For twenty years already, the festival has accepted the challenge: to look into gender variety, the intersection of cultures and beings, the conciliation of the avant-garde and the popular, with a programme where the monumental and the delicate can meet, where young atypical companies play the same part as sacred artists, where you play in a museum as well as in a suburban garden, in stacks of gold as well as in factories.
The founding principles are to alternate between centre and periphery, fixed locations and ephemeral ones, to have fee-based performances and free ones, with the credo being "watch and watch again". The festival has held performances in swimming pools, lorries, churches, has constructed circuses on piers and restaurants for day-trippers on canals, set up tents, and has even performed in theatres.
Change has also taken place in terms of artistic programming, eclecticism being achieved through careful equilibrium, well considered antagonisms, and complementarity. Sometimes intrepid but always pioneer choices have been taken: having Gypsy music in the Garnier Opera as early as 1992, and the following year, African influence entering the stage with an opera by Youssou N’Dour, composed specifically for this occasion. Coming up with an open-air cinema in the Vilette park, offering free classical open-air concerts where you can listen to the great works of this cultural heritage, regardless of what’s en vogue or conventional; but also looking for the most recent propositions of contemporary dance, which revived the popular ball with Yvette Horner. Inviting small companies that would soon be big, such as the Royal de luxe or the Achille Tonic, giving preference again to a musician like Pierre Henry. Inviting international celebrities such as Merce Cunningham, Tony Servillo, Cheryl Studer, Israel Galván, Mikhaïl Rudy, showing the newest trends in the field…Offering Parisians the splendour of a traditional Japanese parade, for the first time taking place outside Kyoto, or hosting street artists from Jamaâ El Fna Square.