Past Events: 2015

Friday, January 9, 2015, 11:30am

Which Social Circus for Which Society?

Friday 9 January, 10 to 11:30 a.m., Studio CirQus(4247, St-Dominique, Montreal)

(Please note corrected address).
David Simard (Cirque du Monde), Jennifer Spiegel (Concordia University), and Zita Nyarady (York University), chair: Louis Patrick Leroux.

Social Circus or Circus for Social Change? What are the various types of social circuses and organizations operating internationally and locally? Do they naturally fall into a single rubric or can we start differentiating them based on their objectives, mandates, and outcomes? Examples from Montreal, Toronto, Ecuador, and elsewhere will be explored by our three panelists.

Friday, February 13, 2015, 10:00am

Circus Training into Circus Practice (3 talks)

Friday 13 February, 10 am - 2 pm
@ National Circus School of Montreal
A day of talks and discussions chaired by Louis Patrick Leroux (Concordia University) and Patrice Aubertin (National Circus School).
Please RSVP:

Post-Secondary Circus School Graduates Perspectives of Curriculum (10 a.m.)

Amanda Langlois (McGill University)

Whereas quantitative research is focused on quantifying data and generalizing results, qualitative research is explorative, and centers upon gaining a deeper and more profound understanding of the experiences of participants. In this session, I will present the findings from my own qualitative study, which explores perspectives of the curriculum through the lens of graduates from the National Circus School. By analyzing the data through the use of the constant comparison approach, multiple themes emerged which identified the characteristics of undertaking a career in circus arts as perceived by the participants in my study. I will share selected quotes from the interviews and discuss the perceptions of graduates in connection with educational theories.

Amanda Langlois attended E.N.C and also taught in the circus department at Codarts Arts University in the Netherlands. She just finished her M.A. at McGill University where she received the P. Lantz fellowship for excellence for research in arts and education. She is also an elementary school teacher.

‘Knowing, Doing, Being’ How circus novices become practitioners (10:50 a.m.)

Prof. Ron Beadle (Northumbria University, UK)

To become a circus artist is to undergo a series of inter-connected transformations through which people become ‘circus’ as they acquire the knowledge and skills they need to practice circus arts. The circus thus provides a compelling example of work inscribed on its practitioners’ identities as well as their bodies that might be understood as identity work (Ybema et al 2009); a mode of being (Sandberg and Pinnington 2009) and a practice-based moral character (MacIntyre 2000). But how might we explore the emergence of such self-understanding and its composition? This talk will make some suggestions.

Ron Beadle is Professor of Organization and Business Ethics at Northumbria University, England. He has been widely published in the field of virtue ethics and has lectured in universities internationally. A descendant of the Hungarian Konyot circus family, Ron’s empirical research in the travelling circus has been published in leading academic journals including The Journal of Business Ethics. Ron convenes the Circus Research Network (Britain and Ireland).

- Lunch on premises (pay your own) -

Hybridity and Contemporary Circus Arts: Training for a new hybridity of performance in the circus arts. (1:15 p.m.)

Jon Burtt (Macquarie University, Australia)

A glance at the curriculum vitae of many early career contemporary circus artists shows the increasing wide range of professional circus arts practice. Circus artists graduating from established circus schools such as ÉNC in Canada or NICA in Australia are now being asked to perform not only in a multiplicity of disciplines, but also in contexts which can range from working with physical and visual theatre companies, to mainstream contemporary circus companies, to small experimental collectives. This multi-disciplinary career trajectory is increasingly becoming the norm rather than the exception and Jon Burtt, who himself works across the fields of dance, physical theatre and circus, argues that current circus arts training needs to adapt from the traditional specialist behavioral approach still predominant in much circus arts training and now move to embrace this new hybridity.

Jon is a performer, choreographer, director, teacher and researcher in the fields of circus arts, dance, and social circus. He co-founded Skadada, a multi-disciplinary circus company that toured throughout Australasia to critical and public acclaim. Jon worked for three years as a Cirque du Monde trained social circus instructor in the Inuit community in Nunavik, Québec, was researcher-in-residence at the National Circus School in Montreal and is currently a lecturer in dance and performance studies in the Department of Media, Music, Communications, and Cultural Studies at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. His research interests include the effective development of expertise in physical art forms, interdisciplinary research collaborations, and social intervention through social circus practice.

Friday, March 13, 2015, 2:00pm

Magic at McGill this Friday
Adaptations of Nineteenth-Century Magic Effects in Contemporary Québécois Circus and Theatre

Conference-demonstration by Joe Culpepper (McGill)

Friday 13 March, 2 p.m.
Redpath Museum (historic teaching auditorium),
McGill University
859 Sherbrooke West

Last year’s premier of Etienne Saglio’s circus show Le soir des monstres concluded with a stage illusion first performed in London in the 1860s. This year, Lepage’s avant-garde play Coeur adapts moments from the life and magic of France’s famous nineteenth-century conjuror: Jean-Eugene Robert-Houdin. This talk will explore the socio-historical origins of sever magic effects to think about how their cultural, political and artistic functions change through contemporary performances in Montréal.

Joseph Culpepper is a performance scholar, magician, and magic consultant. He recently completed a PhD in comparative literature at the University of Toronto. His dissertation, "Reception and Adaptation: Magic Effects, Mysteries and Con Games," analyzes how individuals experience magic through various media. Joseph currently teaches magic as practice-based research at the National Circus School in Montréal and is a visiting scholar at McGill’s English department.

Friday, April 10, 2015, 12:00pm

Christabelle Sethna (University of Ottawa)
"Animal Celebrity: The Memorialization of Jumbo the Elephant"

The story of Jumbo, the famous circus elephant, tells the tale of a violence-filled colonial journey that was common to captive nonhuman and human animals alike, particularly in the business of slavery and freakery. This presentation considers Jumbo's life, death and afterlife as grounded in exploitation and consumption and considers the importance of colonial circuits.

Dr. Christabelle Sethna is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies and the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa. She is a historian who focuses on domestic and global history of sex, contraception and abortion, second wave feminist activism and more recently on representations of animals.

Tracy Zhang (Université de Montréal)
"The Chinese Connection: Transnational Origins of Quebecois Circus Arts"

Why does China have a large number of acrobatic troupes? What factors enabled Chinese acrobats to perform in North American circuses? This presentation will shed some light on these issues by looking at the history of acrobatics in socialist China. Also, I will discuss state and corporate practices that facilitated the incorporation of Chinese acrobatics into the Quebecois circus arts in the late 1980s.

Dr. Tracy Zhang is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Center of International Studies at the University of Montreal. She also teaches in the Department of Geography, Planning, and Environment at Concordia University. Her research engages with critical media studies and feminist political economy, focusing on media/cultural workers' experiences of contemporary political-economic transformations.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015, 1:30pm at Festival HQ (330 rue Emery, Montréal)

Working Group at Montréal Complètement Cirque

Rings of Memory. What Oral and Material History for Québec Circus?
Tuesday 7 July, Festival HQ, 330 rue Emery, Montreal, 1:30 to 3:30 pm.
Louis Patrick Leroux, Jan Rok Archard, with Rodrigue Tremblay, Nicolette Hazewinkel, and Catherine St-Arnaud
Live performance in Québec, and circus in particular, has been produced with a sense of urgency, constantly moving forward with little concern to document its decades of experiences, anecdotes, and archival documents. How does one constitute the living archive of an ephemeral field? How to « make » québec circus history  in a coherent, dynamic and compelling way for both its practitioners and its scholars?
More importantly, we’ll be exploring how an oral and material history can become community-driven, fuelled and supported by that community for its own posterity. What criteria does one follow to historicize events, the sort them, and attribute importance? How to make the research democratic while avoiding egotistic asides? What tools are in place to construct such a history?
Excerpts from a first series of interviews with Rodrigue Tremblay and Nicolette Hazewinkel will be presented, with the artists present, and interwoven with many of the questions asked above. We will articulate a call to action from the circus milieu, based on its desire to remember and to learn from the recent and farther removed past.

Past Events: 2014

Le vendredi 31 janvier 2014, 12:30pm

After the Working Group’s morning session on Friday 31 January at National Circus School, those of you not involved in the Québec Circus History sub-group are invited to attend Tracy Zhan’s talk. Friday, January 31, 2014 at 12:30 p.m. in Room H 1252, Hall Building, Concordia University.

This presentation examines negotiations over the value and meanings of the acrobatic body in Sino-US cultural diplomacy during the Cold War era. Since the 1950s, Chinese communist leaders identified acrobatics as a tool of propaganda. However, the extent to which acrobatics could be used to glorify the proletariat and Red Guards (revolutionary youth) was disputed at the peak of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1970). As a result, many acrobatic troupes were closed down, and star performers were ordered to do farm work in the countryside. Nonetheless, an agreement on reviving “traditional acrobatics” was reached after President Nixon watched an acrobatic performance in Shanghai, and in 1972 a state-run acrobatic troupe went to the United States to promote Sino-US friendship. Under what political-social and physiological conditions did acrobats prepare for their American tour? How was the local understanding of Chinese traditional art translated into an “oriental performance” that
enchanted the American audience? Drawing on oral history interviews and archival data, this presentation aims to answer these questions. It will also reveal how acrobats’ embodied practices on-and-off the stage constituted multiple sites and politics of cultural diplomacy at a delicate moment of the Cold War.

Dr. Tracy Zhang is currently a Research Associate at the Simone de Beauvoir Institute. She also holds a FQRSC postdoctoral fellowship at the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment.

Le vendredi 31 janvier 2014, 10h

OUVERT AUX CHERCHEURS, AUX ÉTUDIANTS, ET AUX PRATICIENS, svp réserver auprès de Myriam Villeneuve.

Les archives du cirque: quoi, comment, pour qui, pourquoi?

Anna-Karina Barlatti (École nationale de cirque de Montréal) et Stéphane Zummo (Cirque du Soleil)

Pôle de référence tant au niveau national qu’international, la Bibliothèque de l’École nationale de cirque a pour mission l’avancement, la préservation et la diffusion des arts du cirque. Grâce notamment à l'aide de la Fondation de l'École nationale de cirque et de donateurs privés, la Bibliothèque peut offrir à l'ensemble de la communauté l’accès à la richesse de ses collections, à des services et de l'expertise. Elle répond ainsi favorablement aux besoins grandissant en matière de recherche sur la pratique actuelle des arts du cirque et de son histoire. Comment s’articulent les enjeux de développement d’un centre documentaire spécialisé sur une forme d’art dont le patrimoine est fondé sur l’expérience éphémère de l’expression articulée des corps en "prise de risque" et transmis historiquement par tradition orale? C’est que la mémoire vivante des arts du cirque, avec ses accents immatériels, fait appel à un langage et à un processus distinctif de préservation et de mise en valeur. Cette communication propose une réflexion exploratrice sur les démarches mises en œuvre à la Bibliothèque relatives à la collecte d’archives auprès des artistes, au traitement et à la mise en valeurs de son patrimoine unique.

Documentaliste de formation, Anna-Karyna Barlati se passionne pour la sauvegarde et la diffusion des patrimoines artistiques à caractère non conventionnel. Cette orientation lui a permis de travailler auprès du Centre de recherche et de documentation de la Fondation Daniel Langlois et à la Bibliothèque des collections spéciales de l’Université de Montréal. Depuis 2004, elle dirige le développement de la Bibliothèque de l’École nationale de cirque.

Le Cirque du Soleil est doté d’un service classique de gestion documentaire regroupant à la fois les archives historiques, les documents administratifs et une collection de livres et autres documents visant à répondre aux besoins de la Création. Mais il y a plus encore. Dans cette entreprise très prolifique d’envergure internationale on y retrouve aussi des collections de costumes et d’accessoires de scène qui traduisent la nature unique de ses activités. L’objet de cette conférence consistera donc à présenter de façon schématique quelles sont ses collections et par le fait même expliquer qui les produit et dans quel but.

Diplômé en Technique documentaire, Stéphane Zummo a travaillé à titre de Technicien aux collections pour le Centre Canadien d’Architecture de 1993 à 2003. Depuis 2003, Stéphane agit à titre de Conseiller documentaire pour le Centre de recherche et de documentation du Cirque du Soleil. Il a d’autre part entrepris depuis 2008 un BAC en Archéologie et histoire ancienne à l’Université de Leicester en Angleterre.

February 28, 2014 at 1:30 p.m., McGill University, room TBA.


Evaluating the Socio-Cultural Impact of Social Circus in Québec

Jennifer Spiegel (Concordia University)

In the 1970s, Augusto Boal famously proposed a model of community based arts programming aimed at empowering some of the most marginalized members of a society to engaged and transform their communities as active participants, rather than passive spectators. According to Boal, each artistic modality offers a different set of tools for transforming individual and collective possibilities. This presentation therefore proposes a preliminary framework for assessing how social circus interventions can be evaluated. In keeping with the insights generated over the past twenty years in arts for social change research, it also elaborates the questions that arise concerning how these ways of “doing and making” interact with the various cultural traditions, values and aesthetics germane to the populations involved in social circus initiatives.

Dr. Jennifer Beth Spiegel is a post-doctoral research fellow at Concordia University in Montreal. She is leading the social circus field study as part of a large, 5 year Arts for Social Change (ASC) research project, in partnership with Cirque du Soleil


Circus as Community

Duncan Wall (National Circus School and Circus Now)

As the circus develops as an amateur practice, the uses for it as a social practice also become more evident. "Social circus," largely youth-based, has widespread practice, as have political circus interventions. In this session, we will explore more direct uses for the circus arts in community-building, particularly in urban areas. What are the critical elements of community building and how can circus practice and performance a play a role? What models exist in other physical practices and what distinguishes circus as a bonding experience? We'll also discuss efforts to build community within the circus world itself, among artists, practitioners, and fans. We'll look at various models and consider some of the challenges and small successes of Circus Now, the emerging network in the United States.

Duncan Wall, a former Fulbright scholar at France’s École Nationale des Arts du Cirque de Rosny-sous-Bois, is the National Director of Circus Now and the author of The Ordinary Acrobat: Inside the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past & Present. He teaches circus history and criticism at the National Circus School of Montreal and is a Visiting Scholar at McGill University, studying community-building through the circus arts.

March 12, 2014 at 6:30 p.m D.B. Clark Theatre, Concordia University

OPEN TO ALL (reservations required online)

In Conversation with Lyn Heward (formerly of Cirque du Soleil)
and Louis Patrick Leroux. On Art, Business, Creativity and… Circus.

Concordia, Globe & Mail Conversation Series on Creativity

This is not a Working Group event, but by its themes, creativity through the arts, interdisciplinarity and circus and guest speakers point to a close affinity with our other talks and events. This will be an opportunity to engage in a public discussion on fundamental aspects of contemporary culture in Québec, as understood through its circus.

Lyn Heward is the former President and COO of Cirque du Soleil’s Creative Content Division and later worked as executive producer for a variety of special projects. She was involved in producing shows such as Varekai, Zumanity, and KA. She is an active and sought-after public speaker on innovation and creativity, leadership, and corporate culture.

Dr. Louis Patrick Leroux is founding director of the Working Group. He is a professor of English and French at Concordia University, specializing in Theatre, Québec Cultural Discourse, and Contemporary Circus. He has been a Scholar-in-residence at National Circus School in Montreal where he also is affiliated as an active collaborator with the Industrial Research Chair in Circus Arts with a specific focus on circus dramaturgy and the integration of technology.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014, time TBD

Thinking and Writing about Contemporary Circus

A panel discussion at the Canadian Association for Theatre Research

Curated by Karen Fricker (Brock) and Louis Patrick Leroux (Concordia)

Formally and aesthetically innovative circus practices are burgeoning worldwide in our times, with Québec one of the global hubs of contemporary circus creation, production, and touring. New scholarship on circus, in turn, is emergent: in 2011 the circus research community in France convened a first international circus studies conference, several important American volumes (by Susan Weber and Matthew Whitman) appeared in 2012, and influential French-language journals including L’Annuaire théâtral, Jeu, Globe, and Spirale have published special issues on Québec circus. The Montréal Working Group on Circus Research, with which both panel organizers are associated (Leroux as founding director, Fricker as co-founder), hosted an international conference in 2012 and runs 4-6 seminars and roundtables every academic year; McGill/Queens University Press is considering Cirque Global: Québec's Expanding Circus Boundaries, a reader co-edited by Leroux and Charles Batson, which will include many chapters and transcripts that had their origins in Montréal Working Group activities.

This roundtable seeks to take stock of scholarly, performance-critical, and creative activity around circus across Canada, and to bring Québec circus researchers into dialogue with their Canadian counterparts. The conveners will offer position papers followed by group discussion and exchange. We welcome colleagues working on and interested in the aesthetics, ethics, business practices, pedagogical implications, and discursive significations of contemporary circus. While particularly interested in information and exchange about Canadian circus outside of Québec, colleagues working on Québécois and international circus practices are also welcome. The panel will focus on articulating and exploring the particularities of circus research, and its relationship to theatre and performance studies; it will ask how we as performance scholars can best use our skills and experience in approaching, analyzing, and writing about contemporary circus.


July 2-13, 2014

Montréal Complètement Cirque!
2-13 July
Working Group, Circus Now & Circus Historical Society converge onto Montreal

Once again, Montreal Complètement Cirque will draw the circus world and diverse audiences to what promises to be an exciting festival of international contemporary circus. In addition to its regular programming, the festival brings together circus professionals and stakeholders for various discussions, panels, and workshops. Group members will be part of a number of those panels. Including the Social Circus panel detailed elsewhere in the newsletter.

Circus Now will be converging onto Montreal, 10-13 July for a series of talks and events. For more information: Click Here

The American Circus Historical Society will be holding its annual meeting for the first time in Montreal, 10-12 July at the Auberge royale Versailles. Schedule to follow. Click here for more information.
Louis Patrick Leroux will be giving a talk on the 10th, on the historical links that have tied Québec and American circus over the centuries.

Friday 11 July, 1-2:45 p.m., under the TOHU tent, Circus Now, the Circus Historical Society, and the Working Group on Circus Research will be combining forces and hosting a Conversation: “A Big Tent: Bridging the Gap between Circus Past and Present,” with the Circus Historical Society & the Montreal Working Group on Circus Research.
Despite the circus evolutions and revolutions of the last forty years, much remains consistent in the way circus artists perform, train, and live, and in the special satisfaction that circus performance offers to fans. What then to make of this divide between “traditional” and “contemporary” circus? Where does it come from? Does it accurately reflect the changing nature of circus or is it counterproductive? What common ground can be found among the forms, and how can the different circus communities work to support each other? Come join some of the most knowledgeable circus scholars in North America for what promises to be a lively, productive discussion about a collective passion and diverse perspective.
Panelists will include colleagues from all three associations as well as circus professionals. Confirmed participants: Jan Rok Achard, Andreane Leclerc, Louis Patrick Leroux, Brian Liddicoat, Al Stencell, Duncan Wall.

July 3-6, 2014

Circus Stories - Le cirque vu par...

Initiated by En Piste, with the support of Fresh Arts Coalition Europe, and inspired by "Unpack the Arts", Circus Stories, Le cirque vu par... is a residency program for cultural journalists from Canada and the Northeastern United States attending Montréal Complètement Cirque and working to develop critical discourse regarding the circus arts, to encourage the circulation of knowledge and to foster the role of media in relation to the circus arts. Our colleague Karen Fricker will be participating and, hopefully, giving us a report.

July 7, 2014 4-6pm

TABLE-RONDE : Le Cirque social

Lieu / Place : TOHU (2345, rue Jarry Est) 7 Juillet, 16h-18h; 7 July, 4 to 6 p.m.

Intervenants : David Simard (Chargé du développement de contenu en cirque social, Cirque du Soleil); Jennifer Beth Spiegel (chercheuse postdoctorale, Université de Concordia); modérateur - Louis Patrick Leroux (Professeur agréé en théâtre et littérature québécoise, Université Concordia); Anne Charpentier (coordonnatrice, En Marge 12-17); Jesse Dryden (instructeur de cirque social)

Un portrait du cirque social dans le monde sera présenté par David Simard à travers l’outil de mapping développé par le Cirque du Soleil. Jennifer Spiegel présentera les toutes dernières études effectuées sur ce type d’intervention en parallèle avec son travail de recherche autour du projet Hors-Piste. Une intervenante et un instructeur en cirque social, Anne Charpentier et Jesse Dryden, partageront leur expérience terrain, forte de leur participation à plusieurs projets d’action locale. Cette rencontre sera animée par Louis Patrick Leroux du Groupe de travail sur la recherche en cirque.

David Simard will present a worldwide portrayal of social circus via a mapping tool concieved by the Cirque du Soleil. Jennifer Spiegel will display the latest studies carried out by this kind of intervention linked with her research on the Hors-Piste project. Anne Charpentier, a social circus speaker, will share her field experience, predominantly efficient in many local projects. Patrick Louis Leroux of the Montreal Working Group on Circus Research will lead this session.
*Activité bilingue anglais/français avec traduction simultanée. Ouvert à tous.

Thursday, October 16, 2014, 9:30am

Circus & Its Others

Thursday 16 October, 9:30-11:30 a.m., LB 646, dept of English, Concordia University

Exploring a new field

Discussion hosted by Charles Batson and Karen Fricker
Circus practices have long offered a celebration and an exploitation of differences, from stagings of exceptional performing bodies to the display of "freakery." This new research project will explore the relationship of contemporary circus to this legacy, asking to what extent and in what ways circus is always-already different, and about difference. We will explore this question from aesthetic, dramaturgical, pedagogical, and entrepreneurial perspectives, looking at diversities including but not limited to gender and gender expression, ethnic and national origin, geography, able-ness, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, and species. In this initial discussion invited participants will make short presentations on their approach to these questions, followed by discussion.
Confirmed participants include Patrice Aubertin (École Nationale de Cirque), Roy Gomez Cruz (Northwestern University), David Fancy (Brock University), Yohann Floch (Freelance cultural consultant, France), Erin Hurley (McGill University), Katie Lavers (Edith Cowan University, Australia), Andréane Leclerc (circus artist, Montréal), VK Preston (McGill University), Christabelle Sethna (University of Ottawa), and Tracy Zhang (Université de Montréal).

Please confirm your presence with Karen Fricker,

Thursday, October 30, 2014, 7:00pm

Creation and Ownership in Circus

Thursday, 30 October, 7 p.m.,
National Circus School of Montreal

A panel discussion with professionals, trainers, and students

Creation and Ownership in Circus
Who truly "owns" circus acts? The artist, the director, the company, the various contributors, trainers? How to unweave the layered influences? What are some of the ethical and commercial issues? What are the models in today's circus practice and their limits; how are these models particular to circus?

Guests will include Sarah Poole (National Circus School), Jesse Dryden (Circus Schmirkus), Marie-Louise Donald, LLB, Patrice Aubertin (National Circus School), Samuel Tétreault (7 doigts de la main), chair: Louis Patrick Leroux (Concordia University)

Please confirm your presence with Myriam Villeneuve:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014, 10:00am

Le clown au féminin en France et au Québec
Conférence de Delphine Cézard suivie d'une discussion sur la place et l'apport des femmes clowns.

Local LB 646 (6e étage, édifice "Library"), 1400 de Maisonneuve Ouest, Université Concordia

Docteure en sciences de l’art (sociologie), Delphine Cézard est également artiste de cirque (cordiste et performeuse), grande lectrice et amatrice d’arts divers et du combat. Elle est l'auteur de l'ouvrage Les "Nouveaux clowns''. Approche sociologique de l'identité, de la profession et de l'art du clown aujourd'hui (L'Harmattan) et de nombreux articles sur le clown et la figure féminine du clown.

"The Female Clown in France and Québec", a conference by Delphine Cézard, followed by a discussion, with Québec-based clowns on the place and the contributions of women to clowning. The conference will be held in French, without translation. As usual, Q&A will be bilingual.

Past Events: 2013

Friday 1 November 2013, 10h30 (National Circus School)

OPEN TO ALL, please confirm your presence with Myriam Villeneuve

Physical Literacy and Circus

Dean Kriellaars (University of Manitoba) and Patrice Aubertin (National Circus School)

This talk will explore the relationship between physical literacy and the circus, from an historical accounting of physical literacy to its current definition. In alignment with the literacy movement, the definition of physical literacy is the ability to demonstrate physical proficiencies in multiple environments. Certainly, physical literate people will exhibit proficiency in a large movement repertoire or vocabulary, but physical literacy also involves the cognitive and social domains as well. From a pluralistic view, a person that is physically literate has the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for maintaining purposeful physical pursuits/activities throughout the life course. The various domains of physical literacy will be discussed in relation to the characteristics of circus performers and circus instructors, as well as the history of the National Circus School.
This talk will also explore the relationship between circus and creativity using physical literacy as a foundation.

Dr. Dean Kriellaars is Associate Professor in the Department of Physicial Therapy at the University of Manitoba, where he also holds a cross-appointment in the Department of Surgery, and the Faculty of Kenesiology and Recreation Management. His research area is in physical activity and physical literacy in obesity and prevention of disease and injury. He has been actively engaged for the past months in research at the National Circus School along with Patrice Aubertin, the Canada Industrial Research Chair in the Circus Arts at the School.

Lundi 18 novembre 2013, 10h, Université Concordia.

OUVERT AUX MEMBRES ACTIFS DU GROUPE et aux intéressés à la réflexion sur les enjeux historiques. SVP confirmer votre présence par courriel.

Le cirque avant le Cirque: histoire, mémoire, rencontres

Nouvelles pistes, nouvelles générations — que nous réserve le cirque québécois de demain?

Rencontre préparatoire pour la journée d'études de septembre 2014 animée par Jan Rok Achard et Louis Patrick Leroux

Nous connaissons tous le récit du Cirque du Soleil et sa place prépondérante dans l'histoire, la pratique et la diffusion du cirque québécois ici et à l'étranger. Mais qu'en est-il des pratiques circassiennes d'avant 1984? Tant l'activité circassienne de Ricketts et West à la fin du 18e et au début du 19e siècle, que les gymnases et les parcs publics du 19e et du 20e siècles qui mettaient de l'avant diverses formes circassiennes de la ménagerie aux acrobaties, jusqu'aux cirques québécois 'américains' des années 1970, tel le Cirque Gatini. Les archives ne sont pas toutes matérielles, plusieurs sont encore vivantes! Qu'en faisons-nous? Nous discuterons des pistes possibles et souhaitables pour l'organisation d'une journée d'études sur l'histoire du cirque québécois. Nous explorerons ensemble la possibilité d'investir, du même coup, une second journée qui investirait l'avenir du cirque québécois, les petites compagnies, les nouvelles disciplines et pratiques, quitte à établir des parallèles parfois paradoxaux entre le cirque 'historique' mais oublié au Québec et celui qui se construit à l'ombre des gros joueurs. Un comité scientifique et un comité organisateur émergeront de cette rencontre, tout comme un projet de demande de subventions et de partenariats afin de bien préparer l'important évènement qui devrait se tenir en 2014-15.

Dr. Louis Patrick Leroux est le directeur fondateur du Groupe de travail sur la recherche en cirque. Il est professeur l’Université Concordia en double affectation aux départements d’Anglais et d’Études françaises. Spécialiste en théâtre, discours culturel québécois et, de plus en plus, en cirque contemporain, il est chercheur en residence à l’École nationale de cirque où il est également un collaborateur actif à la Chaire de recherche industrielle en arts du cirque.

Jan Rok Achard est un consultant en développement des arts de la scène, principalement dans les arts du cirque depuis plus de quinze ans. Il a travaillé sur tous les continents pour des gouvernements, des organisations, des compagnies associés au développement et à l’évolution des arts du cirque. Il fut le directeur général de l’École nationale de cirque de Montréal pendant plus de treize ans, un des membres fondateurs de la Tohu et président fondateur d’En Piste.

Past Events: 2012

Workshop, 21-22 September 2012
The State of Circus Research in Québec

Workshop session on the Models and Conditions of Possibility

  • Montreal, at Concordia University, in collaboration with the National Circus School of Montreal, McGill University, and la TOHU.
  • Funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada through its Aid to Research Workshops and Conferences program
  • Organized by Louis Patrick Leroux (Concordia) with Erin Hurley (McGill)
  • Additional organizing committee members: Patrice Aubertin (National Circus School of Montreal), Norma Rantisi (Concordia), Charles Batson (Union College), Anna-Karyna Barlati (National Circus School).

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council McGill Institute for the Study of Canada La Tohu La Tohu


Academic papers and industry presentations are by invitation only, but it is possible to register to attend some or all of the talks, panels, and exchanges. Please write to Geneviève Robichaud and she will vet your participation with the Workshop organizers. The nature of this SSHRC-funded workshop is to allow researchers to opportunity to exchange and discuss ongoing research.

Public event

Keynote talk by Pascal Jacob, « Le Québec sur la planète cirque », McGill University, Friday 21 September 2012.

Poster for The State of Circus Research in Québec


Day 1 at Concordia University

Friday 21 September 2012.
Room: LB 619, 6th floor, Department of French Studies,
McConnell/Library Building, 1400 de Maisonneuve West.



Louis Patrick Leroux (Concordia) and Erin Hurley (McGill)

9:15 – 10:30am

History, Prehistory and the Quebec Circus Archives.

Chair: Louis Patrick Leroux (Concordia)

  • “Is Quebec’s Circus a Foreign Variety?” Julie Boudreault (Independent Researcher) In French.
  • “Discovering the Living Memory of Circus Arts: Circus Heritage Issues Then and Now,” Anna-Karyna Barlati (National Circus School of Montreal) In French.

10:30 – 10:45am


10:45 – 12:00pm

Aesthetics / Dramaturgy

Chair: Erin Hurley (McGill)

  • “Multiplying Testimonials, Authenticity and Individualization in Les 7 Doigts de la Main’s Circuit Shows,” Charles Batson (Union College, USA)
  • “The Minimalist Vein in Contemporary French Circus: The Creative Process in the Works of Adrien Mondot, Aurélien Bory and Yohann Bourgeois,” Ariane Martinez (Grenoble, France) In French.
  • “The Spectral Body: The Horse in Contemporary Circus,” Katie Lavers (Edith Cohen University-Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts)

12:00 – 1:00pm


1:00 – 2:30pm

The Economics and Branding of Circus

Chair: Karen Fricker (University of London)

  • “École Nationale de Cirque as a Network Intermediary for the Quebec Contemporary Circus,” Norma Rantisi (Concordia) and Deborah Leslie (Toronto)
  • “Circus and the City Brand,” Susan Bennett (Calgary)
  • “The Impacts of Cultural Policies on the Development of Circus Trends and their Circulation,” Yohann Floch (Hors les murs, France) In French.

2:30 – 2:45pm


2:45 – 4:15pm

Of Social and Engaged Circus

Chair: Patrice Aubertin (National Circus School)

  • “Singular Bodies, Collective Dreams and the Making of a Mass Movement: How Street Circus Helped Create the ‘Maple Spring,’” Jennifer Spiegel (McGill)
  • “The Institutionalization of the Circus in France Since the 1980s or the Creation of a New Myth: Circus as Public-Arts Service,” Bérénice Hamidi Kim (Lyon 2) In French.
  • “Decision Training Research at the National Circus School of Montreal – an International Research Initiative,” Jon Burtt (Edith Cohen University-Western Australian School of Performing Arts)

4:15 – 4:45pm

Break and Move to McGill University: Stewart Biology Building, Room S 3/3, (1205 Docteur Penfield St.) for Keynote Speaker Event.

5:00 – 6:00pm

Public Keynote Address

Leacock Building, McGill University

  • “Quebec’s Place on Planet Circus,” Pascal Jacob. In French.

Presented by Concordia University, the McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, the Québec Studies Program at McGill, and the Montreal Working Group for Circus Research.


Supper for workshop participants.

Day 2 at National Circus School and la TOHU

Saturday 22 September 2012
National Circus School, 8181 2nd Avenue, Lobby / Cafeteria


Welcome (National Circus School, 8181 2nd Avenue, Lobby / Cafeteria)

9:30 – 10:30am

Creation Studio (4th floor)

  • Presentation of the National Circus School, Marc Lalonde
  • A Visit of the National Circus School: Through the Eyes of the Architect, Frederic Dubé (TBC)

10:45 – 12:00pm

Creation Studio (4th floor)

  • Presentation by En Piste Members and an Overview of the State of Play of Circus Arts in Quebec, Suzanne Samson (En Piste)
  • Roundtable: What Place, What Identity for Young Circus Companies?

Joanie Leroux-Coté (7 Fingers) will lead a frank and focused discussion on the reality of being an emerging practitioner in the Quebec circus community, both here and abroad. The discussion topics will be broad, ranging from existential to material concerns, such as: “How can we forge a distinct identity in an environment that is dominated by (at least) three major players?” Issues that may arise ... “Does circus training prepare its artists for the realities of production, grant applications and overall professionalization of the circus métier?” “Is such a preparation necessary?” “What are Quebec circus artists’ most prominent features?” “How do you distinguish yourself from others?” “Amongst Quebecers, what further distinctions can be made?” “Can the circus exist without the support of three large institutional circuses?” “Can we coexist without rubbing elbows with one another?” “Finally, what is your wildest dream?” “What are the constraints that hinder you?” “How do you rid yourself of these constraints?”

12:10 – 12:30pm

Excerpts from the National Circus School’s Research-Creation Workshops

Creation Studio (4th floor)

Move to la TOHU, 2345, Jarry Street East, Lobby for Lunch

12:45 – 14:15pm

Lunch, Summary and Conclusion of the Conference

TOHU Lobby

14:30 – 15:30pm

Presentation and Visit of la TOHU, Nadia Drouin (TOHU)

  • “The Gaze of the Artist on the Acrobat,” Presentation and Visit of Permanent Exhibit, with its curator Pascal Jacob.

November 10th 2012
Québec Circus North/South

Two panels at the American Council for Québec Studies in Sarasota, Florida

Questions and context framing our initial call for papers

Historically, the American circus established touring networks throughout North America, including Québec. Québec also had its own home-grown American-styled touring circuses. From the 1980s onward, Cirque du Soleil contributed to redefining Québec’s contribution to the circus world with its hybrid “high” artistic and highly branded shows. Has Cirque’s success, internationally, and most notably in the U.S., imposed a corporate model extolling infinite financial possibilities to emulate or to resist? Hailed as “new circus,” claiming to reinvent circus, Cirque du Soleil very quickly positioned itself as a distinctive, artistic, luxury experience accessible to all. It would find its ideal fit with Steve Wynn’s repositioning of Las Vegas in the early nineties.

Cirque Éloize and Les 7 doigts de la main have followed suit with productions steeped in the traditions of dance and theatre, eliminating the performing animals, rather focusing on outstanding technical ability, yet allowing their performers’ individuality to influence and shape their shows. Les 7 doigts current outstanding success with Traces running off-Broadway for over a year has achieved, with New York’s discerning audiences, what Cirque never quite could, in spite of its repeated efforts (and position as an actual player in American pop culture), a genuine following and sense of appropriation of the production.

Concretely, what has performing in the U.S. contributed to the circus arts in Québec, beyond the obvious financial benefits of a very large market? Might Cirque du Soleil, Les 7 doigts, and other Québec circus artists and designers influenced contemporary circus practices in the U.S.? This may be through aesthetic choices, circus-industry safety benchmarks, current circus hiring practices, the types of acts now sought out, marketing strategies, or administrative “best practices.”

What are some of the failed or not-so-successful experiences (some financial, others artistic) of Québec circus in the U.S.? Early experiences of Cavalia in Las Vegas, Banana Schpiel in Chicago and New York, Viva Elvis! closing this Fall in Las Vegas, and the first version of Criss Angel Believe in Las Vegas, or even the Cirque Super Bowl show? What can be learned from these?

Has there been a notable decline in traditional American circus shows in Québec since it has developed its own inter-arts circus culture? Does Québec invite its American counterparts to produce their shows or does it rather assimilate the performers and designers into its own multinational productions?

What other streams of influence, unidirectional or reciprocal, can be examined in current Québec-US circus relations?

Circus/Cirque, North/South circulations and reciprocal influence

Chair: Erin Hurley (McGill)

  • Louis Patrick Leroux (Concordia, Montreal)
    “Cirque du Soleil as circus reinvented or brand-for-hire?”
  • Charles Batson (Union College, Schenectady NY)
    “Pink, Cirque, and the Québécisation de l’industrie”
  • Katie Lavers (Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts)
    “Excising P.T. Barnum: Quebec Circus from Cirque du Soleil to Cavalia”

Training from the ground up : circus training and inter-industry linkages

Chair: Louis Patrick Leroux (Concordia)

  • Patrice Aubertin (National Circus School of Montreal)
    « L’École nationale de cirque de Montréal, possible influence sur la communauté circassienne américaine »
  • Jon Burtt (Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts and National Circus School of Montreal)
    “Research into The Development of Expertise in the Circus Arts in Quebec. Case studies at the National Circus School”
  • Norma Rantisi (Concordia, Montreal) and Deborah Leslie (University of Toronto)
    “The Making of a Montreal Circus: The role of inter-industry linkages in the formation of a hybrid art form”

Description of Event

Following his visit to Montreal during the second annual festival of circus arts, Montréal Complètement Cirque, English circus critic John Allingsworth published a lengthy analysis of the Montreal circus “scene.” He characterizes it as parochial, as unduly if perhaps inevitably dominated by the Cirque du Soleil -- both in terms of its economic /employment clout and its influence on the local circus imaginary --, as (and hence over-confident), and as needing to invest more in the art of circus. We take Allingsworth’s critique as a challenge; our bilingual research workshop on contemporary circus in Quebec will address itself to the issues he raises by 1) cementing links between university researchers and circus educators and archivists; 2) sharing research on new Quebec circus beyond “the big three” (namely, the Cirque du Soleil, Cirque Éloize, and Les sept doigts de la main); and 3) investigating models outside of Quebec that create conditions of possibility in which a diversity of new circus practices can flourish. The focused nature of the planned discussion and the mix of participants (scholars, librarians, artists, and cultural programmers) would be better supported -- and likely lead to more concrete and transferable outcomes -- in a workshop environment than in a conference.

Our proposed workshop extends and advances research that the organizers have been conducting as a group for the past year, and will articulate it with circus research from France, where it is somewhat more established and more institutionally supported than in Canada. In September 2010, Louis Patrick Leroux formed the “Montreal Working Group on Cirque/Circus” with the support of the Centre for the Interdisciplinary Study of Society and Culture at Concordia University. At regular, bi-monthly meetings, our team of academics in theatre, geography, sociology, and medicine shared their current research into circus in Quebec, notably on Cirque du Soleil as both an aesthetic authority and as a major cultural force promoting Québécois creativity and commercial innovation. Last year culminated in a study-day held at the École nationale du cirque / National Circus School where circus professionals from the milieu and administrators and educators from the school talked about circus training outside the traditional athletic or family-based models. Together we explored the question of active transmission of the circus arts and the influence of the Cirque du Soleil specifically to a second and third generation of Quebec-based circus artists and companies (Cirque Éloize, Les sept doigts de la main, Cirque Akya, Angela Laurier, Cirque Alfonse, L’Impro cirque, etc.). This year (2011-2012) we will follow the most promising avenue of research at the end of last year, namely the widening field of contemporary circus practice in Quebec and its interconnections (aesthetic, economic, pedagogical, and historical) with French cirque contemporain.

These questions are pressing and timely. Quebec is widely regarded as a circus capital, largely on the basis of the international reputation of the “big three” Montreal-based circuses. The École nationale du cirque plus the new Montreal complètement cirque festival reinforce that impression, on which successive Quebec governments have capitalised by featuring circus in tourism and publicity campaigns. The circus arts receive abundant, laudatory coverage in local media, are taught at the primary and secondary level in some public schools; and the history and aesthetics of circus form part of the Ministry of Education mandated primary school curriculum. However, many in the milieu are concerned that our understanding, financing, and support of the circus arts in Quebec is so dominated by the “big three” that smaller, innovative, second and third generation circus acts and troupes encounter undue difficulties in start-up and in getting the attention they deserve. With them, we ask, “How might the dynamism and diversity of contemporary circus in Quebec be encouraged and supported?” Consistent with our ongoing research programs, we also ask, “What role does circus play in the cultural imaginary of Quebec? What are its key aesthetic elements? What is its artistic future?” To address these questions, we propose an “état des lieux” of Quebec circus bringing together current information on Quebec circus arts, troupes, training programs, touring circuits, impacts, and aesthetics. From this snapshot of the current scene, we will turn to past circus traditions with an eye to pinpointing enabling conditions of possibility that might inform the current situation. Then, we will discuss local needs, as perceived by industry professionals, and pursue other models of circus arts development, with a particular focus on France, with which Quebec circus already has important links and which has a highly developed infrastructure and training system for circus arts.

The research workshop builds on extant scholarly literature on Quebec circus, much of which has been published by the group members, and most of which focuses on the “big three”. Despite Quebec’s status as a circus centre and the Cirque du Soleil’s reputation for having changed the nature and structure of circus, emergent circus forms and artists in Quebec are under-studied. They are of interest not only for their innovative, often inter-medial approaches to the circus, but also for their educational formation and their professional trajectories; many are ÉNC graduates, many more are “graduates” of the Cirque du Soleil, Cirque Éloize or Les sept doigts, a number are dancers, actors, or athletes, and all are trying to make their mark. In this respect, our research intersects with scholarship in France by historian Pascal Jacob and circus dramaturg Arianne Martinez, as well as with efforts at making more visible contemporary circus, as represented by Panorama contemporain des arts du cirque, published by Hors les murs, the French clearinghouse of circus and street arts, and Sideshow circus magazine in the UK.

Out of the research workshop, we will generate the following materials and outcomes: a collection of essays with an academic press or a special issue in the bilingual, interdisciplinary journal Québec Studies and a concrete collaboration between the burgeoning working group on circus research, National Circus School, and stakeholders of the Québec circus scene.