During the last week in June, Cirque du Soleil’s signature show Saltimbanco played at the Prince Hamzeh Arena in Amman, Jordan. Approximately 18,000 persons attended the show over the course of four days.
The event itself received polarized reviews. Some said it was tiring to watch, bland and overrated. Others thought the show exceeded expectations, that the performance was mesmerizing and dream-like.
The more absorbing polemic, however, was not about what was happening on stage but about what was going on outside at the main gates of the Hussein Youth City.
On Saltimbanco’s opening day, scores of demonstrators lined the sidewalks leading to the VIP entrance. They were holding signs that read in Arabic “Cultural boycott to sanction Israel,” “Showing the circus in Israel is a reason to boycott in Amman,” and “Whoever entertains criminals and killers deserves to be boycotted.”
The demonstrations were aimed at preventing Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria show from playing in Tel Aviv on 8 August. They were the first major protests in Jordan in support of the campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel since what has been dubiously called the Arab Spring.