We’re celebrating 25 years of Cirque Bijou.  Each month we are looking back on some of our favourite projects of the last quarter century.

This month we are casting our minds back to 2017. We created a giant ‘Wheel of Energy’ for Expo 2017 in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan.

World Expo

Kazakhstan’s World Expo took place from June to September, with the theme ‘Future Energy’.  It aimed to create a global debate between countries, organisations, companies and the general public: ‘How do we ensure safe and sustainable access to energy for all while reducing CO2 emissions?’

Wheel of Energy

Cirque Bijou were commissioned to design and create a lead attraction for the Expo. Working in collaboration with Frankfurt design agency Kunzberg and Swiss engineering company Adunic, we designed and built a 20m high kinetic sculpture based on the traditional circus structure ‘Wheel of Death’. The sculpture was highly complex involving huge interlocking cogs and chains which powered moving lights and the circus double wheel itself.

There were a number of unique challenges in designing, transporting and installing the structure. Situated on the eighth floor of the Expo building in Astana, the structure needed to be broken down to get it in. We then had to fit the components into a standard goods lift, and reassemble them in their final position.

Health and safety guidelines in Kazakhstan are very different to the UK, and keeping the build crew safe and motivated was a key priority for us during the setup onsite. 

Endurance Performance

Another task we were faced with was the length and amount of performances. The Expo asked us to perform seven shows a day for five months. The Wheel of Death is undoubtedly one of the most challenging pieces of circus equipment so this was a big ask for potential performers!

A rigorous casting process helped us find the best Wheel of Death artists from around the world. We settled on an impressive cast of artists from Ecuador, Argentina, Colombia and Australia. The team worked on rotation and performed over 500 shows to packed out audiences.

Watch the video of the Wheel of Energy in action in our 25 Years of Cirque Bijou showcase on Vimeo.

Photo credits: Simon Langley, storyboard Jay Clarke