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Thursday, July 8, 2010

MONTREAL CIRCUS FESTIVAL KICKS OFF....


New Montreal circus festival kicks off with blend of urban culture, acrobatics
By: Nelson Wyatt, The Canadian Press
7/07/2010 MONTREAL - An edgy blend of urban street culture and acrobatics will kick off a major circus festival on Thursday when the curtain goes up on Montreal Completement Cirque.
The world-renowned Cirque Eloize will open the festival, which runs until July 25, with "Id," which explores the concept of identity in spectacular style.
"I have people from seven different countries," says director Jeannot Painchaud, explaining the show looks at how people from different backgrounds get along in a clan.
"Each of them is a unique character and a unique personality."
But nobody has time for navel-gazing in the show, which is driven by a dynamic electronic score.
Set in a futuristic city, "Id" is performed in front of omnipresent images drawn from science-fiction films, graffiti and cartoons.
Acrobats mix with hip-hop dancers. Gymnasts climb the stage on trail bikes. Skaters fly by like rockets and break dancers square off with contortionists.
"It's a very physical show so it's very demanding," Painchaud says of the Cirque's first effort using video and playing under a big top.
Alex McMahon, who composed the music along with Jean-Phi Goncalves, says it's the first time they've created a score for a circus. He says it was challenging to be in sync with all the movement.
"But all these things can be quite inspiring," McMahon said.
Painchaud, who co-founded Cirque Eloize, was swept up by the circus when he saw the first Cirque du soleil show more than two decades ago. He went on to study at the national circus school and became an acrobat.
"Today, 25 years later, to open this festival — it's something emotional," he said. "It's an honour."
After playing the festival, "Id" will head to Toronto in October where it will reopen the Sony Centre, followed by tours in France and the United States.
The festival is orchestrated by Tohu, a non-profit organization founded by the En Piste national association of circus arts, the National Circus School and Cirque du soleil.
Nadine Marchand, the festival's project manager, says the idea for the event has been floating around for a few years and the time seemed right now to go ahead with the project.
"The idea when Tohu was founded was to make Montreal one of the circus capitals and make a festival," she said.
"It's a challenge but we want to be a meeting point for everyone in July. They have a lot of choice."
She's not kidding. The comedy monolith that is the Just for Laughs Festival has gradually spread itself across the month during its 28 years.
"Yes, we have to take our place," Marchand says of the competition for spectators. "But the odds are good."
While she says she doesn't want to be pretentious, Marchand points out "Montreal is a circus city," something that's acknowledged in other parts of the world.
If nothing else, it's home to one of the best known circuses ever, Cirque du soleil, which has become a world-spanning empire and an entertainment phenomenon in its own right.
The festival prides itself on its diversity, Marchand says, noting spectators can see a bunch of shows and still come away surprised.
She says that's the result of the evolution of the circus, which has changed a lot from when she saw the Barnum and Bailey show as a child.
"Now we have theatre, dance, opera, flamenco — the different arts get into the circus and it's interesting."
The festival is drawing its acts from Quebec, Europe and Australia, with one of its crown jewels being the North American premiere of Tabu from Wales' NoFitState circus troupe.
The jumble of dance, mime, theatre and acrobatics takes place above the audience's head in the enthralling show, with clowns shepherding spectators to the best vantage points.
As he puts the final touches on Cirque Eloize's show, Painchaud says the festival is an idea whose time has come.
"It was about time to have a place where we can show our work to the world but more than that to invite people from other countries to show their work here and have a place to celebrate together," he said
The Canadian Press - ONLINE EDITION

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