For most of my life, I did not love circuses. But Montreal turned that all around for me via some kind of cultural osmosis and because, as an arts journalist in this city, it was in fact impossible not to write about circuses. So by the time circus festival Montréal Complètement Cirque, the International Circus Arts Festival, came around, I was ready – and genuinely happy about it…
The weirdest thing about Montréal Complètement Cirque, July 7-24, is not that it exists in the first place – after all, Montreal is perhaps known best both for festivals and for Cirque du Soleil – but rather that the fest is only in its second year. How is it that so many years have gone by without a dedicated circus festival? I asked this question of the organizers last year and the answer was somewhere between a laugh and a shrug – I think they were too busy having fun and making sure the rigging was secure. I posit that it’s because Montreal is home to what’s known as “rebel circus.”
Though it’s possible that I just made up this term, what it stands for holds true: Cirque du Soleil started out in the ‘80s as a strange and dubious concept, what with its lack of wild animals and abundance of as much ennui as enthusiasm, and from there on out, every circus troupe has been trying to out-rebel the others. For that, we are truly lucky.
The high-flying, fire-eating, clown-clowning performers join the festival from around the block and around the globe. Montréal Complètement Cirque is a collaboration between awe-inspiring local circus stalwarts La Tohu, Cirque Éloize, Les 7 doigts de la main, Cirque du Soleil, the National Circus School and En Piste, who all have myriad ties to the international circus scene (that’s just how circus works). This year’s fest features troupes from Australia (the “sexy, daring and explosive” Circa and the acrobatic, percussive, hip-hop-lovin’ Tom Tom Crew), France (the extravagant Cirque Invisible of Victoria Chaplin, daughter of Charlie Chaplin), Ireland (the vegetable-eating clowns of Cirque de Légume) and Belgium (two kinda crazy male duos, Les Zyrgomatik and Okidok).
While the festival doesn’t start until July, tickets are already available, and, if you’re in town in the next two weeks, National Circus School graduates (by now it should come as no surprise that the National Circus School is in Montreal) show us what their intensive circus training has taught them. Their two shows, Messa and Pomme grenade, push concepts of what a circus is and can be, at Tohu, May 31 to June 12.
Montréal Complètement Cirque, July 7–24, 2011