Say the words “Canadian circus” and most people will think of the esthetically dazzling, astonishingly successful productions by Montreal-based Cirque du Soleil.
Spurred on by Cirque du Soleil’s success from the mid-1980s onwards, Montreal has become the global hub of circus, home of the National Circus School; other internationally successful troupes including 7 Fingers and Cirque Éloize; and an annual international festival, Montreal Completèment Cirque.
But Toronto has its own circus scene — smaller and less developed, to be sure, but also less constrained by expectations of corporate-level polish. An event this weekend at Harbourfront Centre offers a privileged window on the GTA’s version of contemporary circus.
Holly Treddenick, artistic director of the Toronto company Les Femmes de Feu and an aerialist, dreamt up Circus Sessions after attending 2012’s Completèment Cirque, which included talkbacks, seminars, and networking events as well as circus shows. “I came back here and was like, OK, we need to bring the community together in Toronto and have an event,” says Treddenick. Harbourfront has been on board from the beginning and has hosted each of the four Circus Sessions since 2014.
Toronto circus “is still at the beginning of something,” says Nadia Drouin, until recently the head of circus programming at Tohu, the Montreal venue that produces Completèment Cirque. Circus Sessions is playing an important role, in Drouin’s view, in “bringing attention to the discipline of circus, so that programmers might come along and say, how can I do that in my venue?”
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