Cirque Éloize have established themselves as giants within the contemporary circus world. They have had families ooh-ing and ahh-ing at their performances for 23 years in more than 55 countries. They are now bringing their act to the Mainland and dazzling audiences with their stunning performances.
For 23 years, Cirque Éloize has brought their “circus in a suitcase” to over 500 cities in 55 countries. Before they make their Mainland China debut with their award-winning show Cirkopolis from July 3-5, the founder of the contemporary circus, Jeannot Painchaud marvels at how all this success came from his childhood dream.
“I grew up on a small island in the middle of the St. Lawrence Gulf called the Magellan Islands, where there are only 12,000 people. I always dreamed of going to see the horizon and wanted to travel the world on my sailboat,” he says.
“One day, I went to a tall ship meeting in Gaspe in 1984 and I saw a circus tent. It was the night of the birth of Cirque du Soleil. I went and saw the show and was impressed. After, I discovered the National Circus School in Montreal and that was it. I started the circus because I wanted to travel the world.”
Although he spent years touring the globe as a circus artist and a busker, it was a desire to bring a show to his hometown that led to the creation of Cirque Éloize.
With six other friends, Painchaud says with a smile, “That little show became a company.” Cirque Éloize now employs 125 people, has three touring companies, a big studio in Montreal to premiere their works and a circus festival that has been running for seven years.
He credits the company’s success to their early decision to be the first contemporary circus company to specifically focus on theaters, noting, “There are theaters everywhere.”
“I like it when the audience can look into the eyes of the artists and can recognize them after the show,” he adds. “And I’ve always wanted to create a community on stage where there are about 10-15 people on stage. All of our shows are different, but they share that intimate characteristic.”
However, one place that Cirque Éloize have yet to perform in is China. For the company’s debut, they will be performing their Drama Desk Award winning show, Cirkopolis, at Shanghai Grand Theatre.
With a name that nods to Franz Lang’s 1927 groundbreaking film Metropolis, the show follows a worker “who wants to contaminate the sad environment with poetry.”
Blending choreography with eye-popping circus arts that incorporate devices like the Cyr wheel, the Chinese pole and the German wheel, Cirkopolis takes place in “a city where it’s all gears.”
With references to Terry Gilliam’s Brasil, Painchaud notes the show will appeal to all members of the family.
“The adults will appreciate all the movie references, the choreography, the subtle character work and the acting,” he says.
“And kids will appreciate the degree of difficulty of the acrobatics, the trapeze and the juggling. It’s a circus, even if it’s not a traditional way of presenting a circus.”
July 3-5, 7.15pm (2pm matinee show on Sun), RMB180-680. Shanghai Grand Theatre, see event listing.