|Members of Cirque Éloize|
perform a banquine act in Cirkopolis
photo (c)2012 Productions Neuvart/Valérie Remise
Right before the curtain rises on Montreal's Cirque Éloize--now at NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts through January 5--discordant music starts grinding and growling. Houselights flash; the curtain swirls with blobs of light, and whatever lies behind that veil could be radioactive. A startled audience gives up its first flurry of applause. And when that curtain lifts, watch out!
Cirkopolis, featuring a gifted, versatile troupe from Montreal, is what Fritz Lang (of Metropolis fame) might whip up from a big heap of contemporary circus acts, a dollop of music-theater choreography and a dash of Magritte. Instead of Lang, though, we have Cirque Éloize's Jeannot Painchaud and co-director/ choreographer Dave St-Pierre mischief-making with Robert Massicotte (sets/video), Alexis Laurence (video), Nicolas Descoteaux (lighting) and Stefan Boucher (music), just to name a few of the numerous co-conspirators responsible for this spectacle. Together, they have constructed an impressive, if also menacing, vision of urban life with views of towering, zooming architecture, a mass of mechanical gears that endlessly churn, and business men and women as soulless in their workaday existence as their yard-high stacks of paperwork. But that's not all.
Somewhere beneath this city of driving energy lies a more magical, more seductive one, no less driven. A city of expressive freedom, of romance, where men and women of cultivated power and skill display not only physical daring but also sensitivity and whimsy. In other words, a city of circus.
|Cirque Éloize in the juggling pins scene of Cirkopolis|
photos (c)2012 Productions Neuvart/Valérie Remise
Over the course of 80 minutes, Painchaud and St-Pierre offer no straightforward narrative but utilize "big number" stagings--like a wildy imaginative ensemble dance with juggling pins--as context and lightbox for circus acts like trapeze work, banquine, contortion and clowning. The pace is variable but mostly lively, with only Lauren Herley's scarily-good but overextended corde lisse (aerial rope act) dragging out longer than necessary. From the sheer poetry of Angelica Bongiovonni's intricate twirling with and within a life-like Cyr wheel--I believe she can fly!--to the more macho posturing of a male sextet slipping around inside the German wheel, Cirkopolis is a nearly overwhelming thrill. Make time for Cirque Éloize this season!
Performed by Maude Arseneault, Angelica Bongiovonni, Dominique Bouchard, Mikael Bruyere-L’Abbe, Ashley Carr, Samuel Charlton, Myriam Deraiche, Lauren Herley, Reuben Hosler, Ugo Laffolay, Yann LeBlanc, Frederic Lemieux-Cormier and Francois Saussus (alternating with Carr in the clown act)