Although Montréal isn’t the capital of the Canadian francophone province of Québec, it is its largest city and the best destination for culture in Québec and perhaps even in the whole of Canada. From Nov. 12 to Nov. 18, 2012, the city hosted the 15th edition of the CINARS biennial which attracted managers, production managers and directors of festivals, theaters and independent institutions and cultural centers and – let’s not forget those – also artists. The program included participants from the Czech Republic, namely Pavel Štorek of The Theater Intitute and Yvona Kreuzmannová of Tanec Praha.
CINARS is a major international event which includes exhibition and conference sections. Once every two years, representatives of various genres and disciplines of performing arts from the whole world come together to present their colleagues the best of the past two years in their countries. The exhibition part of CINARS takes the form of expo booths where the participating institutions and artist groups present videos, leaflets, brochures and other promotional materials promoting various artistic endeavors which might appeal to international audiences or show the potential for involvement in international cooperation projects. The were many promising presentations. CINARS was literally an artistic harvest presented by enthusiastic artists, directors and managers eager for inspirations and, even more so, new contacts. In this respect, CINARS perfectly fulfilled its purpose, also thanks to three exhibition mornings featuring speed-networking sessions and workshops dedicated to cultural management and marketing.
The most important part of CINARS consisted of performances on the official program and also the so-called off-program which tends to offer even more attractive productions. The performances were categorized according to art disciplines and the category I personally found most appealing was entitled “Multidisciplinary Arts/Circus”. Even though circus fell in the hard-to-define category which might seem to suggest that its presence was only marginal, the opposite was actually true. As CINARS took place in Montréal, Québec, which is the headquarters of Canadian Contemporary Circus, it was no surprise that circus played a prominent part at the event.
AS a part of the official program, L’Aubergine company from Québec presented a 25-minute excerpt from its Burlette spectacle and it was no coincidence that most performers were graduates of Ecole De Cirque de Québec. The fragment of the performance was chosen to show the main theme and intent of the show revolving around traditional clown gags complemented by light acrobatics and juggling. This amiable, yet not so original performance eventually drowned in a sea of butt kicks and flat falls.
After L’Aubergine, I was eagerly looking forward to a performance by jugglers from the Ea Eo company who came to present a fragment of their production entitled m2, the same production the Czech audience had a chance to see at the second annual Cirk UFF in Trutnov. Ea Eo struck gold with their juggling clubs thanks to their energetic and precise juggling performance in Montréal just as they did in Trutnov.
The short excerpt section also included a fragment from Timbre by Cirque Alfons which was performed in full the evening before at the Etoile theater in the outskirts of Montréal. Cirque Alfons has only recently been founded by artists from the municipality of Sain-Alphonse-Rodriguez which has clearly influenced the company’s name. The idea to form this circus and musical group came from Antoine Caranier-Lépin whose intention was to create a family circus based on the traditional circus model and Timbre is meant to combine traditions and the nostalgia of a traveling circus with contemporary expressive devices. Perhaps it is the mixing of these two planes which results in the mixed feelings from this performance which is the second production by Cirque Alfons after its debut entitled La Brunante. In La Brunante, the company cooperated with Québec-based director Alain Francoeur who directed a graduation performance entitled C´est assez pour aujourd´hui at Ecole Nationale De Cirque.
CINARS presented a perfect opportunity to show the broadest professional audience from all around how to connect traditional Québec music, dance and customs with modern circus acrobatics mostly based on object manipulation (balancing on tree stumps, juggling with axes and manipulation with a cart wheel). Rhythmical live music, tap dancing in clogs and pounding an oak table sometimes sufficed to create the atmosphere of folk revelries. Official acrobats brandishing beards and dressed in folk costumes added to the atmosphere of times long gone. This marriage of ethnographic ambition and acrobatics might have worked out if there was an attempt to somehow connect these two components. As the two pillars of the show remained standing far apart, the production ended up crumbling into separate numbers which were often interesting on their own but gradually became boring as their sequence led nowhere. The energy of the performance evaporated and the audience lost hope that a climax could ever come in the form of a clear culmination of everything that had happened on the stage so far.
The Québec-based companies CINARS hosted included the famous Cirque Éloize and 7 Doigts De La Main. Cirque Éloize presented its Cirkopolis in the off program and 7 Doigts De La Main performed its new show Séquence 8 at the La Tohu circus center.
The foreign companies presented in the exhibition hall included Circa from Australia represented by its director Yaron Lifschitz. It was a great honor to meet the author of some of the most original circus projects of the recent years. Even though Circa didn’t perform at CINARS, the company is far from idle as they are just starting a world tour of their latest production entitled S.
The importance of CINARS and similar events lies in the fact that they concentrate presentations of artists from the whole world in one place, which helps the artists export their performances abroad and/or create international projects. It is one of the many ways to keeps contemporary performing arts alive.