Blending art and theater

It’s show­time: Cirko­pol­is, a Montreal-based troupe Cirque Elo­ize, is head­lining at the Mer­ri­am Theat­er through Sunday, March 16.

It all began for Jean­not Pain­chaud in 1984 when he left his small is­land home in Canada to see the Tall Ships in Que­bec City.

“I’ve al­ways loved trav­el­ing and that was just the be­gin­ning for me,” says Pain­chaud, artist­ic and cre­at­ive dir­ect­or as well as the co-founder of Cirko­pol­is, the Montreal-based troupe Cirque Elo­ize, head­lining at the Mer­ri­am Theat­er through Sunday, March 16.

“On the way,” he con­tin­ued, “I saw the first per­form­ance of Cirque du Soleil, and even­tu­ally dis­covered the Na­tion­al Cir­cus School. It was love at first sight.”

Gradu­at­ing from the school, he soon began tour­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally with a num­ber of cir­cus troupes, in­clud­ing Cirque du Soleil, un­til he co-foun­ded Cirque Elo­ize in Montreal in 1993, per­form­ing in the com­pany’s dif­fer­ent shows for five years. Hav­ing been an ac­robat, jug­gler and more, he took on a new role as en­tre­pren­eur.

“Cirko­pol­is was ima­gined as a cross­roads between ima­gin­a­tion and real­ity, between in­di­vidu­al­ity and com­munity, and between lim­its and pos­sib­il­it­ies,” Pain­chaud ex­plained. “The show is driv­en by the po­et­ic im­pulse of life, the phys­ic­al prowess of the cir­cus and its hu­mor, at once ser­i­ous and light-hearted. En­ter­ing Cirko­pol­is is all about let­ting go and al­low­ing your­self to be borne aloft by hope.”

Pain­chaud prides him­self on blend­ing artist­ic dis­cip­lines and tal­en­ted in­di­vidu­als from the four corners of the globe.

“We se­lect each artist based on his skills — artist­ic­ally and the­at­ric­ally — and each one has to be spec­tac­u­lar. Then we blend it all to­geth­er with in­vent­ive stage design, an ori­gin­al mu­sic­al score, and video pro­jec­tions in­to a highly styl­ized met­ro­pol­is set­ting.”

And it’s ob­vi­ously worked very well. Since this show began tour­ing in Septem­ber 2012, it and oth­ers be­fore it have re­ceived rave re­views from the pub­lic and crit­ics alike, and for Pain­chaud as well.

In 2009, he dir­ec­ted Cirque’s sev­enth ori­gin­al cre­ation that went on to win the Con­seil des Arts de Montreal’s Grand Prix award in 2010. In 2011, Pain­chaud be­came the 14th Que­bec cit­izen to be awar­ded the pres­ti­gi­ous Prix Samuel de Champlain, an award presen­ted to two people each year, a Ca­na­dian who has best show­cased French his­tory or cul­ture, and a French cit­izen who has best show­cased Ca­na­dian his­tory or cul­ture. And there have been more awards, each of which give him great pleas­ure.

To date, the fact that Cirque Elo­ize has presen­ted more than 4,000 per­form­ances in hun­dreds of cit­ies in 240 coun­tries ab­so­lutely de­lights Pain­chaud. A hard work­er and an ad­ven­turer at heart, he said he’s ab­so­lutely de­lighted to be ful­filling his dream of cre­at­ing ma­gic­al en­ter­tain­ment and trav­el­ing the world.

“For me, both these things mean something very spe­cial,” he said. “When I present a show and I know the spec­tat­ors are hold­ing their breath, then I know I’ve suc­ceeded. And when I get to travel all over the world, dis­cov­er­ing dif­fer­ent cul­tures, which had al­ways been a dream of mine, I feel like a very rich and for­tu­nate man.” ••

For times and tick­et in­form­a­tion, call 215-731-3333. 

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