National Circus School
Established in 1981, the Ecole nationale de cirque (National Circus School) enrolls more than 150 students from across Canada and around the world each year. The school trains creators, performing artists and educators, and offers preparatory training, its Circus and High School Studies program and postsecondary programs leading to a college diploma. A pioneer of the new circus in Canada and North America, the National Circus School has contributed to the emergence of many circus companies, the most renowned of which are Cirque du Soleil, Cirque Éloize and The 7 Fingers, all based in Montréal.
The city is also home to the École de cirque de Verdun.
© TOHU, la Cité des arts du cirque, Alain Laforest
Cité des arts du cirque
In 1999, major circus players in Montréal – Cirque du Soleil, the National Circus School and the En Piste circus arts national network – joined forces to build the Cité des arts du cirque with TOHU as its public venue. The Cité hosts the facilities of TOHU, Cirque du Soleil, the National Circus School and En Piste.
© L'Impro Cirque - Alexandre Galliez
Since its inception in 2004, and located at the centre of the Cité des arts du cirque, TOHU is a unique hall in North America, with its 360-degree circular hall seating 1,200 spectators. TOHU is also home to a permanent exhibition chronicling the circus arts in Québec, from their inception in Montréal in 1796 to international stardom. TOHU promotes the global growth of Québec circus with its annual MONTRÉAL COMPLÈTEMENT CiRQUE festival.
© Andrew Miller
MONTRÉAL COMPLÈTEMENT CiRQUE
Created in 2010, MONTRÉAL COMPLÈTEMENT CiRQUE is the first North American international festival dedicated to circus arts. Each July over 10 days, the festival presents circus shows and events in venues and parks, on streets and sidewalks throughout the city.
© Mise en scène Marcos Mauro / Isabelle Chassé et Samuel Tétreault, #3 - Nocturne, Photo : Alexandre Galliez
Famous Montréal circus companies
Here is a sampling of some well-known Montréal circus companies:
Founded in 1984, the Cirque du Soleil has multiple shows on tour around the globe, plus several productions in Las Vegas. The Cirque also presents a show under the Big Top in the Old Port of Montréal each spring and summer.
Since its inception in 1993, Cirque Éloize ranks among the world’s leading contemporary circuses, and its shows play in cities around the globe. Its head office and creative studio are in the historic Gare Dalhousie, the Old Montréal former railway station.
Founded in 2002, The 7 Fingers – also known by its French name “Les 7 doigts de la main”, which is sometimes shortened to “Les 7 Doigts” (The 7 Fingers) – has shows on tour around the world.
© Cavalia Odysseo
No horsing around
Created in 2003 by Normand Latourelle – a pioneer of Cirque du Soleil from 1985 to 1990 – Cavalia reimagines the equestrian and theatrical arts with shows that feature horses as well as riders, acrobats, dancers and musicians. Cavalia’s Odysseo show is performed in the world’s largest touring tent called the Big White Top.
The only presenter specializing in contemporary circus in North America, TOHU (located at the centre of the Cité des arts du cirque) shows include Circa’s internationally-acclaimed Humans 2.0 (February 15 to 19) about the challenge of being human; and Passagers (March 23 to April 8) by Les 7 Doigts, the arts collective who expand the boundaries of the stage experience by combining dance, physical expression, acrobatics and projection.
Cirque du Soleil ECHO runs Under the Big Top in the Old Port of Montreal from April 20 to August 20.
Richard “Bugs” Burnett is a Canadian freelance writer, editor, journalist, blogger and columnist for alt-weeklies, mainstream and LGBTQ publications. Bugs also knows Montréal like a drag queen knows a cosmetics counter.