• stjohnscircusfest

Day 2: Immersed in the Magic

Updated: Sep 29, 2021

Immersive: without a doubt the best word to describe the festival's second day. Locals and visitors dove into the circus and are now fully immersed in its amazing energy. A subtle Fall wind made flags dance as a girl was crossing the street, hula hoops on her shoulder and a man was looking at a pub's menu, gently swinging a juggling club by his hip. One is likely to encounter the circus' spirit at every corner these days and the bar was high yesterday, given how eventful and inspiring Day 1 turned out to be.

Nassib El-Hussein gave the tone as Day 2's opening act. The 7 Finger's general director immersed his audience in his sources of inspiration when it comes to shows. “Because you have to” and “because it will make a profit” would be the worst reasons to embark on any artistic project. Speaking right from the heart, the businessman underlined that the circus industry can create work opportunities with a unique layer of beauty, social cohesion, cultural diversity, and more exportation potential than in most fields. As festival-goers ventured out of the Alt Hotel, one was recommending what had already become his favorite coffee shop while another praised a bakery's treats. They've only been here for two days, but are obviously fully immersed in the city's gastronomy! Which of these establishments proudly hung our festival's poster remains a mystery...

Holly Treddenick worked her quads all the way up to Signal Hill, stopped at the Emera Innovation Exchange, and grabbed her panel moderator's mic. "Community" was the central theme of a discussion that brought six guests from four different provinces on the festival's couch. “Community is an eco-system from which people survive. Living on an island as we do here makes us somewhat dependant on the bonds that unite us. There is a sense that we have to work together and that is also true for the circus world” said Wonderbolt's founder, Beni Malone.

The circus arts have shown how great they are at creating communities with the increasing amount of circus schools and programs popping up around the world. People who gather in a space to create, train, and learn for a given amount of time inevitably create strong ties. These lead to a desire to stay connected, form a tight group. “Each year brings an important outflow of graduates, many of which want to stick together, keep on creating. By sharing what they do with an audience, they draw crowds and create a community that wants to follow theirs,” added Ruth Wilkin from Montreal's Tohu.

Visual Scribe Tanya Gadsby of Fuselight Creative captured this impression of the "Small Acts, Big Dreams" panel. Each illustration refers to a talking point brought up during the panel.

Anyone who hasn't been living under a rock this past year and a half knows that community and solidarity have been crucial, not only for the circus world but for each and every one. A pipeline of support came out of these dark circumstances and the circus community rose to the occasion by sharing spaces and resources to keep its creativity going. “It illustrates this support and the connectivity that are present in the circus. We all have dreams and are inspired by each other, but I can't train alone. Nobody can create and make it all on their own” pointed out Annie Dugan from Alberta.

Montreal's Alice Kop and Tuedon Ariri (La Compagnie des Autres and Sanctuaire) agreed that the pandemic shifted their views on their communities and the industry. Unable to rely on the companies, places, and shows that had sort of always been around gave them a fresh look at what circus is and where it could go. New initiatives as well as new ways of creating, working, and sharing have come out of this pandemic. Artists still wanted and needed to create, performers adapted themselves in order to maintain their relationship with the audience, and going back to a certain form of “normalcy” after only 18 months feels great. Both Kop and Ariru however wish that these new ideas and ways of working remain. The panel's end might be the best example of a new winning formula with online watchers jumping in the Q&A and asking questions from their homes. Last year's digital success encouraged the festival's team to keep online content and, clearly, some have spent the last two days as immersed in the festival as those on site.

And then there was “A Night at the Circus.” If that experience isn't the perfect way to end a day on Immersion, I don't know what is. The festival kept the event's location a secret as long as it could and it really was worth the wait. This magnificent building that is The Rooms turned into the most unusual Big Top! Audience members were first invited to simply walk around the building. A simple walk... With an aerialist twirling above a tall man's hat, a contortionist sliding between two ladies in heels, a juggler bouncing balls by the bar. None of the attendees had ever seen The Rooms the way they did last night and, since nobody followed the same path, nobody saw the exact same thing at the same time. Once the crowd had familiarized themselves with their new environment, French host Anthony Venisse became their guide for the night and introduced acts from numerous companies such as the 7 Fingers or Cirque Alfonse, as well as local talents. Mister Venisse created great links from one performance to the next with humor and poetry or a few notes on the piano. Some of the evening's highlights include St. John's dynamic hula hooper Susan Jarvis, Marie-Ève Dicaire's mesmerizing hand balancing performance, and Cirque Alfonse' acrobatic and musical energy that won the crowd over. Exploring and getting immersed in the venue was a show of its own, looking at how each audience member reacted to performances was another, and the circus acts were a whole other one. Three shows for the price of one! A unique experience that will hopefully be revived in future editions of the festival. Our deepest thanks to The Rooms for welcoming us, as well as to the bar and volunteers teams for making it all happened! Two days to go, joined us, and immerse yourself in the magic if you haven't already!

Et en français au festival international de cirque de Saint John's...

Après une première journée passée sous le signe de l'amour et de la collectivité. La thématique de l'immersion a marqué ce deuxième jour de festivités. Nassib El-Hussein des 7 doigts de la main a parlé des plus belles raisons et inspirations derrière la créations de spectacles, Holly Treddenick a dirigé une discussion fascinante sur la communauté et la solidarité au sein du monde circassien. Six invités de quatre provinces ont échangé sur tous le sens du mot communauté et sur l'impact positif que la dernière année et demie a eu sur plusieurs d'ntre elles. La journée s'est terminée à The Rooms avec “A night at the circus.” Parcours immersif ponctués de performances acrobatiques, spectacle en mouvement constant, visite guidée d'un lieu complètement transformé, les mots manquent pour décrire cet unique événements. Plus que deux jours pour savourer chaque instant de cette quatrième édition du festival. Ne manquez pas le “Cabaret at the edge of the world” au Art & Culture center à 20.00 ce soir et laissez-vous emporter par l'esprit contagieux du cirque!

- Martin Frenette

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