This article has been previously published in Circus Talk.
Since “Spread the magic!” was Anahareo Dölle’s motto for Saint John’s first international circus festival in 2018, the event’s co-producer affirms that “Recreate the magic!” was this year’s pick! With over 1000 visitors enjoying four days of circus performances, workshops, and discussion panels last Fall, the bar was set high for its subsequent event. Pinpointing audience’s favorites and other successful key-elements felt like the first logical step when planning this new edition.
“It wasn’t about starting from scratch nor trying to make it all feel brand new and different,” says the circus artist turned producer who started planning and programming merely a week after wrapping-up 2018! “A good team, support from the community and funding: that’s what made it work and where my mind went for 2019.”
On September 25th, people were walking in a determined fashion, confirming panelists’ arrivals, talking ticket sales with show venues, and making final changes to a giant wall-to-wall schedule at the festival’s headquarters. Locals and guests traveling to Newfoundland’s capital would be getting plenty out of their stay. Four circus enthusiasts from Halifax who attended workshops every day and a couple from Calgary with tickets to all five shows were already talking about 2020!
One of Montreal’s “circus hits” kicked off the festival. In “Impro Cirque,” two teams of four players are facing each other in what feels like an artistic hockey match. Using circus disciplines and acting abilities, they improvise short skits and score points based on the audience’s votes. No hockey sticks nor pucks here, but there is an arbitrator giving penalties on stage!
The D.F. Cook Recital Hall welcomed back cabaret hostesses Mooky and Krin Haglund. The first one at the reins of the Edge of the World Cabaret and introduced artists from Canada and Finland. Marie-Ève Dicaire’s mesmerizing, very personal and intimate hand-balancing and Saint John’s very own Elite Dance Studio’s Broadway-ready performances got particularly generous reactions from the audience.
Ms. Haglund led what she referred to as the “LCCNCSWGS “or “Lady Cove Choir & National Circus School With Guests Show.” In this very tight and moving 90-minute performance, a string quartet and this impressive choir gave the tone and surprised with their brilliant take on pop songs like “Sweet Dreams” or “Chandelier.” As violins and powerful voices filled the hall, Montreal’s National Circus School’s alumni and students took the stage with their special guests. Igloolik’s clown quartet “Artcirq” and Nadine Louis’ contortion in and around a bathtub felt like the audience’s favorites.
Circus people can twist and tumble, but that does not stop them from thinking and talking!
The different panels organized around the city are proof that the Canadian circus community’s interests go far beyond stunts and sparkles! In a very lively two-hour discussion, representatives from six provinces and one territory agreed that a clear will to see, perform, and produce more circus can be felt across the nation. However, the lack of venues and funding are still important obstacles. “We need to be creative, to think of more possibilities to see live performances. Do all shows need to be in conventional theatres? Let’s democratize circus by having some in public venues, private houses, and natural spaces. Such a move goes hand in hand with artists being more flexible, willing to adapt their shows to such an environment… If not created there in the first place!”
The Canadian circus industry needs more communiction and unity: such consensus emerged from panels on diffusion, social changes, and funding. “ It takes a village to make a show, but a few villages to make it tour! We already have networks and pretty good knowledge, but they’re not being used.” Seeing Nunavut, Alberta, and New-Brunswick sharing ideas and elaborating action plans with such passion already is a sign that solutions might be on the horizon
Two very different shows with humor as their core closed this year’s festival. In “Shude,” Katerina Repponen & Pasi Nousiainen got loud laughter from both kids and adults. Two strong, well-written characters interacted with the audience and each other in a well-paced show with acrobatics, a few whiplashes, and foot juggling supporting their act.
Finally, the return of “Patinoire” is the perfect example of what good a festival can do with a show after listening to the audience. After an acclaimed sold-out representation in 2018 and feeling the interest for this acrobatic / musical and very funny one-man show, Saint John’s Arts & Culture Center united with the festival to bring back hilarious Patrick Léonard and produce a tour that took the 7 Fingers’ show to two additional cities.
“You need a good team to make it work and I could not be more thankful to everyone who has given us time and energy! This project is a dream come true and sharing it with so many of you for another year has been amazing! Thank you all and see you in 2020!'”
These were Mrs. Dölle’s parting words to the Arts & Culture Center’s audience.