By STEVEN HOWELL Press-Republican
---- — MONTREAL — The cogs in this wheel go round and round.
Until someone breaks free, that is.
The acclaimed Montreal-based circus troupe Cirque Eloize presents its latest show, “Cirkopolis,” for a two-week run at Place des Arts, now through Nov. 30.
Jeannot Painchaud, co-director of “Cirkopolis” and artistic director and founder of the circus troupe, has been entertaining audiences since the mid-1990s.
Cirque Eloize (say el-waz) was created in Painchaud’s home of the Magdalen Islands, a small archipelago in the Gulf of St. Lawrence River between the provinces of Quebec and Nova Scotia.
For a clue to the show’s creativity, look no further than the company name.
“Eloize translates to ‘heat lighting,’” Painchaud said.
“The first members of Cirque Eloize all came from the Magdalen Islands, so that’s why we gave it that name.”
BIG BREAK IN NEW YORK
As a young circus performer, Painchaud soon packed his bags, headed to Montreal and studied at the National Circus School of Canada.
The company’s first big break, however, came in a place well-known for theater — the troupe performed for a children’s festival in Rudy Giuliani’s re-vamped Times Square/42nd Street area of New York City at the New Victory Theater.
“There was a major project to re-construct the 42nd Street area in the 1990s,” Painchaud said. “We were one of the first performers.
“It was the only place open between 8th Avenue and Broadway. We were a young, unknown company, and we were honored to be chosen to open this theater. And we ran for 125 shows.”
TOURED THE WORLD
And Cirque Eloize never looked back. They have since created almost a dozen original shows and have performed in more than 440 cities in 40 countries around the world.
“We just kept going,” Painchaud said. “But we did have a goal.”
Painchaud’s goal was to create a unique circus performance that also combined strong elements of theater and, specifically, dance.
“We invite choreographers, theater directors and musical directors to challenge us as acrobats to reinvent us in our discipline,” he said.
The newest challenge is the otherworldly vision of a not-so-distant future in “Cirkopolis.”
“I wanted to explore identity,” Painchaud said of the current work, whose inspiration comes from two well-known movies: Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” and Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil.”
Painchaud uses one main character to tell the story — a working-class clown stuck behind the 9-to-5 doldrums of an office desk.
“He shuffles papers and has a boring life,” Painchaud said. “But he wants to leave this world and have fun and do poetry and see colors.”
To tell the story, “Cirkopolis” combines comedy, acrobatics and dance.
“And the dance is really physical,” he said. “The reinvention of this circus is really through the dance.”
CLAN OF ACROBATS
Painchaud worked closely with Montreal choreographer Dave St. Pierre and a new crop of 12 acrobatic artists, many of them National Circus School grads.
“I wanted a new generation, a crew that worked together before,” Painchaud said of his main performers. “I wanted them to know each other very well. We needed this strength as a clan in order to really be in synch with the group choreography.”
“Cirkopolis” has traveled around the world for a full year now. This Place des Arts stint is the Montreal debut of the work, and Painchaud admits that he’s feeling the pressure.
“I’m excited and a bit nervous,” he said. “Montreal has been waiting for us for a long time.”
But no matter where the show has traveled and where it’s going next, Painchaud says, the overall theme is universal.
“Everyone can recognize themselves in the show,” he said.
Painchaud hopes the audience takes away one important message.
“The desire to be themselves.”
Steven Howell is the author of Montreal Essential Guide, a Sutro Media iPhone travel app available at iTunes.com.IF YOU GO WHAT: "Cirkopolis." WHEN: Through Saturday, Nov. 30. WHERE: Theatre Maisonneuve of Place des Arts, 175 St. Catherine St. W., Montreal. ADMISSION: Tickets range from $36 to $67.50. CONTACT: For more information, call the Place des Arts box office at (514) 842-2112, or visit www.laplacedesarts.com or www.cirque-eloize.com.