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Juggling St. John's International Circus Festival events is a balancing act

Terrence Littletent performs at the St. John's International Circus Festival. – Photo by Christopher Deacon
Terrence Littletent performs at the St. John's International Circus Festival. (Photo by Christopher Deacon) - Contributed
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

The circus came to town Sept. 26-29, as the second annual St. John’s International Circus Festival brought big-top performers to the capital city.

Hosted by the local Wonderbolt Circus, the 2019 festival featured circus performers and troupes from across Canada and the globe, hosting a series of professional development sessions, workshops and outreach projects, as well as a stacked roster of circus shows.

The festival began last Thursday with L'Impro Cirque at the D.F. Cook Recital Hall, followed by Edge of the World Cabaret at the same venue the next night.

My trip to the circus came on Saturday, with the “Lady Cove Choir with National Circus School and Special Guests” show at the D.F. Cook Recital Hall.

Newfoundland’s own Lady Cove Choir and Atlantic String Quartet created most of the soundtrack to this incredible night of amazing feats.

Host Krin Haglund entertained the crowd before we dove into this spectacle, acting as the Lady Cove Choir conductor. Haglund brought the group through a series of bizarre vocal warm-ups before the actual conductor managed to snatch back her baton.

Before introducing the evening’s entertainment, Haglund spoke directly to the audience to praise the local circus scene and their efforts in creating this festival.

The circus is a family, yes, she explained, but it is also a business. In Newfoundland and Labrador, it seems to be a family business with family values, Haglund said, noting that the world can learn a lot from our local circus scene.

The first act of the evening was Anna Ward, on the big hoop, spinning in and around an oversized hula hoop. As she rolled around like some sort of Vitruvian Woman, all I could think of was how many times Ward must have crushed her fingers before perfecting this act.

Two-time World Champion of Sports Acrobatics Slava Volkov followed, showcasing his impressive strength with an oversized juggling cube. The performance was visually enticing, as the lights glinted off the stainless steel cube being effortlessly spun by Volkov as if it were light as a feather.

As Lady Cove Choir filled the back part of the stage, two long pieces of red silk descended, for Leela Masuret to show off her skills at great heights. Hyper aware of her surroundings as she entangled herself, Masuret dramatically ascended the silks, descending in a terrifyingly quick drop – I caught myself holding my breath a couple times during this act.

I felt the same kind of semi-panic later in the show, as aerialist Evelyne Allard dangled from an aerial hoop, and again when Nadine Louis demonstrated her contortionist skills, including a gut-wrenching leg bend that shouldn’t be humanly possible.

While Artcirq from Igloolik performed with Inuk opera singer Deantha Edmunds, the vibe was more comedic, with the four-piece showcasing strongman feats with a splash of hilarity.

I held my breath again during the duo acrobatic act by Pauliina Räsänen and Slava Volkov, and again as hoop dancer Terrence Littletent wowed the crowd with his visually striking performance.

A different sense of wonder was triggered by Joaquim Verrier, who juggled rectangular cigar boxes.

The wonderment continued for spectators throughout the weekend, with two family-friendly shows, and Patinoire at the St. John's Arts and Culture Centre. Circus freaks – a term of endearment – enjoyed the workshops, sessions and more.

As Hemingway said, “The circus is the only fun you can buy that is good for you.”

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