Friday, October 1, 2010

Cirque Éloize's iD

The Hummingbird Center (or Sony Center, in its corporate version) looks the same, but the public turned out en masse to see Cirque Éloize's first show in Toronto in 5 years.

Known worldwide, but only rarely performing in Canada, the Québécois troupe was born in the Magdalene Islands (a small archipelago in the Gulf of the Saint Lawrence River.) They have performed some 4,000 shows abroad since 1993. But unlike another famous Québécois circus group, Éloize hasn't gone Vegas yet. Actually, they turned the other way and instead of whimsy, they bring on real-world urban life.

And what a fascinating life it is. The characters in the show are street artists, a motley crew of young Buskerfest-types who can perform amazing feats of physical strength and flexibility. And can break-dance up a storm.

The ingenious staging consists of a cutout backdrop in the shape of a city skyline, which becomes a perch, a trampoline, and a screen for amazing projections that transform the stage and show the creativity of the team behind the scenes. Graffiti magically appears and the cityscape lights up and morphs into a tenement building. Chairs are moved around by acrobats, people skip some serious rope on the sidewalk, and gangs dance instead of fight.

How they can spin on their heads for minutes at a time is totally beyond me.

But without the music, iD wouldn't have the same punch. The rhythm here is set by the urban noises of jackhammers and sirens. The soundtrack is extraordinary and fits the show energy with a selection of electronic music with great vocals in Spanish, French and English, and a mix going from techno to rock to breakbeat to ambient to hip-hop.

The workers who did the renovation of the Centre were given tickets to see why they had to hurry so much to get the job done on time. I bet they were impressed. With a show like Cirque Éloize's, the Centre re-opens its doors with high standards. Entirely entertaining, imaginative, and energetic like heat lightning.

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