THE FIRST DECADE OF MONTRÉAL COMPLÈTEMENT CIRQUE : 7 QUESTIONS
July 4, 2019
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Montréal complètement cirque – North America’s first contemporary circus festival – is celebrating its tenth anniversary. It’s more than Quebec’s biggest circus festival, it’s one of the top events of its kind, anywhere in the world.
Here’s a look back at the festival’s first decade of big fun. The festival’s co-founder and director, Nadine Marchand, answered our questions.
HOW DID THE IDEA OF A MONTREAL CIRCUS FESTIVAL COME ABOUT?
Montreal is a circus town – Cirque du Soleil, Tohu, the École nationale de cirque, Les Sept doigts de la main, En piste, Cirque Éloïze and more – but there was something missing. We lacked an event that could bring everyone together. So we wanted to create a showcase where audiences and artists could get together for a few days each year. We were lucky that it didn’t take long to carve out our niche on Montreal’s cultural landscape, which was already very busy in the summer. Right from the first year, the response was just incredible.
WHAT’S YOUR BIGGEST SUCCESS OF THE FIRST 10 YEARS?
Over the years, the explosive growth of street circus has become one of the most impressive things about the festival. We wanted to go out into the streets, to the audience – and people loved it. The first year, 50,000 people came to the festival. Last year, our attendance was more than 430,000. That mushrooming growth has been extraordinary for Montréal Complètement Cirque.
ITS OUTDOOR EVENTS HAVE BECOME A SIGNATURE FOR THE FESTIVAL. WHY ARE THEY SO IMPORTANT?
It’s like we’re going out to play with people. It’s important for us to be among people, to be close to them. It leads to a kind of contact in which emotions flow freely. During the festival, Saint-Denis St. is our playground. The Minutes complètement cirque take over the urban environment – stairs, roofs, balconies and so on – twice a day, with more than thirty artists led by a director. These roving performances are always astonishing, and they hit all the notes, from laughter to tears.
WHEN DID THE FESTIVAL EXPAND ITS OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES TO LES JARDINS GAMELIN?
Back in the festival’s second year we started presenting shows in Place Émilie-Gamelin – this was a few years before Les Jardins Gamelin came into being. In the third year, we had acrobatics structures and scaffolding installed, and staged a big show that drew 3000 to 4000 people twice a day. Each year, we’ve taken the concept a little farther, to put ourselves in the heart of the space, and in the audience’s heart. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, and we just love to know that we’re bringing people joy.
WHAT IS CONTEMPORARY CIRCUS?
In the traditional circus, there are usually animals and the show is a series of separate routines. Contemporary circus is what we might call auteur circus, because there’s a story, dramaturgy, direction. Increasingly, it’s also about deeper connections to other arts, like dance, theatre, music, variety and comedy.
HOW HAS MONTRÉAL COMPLÈTEMENT CiRQUE BECOME ONE OF THE WORLD’S LEADING CONTEMPORARY CIRCUS EVENTS?
We now get plenty of proposals from foreign companies, because for many, participating in the festival is a springboard to touring the globe. More and more professionals from around the world, including many exhibitors and programmers, come to Montreal to catch up on the latest developments in contemporary circus. There are other circus festivals, in France for example, but often they’re in smaller cities. There’s also one in Paris, but it’s a judged competition, which is a completely different kind of event.
WHAT ARE MONTRÉAL COMPLÈTEMENT CiRQUE'S DREAMS FOR THE FUTURE?
We dream of continuing to evolve in this place we’ve made our own over the last ten years, of continuing to transform Saint-Denis St., of making spaces all about circus. We also dream of returning to Place Pasteur, which is well suited to innovative pieces. We’ve been active there in the past.
We also dream of making the audience experience even better, with our productions and performances, and of tackling new challenges. Of course, we also want to preserve what makes us unique: proximity between artists and audiences. We want everyone to have an unforgettable, emotionally rich experience!
CIRCUS IN THE QUARTIER DES SPECTACLES
Candide. Right after the Minutes complètement cirque, all acrobats merge toward Jardins Gamelin, 2 representations each evening until July 14.
Bosch Dreams. True voyage into the fantastic universe of great Dutch painter Jérôme Bosch, with 7 doigts de la main at salle PIerre-Mercure du Centre Pierre-Péladeau, until July 14.
Finale. Driven by a pop diva and her sidekick drummer, FINALE twists cabaret, circus and rock together into a wild party you won't forget! By Analogue, at Théâtre St-Denis 2, from July 9 to 14.
MONTRÉAL COMPLÈTEMENT CIRQUE
July 4 to 14
The tenth annual Montréal Complètement Cirque festival takes place outdoors, on Saint-Denis St. and in Les Jardins Gamelins (free), and in several indoor venues in the Quartier des Spectacles, as well as the Tohu (paid).