The world of tamed tigers and tightwire artists has long captured the public’s fascination, transforming risk into a celebration of the fantastical for audiences young and old. Unlike the gilded institutions that pandered to the sensibilities of well-appointed patrons, the circus welcomed everyone. In the 1800s, artists such as Georges Seurat and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec would dedicate their canvases to the subject of acrobats and embellished entertainers, elevating the humble circus into the realm of high art.
By the 20th century, the genre had begun to inform new expressions of movement, from 1920s French actor Étienne Decroux’s corporeal mime style to Bay Area modern dancer Terry Sendgraff’s exploration of aerial dance in the 1970s and the physical theater prowess of Charlie Chaplin’s grandchildren Aurélia and James Thierrée in the late ’90s, sliding out from under the big top and onto the formal stage. The circus as we once knew it may have all but disappeared, but its spirit had endured.
Their efforts paid off, and today, Quebec reigns supreme in all things big top, leading the charge with more than a dozen professional companies from Montreal to Quebec City…
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