Articles tagged with: circus

  • Brock prof and alumna explore circus performance in joint publication

    Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts Karen Fricker and MA graduate Hayley Malouin at the conference Circus and its Others II in Prague this past August. The two have recently published a special double issue of Performance Matters, titled “Circus and Its Others,” exploring questions around circus performance and gender, difference and dis/ability. (Photo by David Konecny)


    (From The Brock News, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2018 | by Alison Innes)

    For many people, the circus is a place of mystery and wonder, filled with the extraordinary, unusual and strange.

    But what does it mean to be different and what does it mean to perform those differences?

    For Associate Professor of Dramatic Arts Karen Fricker and Brock alumna Hayley Malouin (BA ’15, MA ’17), these questions have led to a joint publication in the emerging field of circus studies.

    The pair launched a special double issue of the journal Performance Matters, titled “Circus and Its Others,” Aug. 28 in Prague at the similarly named Circus and Its Others II conference.

    Inspired by the inaugural Encounters with Circus and its Others conference organized by Fricker with assistance from Malouin in 2016, the publication features contributions from established scholars, graduate students and circus artists from around the world. Many of the contributors were in Prague to participate in the second conference and celebrate at the launch.

    The conference series brings together scholars from around the world to explore questions about the place of difference and “otherness” in contemporary circus.

    “We’re asking questions about circus in a way that allows people who have been working at these questions from different perspectives and different places to jump on board,” says Fricker.

    Malouin, who has an undergraduate degree from Brock in Dramatic Arts, explored ideas of public performance, political protest and public performance of the grotesque as part of her MA in Studies in Comparative Literature and the Arts.

    “Circus is an interesting cultural touchstone because it reflects societal norms about people, community and politics. This is in contrast to the image of circus – which circuses themselves cultivate – as existing on the margins of society,” says Malouin.

    The special issue of Performance Matters was her first foray into academic publishing. In addition to co-editing the issue with Fricker, Malouin worked with other circus scholars, including Brock student Taylor Zajdlik (BA ’15, MA ’17), on a section of the journal exploring questions of queerness and freakery in the circus.

    “It was a great experience to establish myself as someone with those skills,” says Malouin. “I really care about the work, I feel it’s important. It’s a substantial contribution to an emerging field.”

    The special edition also includes work by DART Associate Professor David Fancy on disability and the circus, making reference to a creative research project in which he participated involving intellectually disabled survivors of institutional abuse.

    The questions Fricker and Malouin are researching have application beyond the circus to culture as a whole.

    “What we’re looking at is how questions about difference and otherness play out in certain practices in the contemporary moment,” says Fricker. “And more broadly we’re asking, how do we work to make culture more inclusive?”

    The full issue can be read online for free.

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  • Brock Professor Collaborates with Dramatic Arts Graduates on New Circus Theatre Show in Niagara Falls

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    David Fancy, a faculty member of the Department of Dramatic Arts at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, is no stranger to new ventures.

    A veteran creator of new theatre productions that explore current events and engage the Niagara Region, he joined forces with former Cirque du Soleil performers Kosta Zakharenko and Christine Cadeau in 2010 to form Zacada Entertainment.

    “We wanted to combine theatre and circus in new ways,” says Fancy, who’s equally comfortable in the classroom as in the rehearsal studio. “The fusion of genres really permits some unique opportunities for dynamic forms of contemporary expression,” he notes.

    This year, the Zacada Entertainment crew will present a new Cirque Cabaret show, entitled Shotgun Wedding, at Niagara Falls’ 650-seat Greg Frewin Theatre.

    Shotgun Wedding features the story of two star-crossed lovers forced to get married by their deeply religious parents. On their way to Niagara Falls for the ceremony they each secretly decide to have one last fling with the person of their dreams.

    “The production deals with perennial concerns of love and relationships,” says Fancy, “but also shines a humorous and probing light on issues pertaining to Niagara, including migrant labour, tourism, and gambling.”

    Zacada is particularly happy to be working with three recent graduates of Brock University’s Department of Dramatic Arts (DART) who will be taking up the acting and singing roles in Shotgun Wedding.

    Mitchell Allanson, Marley Kajan, and Sean Rintoul have all finished their Honours Dramatic Arts degrees over the past three years, and have gone on to further training and professional creative opportunities around the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA).

    Kajan, a native of Welland, is pleased to be joining the company. “All three of us DART grads are super-happy to have been brought aboard to help bring this show to life,” she says.

    “These kinds of opportunities for intensive professionalization are gold,” says Rintoul, a 2- year veteran of other Zacada productions.

    Marly Kajan, DART Graduate

    Recent Zacada show Fancy has written and directed that have toured Ontario include Circus Revolution, a story about Marxist clowns who escape a gulag by means of their circus prowess, and Circus Labyrinth, a piece that explores creative responses to contemporary forms of social control.

    For its part, Shotgun Wedding features original Niagara-themed musical theatre numbers with support from a seven-piece band, as well as high-octane performances from over 10 cirque artists from Zacada Entertainment’s extensive pool of talent.Silks artists, contortionists, acrobats, and a host of other highly skilled cirque performances each grace the stage for every performance of Shotgun Wedding.

    The production team for Shotgun Wedding is currently in high gear with rehearsals and development for the June 9th opening. The show will be performed sixty times over the course of the summer.

    “We’re deeply excited about this new show,” says Vittoria Wikston, General Manager of the Greg Frewin Theatre, “Especially with how it offers national level talent and serves as a unique reflection of the many strengths and talents of our region.”

    “We couldn’t be happier about having this exciting new addition to our roster of shows,” says master magician and theatre owner, Greg Frewin.

    He adds, “It’s going to be an awesome summer.”

    Website: shotgunwedding.ca
    Brock Promotional code for 20% discount is ShotgunBrock

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  • Brock research team studies the evolution of circus performers

    bromance-220(Source: The Brock NewsTuesday, July 12, 2016 | by )

    Flying trapeze artists, elephants standing on one foot while balancing a ball, jugglers, sword swallowers, bearded ladies: these are among the images of the traditional travelling circus.

    The circus is still going strong today and has gone mainstream. Think Cirque du Soleil, the Montreal-based entertainment company that has become a worldwide phenomenon.

    “This positive news for circus companies, artists and audiences with a taste for thrilling entertainment also raises questions about circuses’ historic status as site for the celebration and exploitation of differences, from stagings of exceptional performing bodies to the display of ‘freakery,’” says Assistant Professor of Dramatic Arts Karen Fricker.

    Fricker is part of an international team of academics, artists and producers researching the relationship of contemporary circus to the widespread practice in traditional circus of featuring people with unusual physical features, such as Siamese twins, women who grow beards, and in extreme cases, people living with a disease or condition that exaggerates certain body parts.

    The team is interested in the ways in which today’s circus artists relate to this “freak show” tradition. Fricker is one of three leaders of the project, called “Circus and its Others,” along with Charles Batson of Union College, in New York and L. Patrick Leroux of Concordia University.

    This month, they are co-organizing a conference about this subject as part of the Montreal Complètement Cirque Festival, with the assistance of two Brock graduate students, Hayley Rose Malouin and Taylor Zajdlik.

    “There’s a large history of profound racism, sexism and ableism that I don’t think is present in contemporary circus in the same way, mostly because contemporary ideologies are very transformed,” says Malouin. “However, it’s interesting to see how some of those elements of sideshow ‘freakishness’ and how we view those born bodies finds its way into contemporary circus.”

    Fricker explains that circuses are, in essence, “variety shows” that feature highly-trained people with extraordinary skills performing daring, risky and spectacular feats.

    These acts are very physical; as a result, a lot of attention is focused on performers’ bodies. In traditional circuses, this focus extended to viewing bodies that were born unusual or made different from diseases or other factors beyond someone’s control.

    But societies eventually became more aware of the struggles and rights of people living with physical challenges, and also increasingly became more sensitive to animal exploitation. For example, after 145 years of featuring elephants in its circus acts, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey announced that it has plans to retire its elephant herd by 2018.

    The creation of Cirque du Soleil was a turning point in circus history. In the early 1980s, a troupe “juggled, danced, breathed fire and played music” for audiences in Baie-Saint-Paul near Quebec City, says the group’s website.

    One of the performers, Guy Laliberté, took the show on the road in 1984 to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Jacques Cartier’s discovery of Canada.

    “The show was a striking, dramatic mix of circus arts (without animals) and street performance that featured wild, outrageous costumes, magical lighting, and original music,” according to the website. Notably, one of the key features that distinguishes Cirque du Soleil from traditional circus is that it does not include animal acts, and rarely puts born difference on display in its shows.

    Zajdlik says contemporary circuses such as Soleil largely feature “achieved bodies,” bodies “transformed into these powerful vessels that become circus performers” through intensive physical training.

    “Are we gazing upon these spectacular bodies because they represent something that we nostalgically long for in what the freak once gave us?” says Zajdlik. “From aerial feats to contortions, these bodies are doing extraordinary things that you would not normally get to see. In a way, that kind-of represents what the ‘freak’ once represented for circus.”

    The researchers note that there are circuses that feature unusual bodies, but in a very different way than in the past.

    The keynote speaker at this month’s conference is Jennifer Miller, who founded Circus Amok in New York City and is also a professor at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn.

    Miller has had a beard since her early 20s. She is known as the “Bearded Lady,” who uses her performances to “ask people who look at her to think critically about what they understand as normatively female or male, masculine or feminine,” says Fricker.

    “She challenges those boundaries,” says Fricker. “We’re in the age of gender fluidity. I think she speaks from, and to that, culture in an interesting way.”

    The Circus and its Others conference was held in Montreal July 15 to 17, 2016.

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