Local Arts & More: CircusFest

Local Arts & More: CircusFest

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By: Nick Travis

The second annual St. John’s International CircusFest, produced by Newfoundland’s own Wonderbolt Circus, is coming back to town starting September 26.

Bigger and better

After a very successful sold out first year, the CircusFest is back and bigger than before! Anahareo Doelle, co-producer of The St. John’s International CircusFest and iFLY Aerial Arts School, talked with The Herald about the upcoming festival. 

“We did our first edition last year which was a huge success. So we said, ‘Let’s set the bar high.’ So now we’re producing a second festival – it’s a four day festival with international companies from all around the world,” said Doelle. 

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“Last year our featured country was Ireland. This year a featured country is Finland, so we have companies and artists coming from Finland, as well as all across Canada. A lot from Montreal, cause Montreal is the hub of circus in North America.”

One such Finnish show is family friendly Suhde, performed by Finnish duo Kate and Pasi. Another Finnish themed show featured over the four-day festival is by Newfoundland’s own Lady Cove Choir performing Finnish music, featuring the National Circus School from Montreal and special guests.  

A one man show

The main attraction for the second annual festival is Patinoire, a one man show by Patrick Léonard, co-founder of the Montreal-based arts collective The 7 Fingers. Originally a part of Cirque du Soleil, the troupe split from the original company in order to be closer to their audience. 

Last year, Patinoire sold out fast. They have come back to Newfoundland by popular demand, and will perform  in the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John’s, Gander and Corner Brook.

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“It’s a solo show, which you won’t believe that it’s one guy doing all this, it’s just crazy,” said Doelle on Patinoire. 

“One person who was there after the show was like, ‘I think the show just changed my life. This guy on stage is like 45 doing all this stuff. It was like seeing myself on stage but being able to do all these amazing feats.”

The CircusFest and iFLY fall under the big top of renowned Newfoundland circus/theatre group Wonderbolt Circus. Founded in 1981 by Beni Malone, father of Anahareo Doelle – the group gained recognition for a tour they did in the same year to Newfoundland’s most isolated communities by boat. 

Today, Wonderbolt is a charitable organization that focuses on outreach and circus education, often doing community programs in Labrador. 

“He still does a lot of outreach in Labrador,” said Doelle on her father’s work with Wonderbolt. “He goes there at least maybe once a year, definitely every second year and sets up a circus program for students  and integrates their stories with circus. It’s a way to be active and tell their story. He’s still performing, he’s still the backbone of the company.”

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A weekend of fun

CircusFest events start off with a performance on Thursday, September 26 by L’Impro Cirque, an improvisational game show hosted at the DF Cook Recital Hall. A panel of four judges along with the audience will be voting for their favourite performing team. 

Friday’s show is the “Edge of the World Cabaret” hosted by the world-renowned former Cirque Du Soleil Clown Mooky at the DF Cook Recital Hall.

Saturday starts off with a Family Fun Day at the Johnson Geo Centre. Admittance to the event is free for all ages. Later that night, the Lady Cove Choir and National Circus School will be performing at the DF Cook Recital Hall.

Sunday also begins in the Recital Hall, with a family friendly showing of Suhde from Finnish duo Kate and Pasi. The CircusFest caps off on Sunday night with a showing of Patinoire at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre. 

“I think that’s what I love about this festival is that it’s educating the audience to what circus is,” said Doelle.

Anyone interested in purchasing tickets for any CircusFest shows can go to stjohnscircusfest.com. Group tickets are available for a group of more than 10 people. Anyone looking to see the tour of Patinoire can visit for tickets and more information artsandculturecentre.com.

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