Les Casaly

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GUILLAUME DUFRESNOY & MIREILLE FENWICK – Aerial Cradle

By Dominique Jando


Les Casaly (1987)
Born in Grand-Lancy, Switzerland, and the daughter of an American father and a Swiss mother, Mireille Fenwick studied Latin before realizing her childhood dream: To run away and join the circus. In 1977, she enrolled in Alexis Gruss’s Conservatoire National des Arts du Cirque (École au Carré), the first professional circus school in Western Europe, which had opened in Paris only three years earlier. There, she met for the first time Guillaume Dufresnoy (born on October 26, 1959 in Bordeaux, France), who had also abandoned a promising career—in his case as an engineer—to join the circus.

A year later, Mireille made her debut as a member of the resident company of Alexis Gruss’s Cirque à l’ancienne in Paris. An acrobat and aerialistAny acrobat working above the ring on an aerial equipment such as trapeze, Roman Rings, Spanish web, etc., she performed a trampoline act that mixed these two disciplines. In the years that followed, she pursued a performing career in various European circuses, from Finland to Sicily.

Meanwhile, Guillaume created his own aerial perchAn aerial apparatus, generally a hanging perch, from where the performers hang with the help of hand or ankle loops. (French: Bambou - Russian: Bambuk) (bambou(French - Russian: Bambuk) Aerial apparatus, generally a hanging perch, from where the performers hang with the help of hand or ankle loops. See also: Aerial perch.) act, Les Casaly, with another École au Carré graduate, Frédérique Vanetti. While Guillaume was performing his aerial act in Switzerland, he and Mireille became reacquainted. Deciding to join forces, they created an aerial cradlePiece of apparatus (generally aerial) composed of two horizontal parallel bars in which a catcher locks his legs to be in position of catching a flyer. (Variant: Korean Cradle.) act under the guidance of a legendary master, Jean Palacy. In his time, Palacy had revolutionized aerial cradlePiece of apparatus (generally aerial) composed of two horizontal parallel bars in which a catcher locks his legs to be in position of catching a flyer. (Variant: Korean Cradle.) acts by introducing safety nets, an innovation that allowed the focus of the acts to shift away from the perception of danger to the intricacy and inherent interest of the tricks themselves.

Les Casaly debuted in 1985 at Circus Nock in Switzerland, where they met with immediate success. In 1986, they were awarded a Silver Medal at the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain in Paris. They were then featured at their alma mater, Alexis Gruss’s Cirque à l’ancienne. The following year, Les Casaly made their American debut at the Big Apple Circus, where they would remain until 1990, performing their cradlePiece of apparatus (generally aerial) composed of two horizontal parallel bars in which a catcher locks his legs to be in position of catching a flyer. (Variant: Korean Cradle.) act and, as members of the circus's resident company, a short-distance(Flying Trapeze) A flying act in which the catcher is in a static cradle, limiting the swing motion to the flyer only. Generally performed on a standing apparatus, above a safety mat. flying trapezeAerial act in which an acrobat is propelled from a trapeze to a catcher, or to another trapeze. (See also: Short-distance Flying Trapeze) act.

In 1991, at Circus Knie in Switzerland, Les Casaly performed their cradlePiece of apparatus (generally aerial) composed of two horizontal parallel bars in which a catcher locks his legs to be in position of catching a flyer. (Variant: Korean Cradle.) act for the final time. Guillaume and Mireille separated soon after. Guillaume returned to the Big Apple Circus, where he served as Performance Director and production manager until 1997, when he became General Manager of the touring unit, eventually rising to the post of Vice-President. In 2009, he succeeded Paul Binder as the Big Apple Circus’s Artistic Director.

Mireille returned to New York City, where she began a new career in the theater. She studied drama at the Lee Strasberg Institute and at New York University, and she co-created a theater company, The Muse. She also worked at the Alliance Française before eventually re-settling in Paris, where she re-married and had two daughters. While in Paris, she earned a degree in performing-arts administration from the Université de Paris-Nanterre and worked as tour and media manager for the Comédie Française, the illustrious French national theater company.

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