Home Plan your trip Festival+Events Montreal’s circus festival must be seen to be believed

Montreal’s circus festival must be seen to be believed

In the Saint-Michel neighborhood of metropolis, a group of buildings frame a form of ‘Cirque town.’ It’s here you’ll notice the National Circus college, the headquarters of corrie Diamond State Soleil – and also the home of TOHU, a year-around dedicated circus-arts venue that conjointly hosts the Montreal Cirque Festival, celebrating its 10th anniversary in July 2019.

Chaos and creation

From July 4th-14th 2019 the streets around Rue St Denis can awaken with circus performers, free shows, demonstrations and sheer exuberance. quite 400,000 folks trip metropolis each July for the pageant. The celebration is that the initial North yankee international pageant of the circus arts and options performances from round the world, as well as celebrated troupes like Les 7 Doigts.

But TOHU is regarding quite a celebration of the circus arts. It’s conjointly a community cultural reach program with a goal to attach with and involve native residents. the world of Saint-Michel is economically underprivileged and encompasses a 12.3% per centum – a lot of over the remainder of metropolis at 5.5%. That’s one amongst the explanations the organizers supply discounts and four hundred free tickets per season to locals.

The name comes from a Quebecois circus saying – ‘tohu bohu.’

‘We say “it was all kinds of tohu bohu,”‘ says Stéphane Lavoie, Executive and Programming Director of TOHU. ‘It’s the chaos before creation.’

According to Lavoie, inviting the community to experience Cirque is vital to the success of TOHU. ‘We are here to build a community circus, not to only sell a circus ticket,’ he says.

Each night of the pageant, a free show – Les Minutes Complètement corrie – moves through the streets as 32 acrobats use the natural setting to tumble, climb and surprise. The audience moves with them during a supernatural, musical parade, following red umbrellas to Les Jardins Gamelin (a public park). Once the crowds have gathered, a full show known as ‘Candide’ is performed on a vast athletic arch.

These free performances became the signature of the pageant, because the artists rework town into a colourful, immersive and perpetually moving work of art. one amongst the performances throughout the procession options a play on the standard stacking chairs act, except the chairs are replaced by a mobile of stools – precariously balanced forty five feet within the air. The performing artist at the highest of this unstable pile is during a gymnastic exercise. a fast examination throughout rehearsals confirms it … these stools ar simply balanced, not hooked up or basifixed in any approach.

Three circus acrobat/contortionists balance on their hands on small stands inside a clear box on a pedestal, surrounded by spectators in Montreal
The acrobats in the Cirque Fest thrive on the possibility of danger © Andrew Miller / TOHU

Working without a net

There aren’t any understudies, no backup plans, and rain will cancel the show. In fact, in 2018 a heatwave caused one performance to be scrapped. once 3 weeks of intense rehearsals, all the performers will do is wait to visualize what is going to happen.

Anthony Venisse, the creator Associate in Nursingd director of ‘Candide’ (and an aerial athlete and former clown) is aware of all too well the combo of pleasure and inhibited nervous energy preceding a live show.

‘The acrobats ar desire to perform,’ he says. ‘They bring young inventive energy to each show.’

Part of Venisse’s role is to temper a number of that ambition and check that each trick and performance is safe. He tries out all lock holds beforehand and rehearses for long hours with the organisation within the preceding weeks. ‘I am just like the conductor WHO makes the total orchestra play and arrive on a similar note at a similar time,’ he says. however he admits for circus performers, the danger is usually a part of the appeal: ‘For aerial folks, this can be wherever the thrill is, within the risk.’

According to Venisse, once at Les Jardins Gamelin the performers can sink silks hanging from the 60-foot arch, so much over any indoor theater might permit.

An acrobat stands on a unicycle in a funny pose as a crowd of spectators surround him, sitting on the ground
It’s the proximity of the audiences – and their participation – that makes a performance special © Renald Laurin / TOHU

Circus sights make up a vision

All over town, districts and neighborhoods placed on their own natural event or multi-day corrie activities and family-friendly events to celebrate Montreal’s cultural variety.

Nadine Marchand, Director of the metropolis corrie Festival/Montreal Complètement corrie has been with the pageant since its origination. ‘There was one thing missing (before this pageant,)’ she says. ‘A meeting for all the circus players within the world – this was the vision for the pageant. we tend to needed to form a circus rendezvous each summer.’

For Marchand, a decent show continually blends performance with feeling – and it’s the audience participation that produces the pageant therefore special. ‘The corrie comes from the road,’ she says. ‘The proximity to the audience is extremely necessary.’

Each year she enjoys the show afresh, through the puzzled eyes of the audience. As performers dangle from buildings, juggle at stop lights and walk a rope across the road, they rework the standard into a supernatural wonderland.

‘We ar a gang of previous friends,’ she says. ‘We meet and invade the setting and also the design.’

The planning for following year’s pageant begins before any performers have taken a bow. As Marchand says, ‘The circus could be a trademark of metropolis.’ and also the show should go on!

A circus acrobat performs on a vertical pole surrounded by tents and crowds, in front of the circular TOHU building in Montreal
TOHU is a circular theatre which plays host to circus shows. It’s also the name of the nonprofit that puts on the Cirque Festival each year © Alex Galliez / TOHU

Montreal Cirque Festival / Montreal Complètement Cirque

When: July 4th-14th

Where: The St. Denis neighborhood of Montreal, Quebec; TOHU headquarters at Jarry Street East; Across the city at various other events.

Costs: There are lots of free shows and events during the festival with passes available to buy for indoor performances. A three-show pass starts at $90 CAD ($68.50 USD) whereas one-off performances cost from $29 CAD ($22 USD) and up.

Beyond the festival: Be sure to visit TOHU for circus exhibits and artifacts, tour the gardens and take part in fun circus-themed activities.


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