia. For Bandung, the fifth in the programme was Vincent de Lavénère, a professional juggler, performing his third act in Indonesia on Wednesday 3 June, at IFI Bandung’s Auditorium.


It started with a call from a friend, “do you want to see a circus tonight?”


“It’s a contemporary circus at IFI auditorium.”

A circus?

I thought that a full fledged circus would need a bigger venue than that, especially if they have dolphins. Anyhow, a chance to get a unique sort of entertainment won me over.

Of course!

This sudden decision, however, left no time (a 6-pm notice for a 7-pm meeting point and 7.30-pm gate opening) to prepare a decent camera to capture the spectacle. I could only use the smartphone camera, of which limited shooting options and capabilities showed in the results.


The stage setting was very simple: black cloth covering the walls, four highlighting lamps and in the middle, a circle of stones lamps and balls. It was at the bottom level of a stepped planes, each supported chairs from which the audience observed. Right before the stage was an area where children sat, some of them had been participants of a juggling workshop facilitated by Monsieur de Lavénère the day before.

It was about 90 minute journey, juggling through lights, sounds, dances, and music. The live sounds, produced by juggling the balls and instruments, meshed with pre-recorded sounds of nature and transported the imagination to far away lands: the scenes of sheep and cows coming back from grazing, following their shepherds on the Pyrenees; calming chants and voices, like a mother singing lullaby to her children, from Laos. With a panache and zest, Vincent de Lavénère presented a unique take on the act of juggling that provoke the senses.

  • juggling and dance…

  • medieval dances with the citole

  • lightning balls

  • the ball game

  • dance of the grand chistera

  • L’improvisation en bal majeur

The various musical instruments and self-made accessories he used invited curiosity. Among those were a flute, a citole-like instrument which he called la grand-mère de la guitare, an instrument that looks like a grand chistera , and a tradisional wind instrument of the Hmong people. There were balls — a necessity in a juggling act, of course! — of colours and textures with a twist, cow bells, each produced unique note and sound that, when strung together, formed musical rhymes and rhythms of infinite combinations.

Introducing the traditional instrument of the Hmong people during Q&A

Following the act was a Q&A session in which Monsieur de Lavénère explained how he created his performance concept, the instruments he used, and his plan to establish an orchestra of jugglers (yes, please!) in five years.


Considering the time of performance and the set-up, it could easily be the perfect spot to doze off to dream land. But, defying preconception, I was wide awake with interest the whole time. The performance’s visual simplicity and richness of sound, mostly natural, cut off the outside world and took me out of the confine of black covered walls. That when you closed your eyes and listened to those sounds, you did find yourself on top of the hill taking in the scenery of a vast and colourful landscape of the mountains.