2015-2016 Research & Events

List of Activities

Fall 2015 & Winter 2016

Research Workshop 1 – Wednesday December 9th, 2015 at 1:30PM

This workshop was the first gathering of all our Concordia and École nationale de cirque research team members. We met the students who will be involved in the project and began working with them to develop a common vocabulary surrounding narrative, storytelling, and dramaturgy as they relate to circus. We will be asking related research questions in the upcoming 2016 workshops in February, March, and April. Please check back after each workshop for a brief update on the project.

Dramaturgy in Contemporary Circus Panel: How casting and cast-building affects creation – Thursday February 11th, 2016 at 1:30PM in the Library of the École nationale de cirque 

This Winter and Spring’s talks in Montreal will be focusing on circus dramaturgy by presenting three panel-discussions addressing specific influences on circus dramaturgy with professionals in the field.

Linked to the ongoing FRQSC-funded research into circus dramaturgy (the poetics of contemporary circus; Concordia University and National Circus School), this series of talks, panels, conversations will lead to a conference-demonstration in early July where the initial results of the ongoing research will be shared.

Le group de recherche revient à Montréal cet hiver et ce printemps avec une série de tables rondes et de conférences sur des questions relatives à la dramaturgie du cirque. 

Des artistes et des chercheurs seront invités à partager leurs expériences et leurs expertises dans le cadre de cette série qui s’inscrit, d’ailleurs, dans le cadre d’une recherche subventionnée par le FQRSC, soit “La poétique du cirque contemporain (dramaturgies et grammaires d’une écriture en mouvement” (Université Concordia et École nationale de cirque de Montréal).

La série se terminera cette année avec une conférence-démonstration, début juillet, afin de présenter les résultats de cette première année d’exploration. 

This panel will explore perspectives of the reciprocal influence between the individual and the collective and its impact upon dramaturgical nuance.

Nous explorons l’influence réciproque entre l’individu et le collectif dans les productions du cirque.

Panelists: Samuel Roy (Cirque du Soleil, Throw2Catch), Krin Haglund (The Radiant), Olivia Weinstein (Circus Artist) and Nicolas Boivin-Gravel (Cirque Eloize) 

Moderator: Alisan Funk (Concordia) 

Dramaturgy in Contemporary Circus Panel: Creating with and on circus bodies – Friday March 11th, 2016 at 10:00AM in the Library of the École nationale de cirque 

Circus creators discuss how working with circus-trained artists impacts they dramaturgical choices during show creation.

Une discussion avec les créateurs du cirque qui parles de l’impact du travail avec les corps circassien sur les choix de dramaturgie.

Panelists: Gypsy Snider (7 doigts de la main), Howard Richard (National Circus School), Marie-Josée Gauthier (National Circus School) and Geneviève Dupéré (Compagnia Finzi Pasca) 

Moderator: Dr. Louis Patrick Leroux (Concordia University)

Dramaturgy in Contemporary Circus Panel: Mixing the circus body with other performance domains- Friday April 8th, 2016 at 10:00AM in the Library of the École nationale de cirque

What types of dramaturgical conventions are unearthed and challenges when circus artists embark in projects outside of ‘circus,’ or non-circus artists are pulled into circus shows?

Quels sont les enjeux artistiques pour les artistes de cirque qui travail dans les productions circassien, et pour les artistes d’autres disciplines qui se trouve en piste?

Panelists: Andreane Leclerc (Nadère Arts Vivants), Brandy Leary (Anandam Dance Theatre), Dr. Louis Patrick Leroux (Concordia University), Alisan Funk (Concordia University) and Alain Francoeur (National Circus School)


Spring & Summer 2016

Intensive Workshops – June 14th to June 29th, 2016 at the École nationale de cirque. Followed by a mini-presentation on June 29th, 2016

Detailed schedule and more information on the focus of the workshops to come.

Circus & its Others Conference – July 15-17, 2016

From Pink and Britney Spears’ stage shows to American Horror Story to Cirque du Soleil’s status as the world’s most successful live performing arts company, circus in the early 21st century has undeniably gone mainstream. While this is positive news for circus companies, artists, and audiences with a taste for thrilling, high-performance entertainment, it also raises questions about circus’s historic status as a site for the celebration and exploitation of differences, from stagings of exceptional performing bodies to the display of “freakery.” While contemporary circus has put considerable distance between itself and the display of bodies whose exceptionalism is born rather than acquired, Erin Hurley has influentially argued that “all circus bodies carry in them the residual mark of the freaks of the fairgrounds.” To what extent and in what ways, then, is circus always-already different, and about difference? How does the mainstreaming of contemporary circus affect its status as a haven for the different, the outsider? In what ways are contemporary circus artists and companies embracing and exploiting (or not) difference in their practice?

The Circus and its Others research project, under the aegis of the Montréal Working Group on Circus Research, was launched in 2014 to explore these questions. The project is organizing a three-day conference in Montréal on the final weekend of the 2016 Montréal Complètement Cirque festival. The conference, organized by Charles Batson (Union College), Karen Fricker (Brock University) and Louis Patrick Leroux (Concordia University) will include a plenary speaker; two roundtable discussions involving circus artists, producers, trainers, and scholars; and three panels for the presentation of scholarly papers.

Towards these panels, we invite proposals for papers that address questions of difference and otherness in the context of contemporary circus, in Québec, Canada, or internationally. Possible areas of inquiry might include, but need not be limited to:

Histories of circus and its others

  • What hidden histories of circus practice may be located in the visual archive?
  • What are the histories of areas of circus practice that today are considered other to the mainstream, such as the use and display of animals?
  • How do the histories of circus practice intersect with histories of colonialism and imperialism?
  • Social circus – the other of professional circus?
  • How are circus artists and researchers using the circus arts to intervene in the lives of, and support, those othered by mainstream society?
  • What are the power relations between social circus and professional circus, and how do questions of race/class/gender/ability figure in this?
  • If social circus has become a conduit for those still considered other from the largely white European talent base to enter professional contemporary circus, what is the relationship of this flow of bodies to historical and current power relations between Global North and South?


Travelling otherness

  • What happens when circus talent and circus acts travel outside their cultures of origin and become “other”?
  • To what extent do circuses use their national/regional/linguistic/ethnic difference as branding to enable their circulation in the global entertainment market? What practices of exotification and self-exotification may be employed in this?


Circus bodies: Normal, extraordinary, other? 

  • In the shift to modern and contemporary circus, bodies born “other” (eg circus “freaks”) were ostensibly sidelined in favour of bodies that become other thanks to exceptional skill, artistry, and training. What are the implications of this for circus arts such as contortion which arguably carry the historical baggage of “born otherness” with them?
  • What is required and expected of the bodies of today’s elite circus artists? With their toned, strong bodies do they now represent a societal ideal rather than society’s outsiders? How do circus trainers as well as circus artists deal with questions of body image?


Gender and queerness in contemporary circus

  • How are circus artists and companies resisting commodification and mainstreaming to keep the freak and queer in contemporary circus?
  • Are women circus’s perennial other?
  • To what can we attribute the striking lack of Québec circus artists’ participation in the current international wave of women’s and feminist circus practices?


Please send 300-500 word proposals to Charles Batson (batsonc@union.edu), Karen Fricker (kfricker@brocku.ca), and Patrick Leroux (patrick.leroux@concordia.ca) by 15 December 2015. We will respond to all proposals by 15 January 2016. The organizers are applying for financial support for the conference, and travel bursaries may be available.


Conference partners include the Montréal Working Group on Circus Research and Concordia University and others to be announced shortly.


Work cited: Hurley, Erin. “Les corps multiples du Cirque du Soleil.” Trad. Isabelle Léger. Globe. Revue internationale d’études québécoises 11:2 (Fall 2008): 135-157.