Review: Cirque Éloize – Cirkopolis (Sony Centre for the Performing Arts/Canadian Stage)

Cirque Éloize brings a unique blend of circus and dance to the Toronto stage with Cirkopolis

Cirque Éloize is the other theatrical circus troupe from Quebec. A younger cousin to the juggernaut Cirque du Soleil, Cirque Éloize is known for creating more intimate shows staged in proscenium theatres. What Éloize may lack in scale and technical complexity they more than make up for in artistry. Evident in their show Cirkopolis, now being presented in Toronto by the Sony Centre and Canadian Stage, they bring a level of craftsmanship and attention to detail that surpasses that of their bigger, more famous peer.

Co-directed by Cirque Éloize Artistic Director Jeannot Painchaud and choreographer Dave St-Pierre, it is as much a dance show as it is a circus show. In Cirkopolis, the circus elements are blended seamlessly with contemporary dance choreography.

Cirkopolis opens on a Kafkaesque scene: against monochromatic background projections of industrial machinery and menacing cityscapes, groups of performers in grey trench coats and fedoras cross the stage in various formations as a lone bureaucrat sits at a desk and attempts to process a never-ending stack of paperwork.

Fritz Lang’s 1927 dystopian sci-fi film Metropolis is an obvious influence, referenced heavily both visually in the production design as well as in the show’s portmanteau title.

The ominous tone lightens after that first scene, and what follows is a progression of artfully staged circus acts. Some of my favourite numbers are the ones where the circus disciplines are blended most seamlessly with the dance choreography.

During that opening number, amidst the frenzied group choreography, two men (Colin André-Hériaud and Aaron DeWitt) perform an increasingly precarious hand-to-hand balancing act.

Later in the show, Japanese artist Arata Urawa performs a solo diabolo (Chinese yo-yo) number where he juggles bobbins on a string strung between two sticks, with as much grace, fluidity and musicality as I’ve ever seen that discipline performed.

Contortionist Alexie Maheu’s performs her number as the men of the troupe hold her up, balancing and contorting her lithe body in a variety of increasingly jaw-dropping poses.

Swiss artist Nora Zoller’s Cyr Wheel act (where the artist manipulates and spins a single large metal hoop with her body) is another number where circus discipline and dance blend perfectly to create a beautiful, evocative effect. The act is as moving as it is thrilling.

There are some much-appreciated moments of levity like the Vaudeville-style group juggling number which dazzles and delights in equal measure, and the act where a clown character (Ashley Carr) manipulates a dress on a coat rack and brings it to life to sweet effect.

And yes, being a circus show, there are also breathtaking thrills, especially in the Chinese pole number (performed by Antonin Wicky and Alexie Maheu) as well as the web rope act (by Selene Ballesteros-Minguer) where artists plummet toward the ground only to arrest their falls at the very last moment.

The show is helped immensely by its modest but effective production design. Alexis Laurence and Robert Massicotte’s industrial, Metropolis-like projections set the scene and Stéfan Boucher’s electronic-inflected progressive rock score sets the tone and guides the narrative for each scene.

But what I love most about Cirkopolis is St-Pierre’s choreography which creates a beautiful sense of fluidity within each number and keeps the show tightly paced ensuring each scene flows naturally into the next. If you’re a fan of the nouveau cirque genre, you owe it to yourself to see Cirque Éloize’s contemporary circus-ballet.

Details:

  • Cirque Éloize – Cirkopolis is playing from March 1 to18, 2017 at the Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front St. E)
  • Shows run Wednesday to Saturday at 7:30pm, and with matinees on Saturday, and Sunday (and March 15) at 1:00 pm
  • Tickets, $39 – $99, can be purchased in person at the Sony Centre Box Office,
  • over the phone at 1-855-872-SONY (7669) or online at www.sonycentre.ca.

Photo of the company of Cirque Éloize – Cirkopolis by Valérie Remise

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