Québec, as a stateless nation, expresses its nationalism through culture and language. What is the national narrative of Québécois circus on the global stage and works commissioned for the Montréal’s 375 anniversary?
“Québec’s brand of theatrical, mostly animal-free, contemporary circus born out of French nouveau cirque, Soviet-inspired elite acrobatics training and American entrepreneurship and showmanship has emerged from a burgeoning nation preoccupied with its own singularity and distinctiveness. Paradoxically, however, its circus sometimes comes across as blandly ‘global,’ without local flavor, to audiences seated in front of its presentations of assumed cultural neutrality or, as Karen Fricker has put it, a ‘purposeful cultural blankness’”– Cirque Global: Québec’s expanding Circus Boundaries 2008
Fricker’s description of “purposeful cultural blankness” essentially refers to a culturally ambiguous narrative that lacks an authentic Québéois nationalism. There is a ‘standardized diversity’ quality that complies with a cultural model for efficient cultural distribution internationally.
Circus companies as cultural diplomats for a stateless nation
The major cultural exports of Québec circus are referred to as “the big three”: Cirque du Soleil (CDS), Cirque Eloize, and 7 doigts de la main (7 doigts). These three companies have achieved this status because they have the most successful cultural presence on the global stage. Their success would not have been possible without tremendous public funding and support. With their success, these companies have the unique opportunity to serve as unspoken diplomats for Québec nationalism. Do these companies have a body of work that reflects the national narrative with “local flavour” or does their work simply fall into Fricker’s description of a culturally ambiguous narrative”? Based on my intimate knowledge of “the big three” over years of attending shows and conversations with artists, directors, and programmers, I would agree with Fricker’s assessment. But why?…