By STEVEN HOWELL
Summer in Montreal is completely fun, completely festive and, now, it's completely circus.
La Tohu, the city's premier circus venue, presents Montreal Completement Cirque, a midsummer fest with all things circus in mind. The event combines free and ticketed circus-performance arts and activities with more than 80 events in all from July 7 through 24.
"The festival is held all over the city, so we really are trying to make Montreal completely circus," Tohu communications and marketing director Zoe Beaudry said. "And we are the only circus festival in North America."
La Tohu's main venue in the St. Michel neighborhood plays home to many events; as does Espace Go in the Plateau on St. Laurent Boulevard, along the waterfront promenade in the Old Port; and a temporary big top at the Radio Canada parking lot in the Gay Village, to name a few.
"We're very young and very new, but we had a great time last year," Beaudry said of this second edition. "That energy and diversity is one of our goals again this year, to show how diversified circus arts really are."
Another goal is affordability.
"We wanted something very family oriented so our events are free or very affordable for every show."
One of the must-see acts is the Tom Tom Crew.
"They're a young group from Australia who mix hip-hop with circus arts," Beaudry said. "They've got a DJ, a beat boxer and a lot of acrobatics. It's a high-level energy show full of laughter and humor."
Tom Tom Crew performs under the Radio Canada big top at 1400 Rene Levesque Blvd. E. July 11 through 23. Tickets start at $23.
Next is the mythical circus-arts performance "Cirque Invisible of Victoria Chaplin and Jean-Baptiste Thierree." The performing company comes with some very entertaining lineage.
"She's the daughter of Charlie Chaplin," Beaudry said. "They're magical, theatrical and creative with a lot of costume changes and mythical images that transform before your eyes. They're a legend coming to town."
Cirque Invisible performs at the Outremont Theatre. Tickets range from $22 to $45.
A La Tohu-produced free outdoor show is "Les Minutes Completement Cirque." Think flash mob meets circus performance.
"It's one of our signature creations," Beaudry said. "We have 50 artists that invade the street. They just start doing circus feats all over the place, and then they all freeze. It's totally amazing."
Expect everything from back flips to balancing on balconies. In addition to circus performance, public participation and multimedia versions are also held.
"Les Minutes Completement Cirque" are held in the Latin Quarter during fest time at 5:30 and 9:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and around 5:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Place Emilie Gamelin, an urban park that borders the Latin Quarter and the Gay Village, hosts the event at 5:30 p.m. July 7, 14 and 19 as well as the multimedia edition at 9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays during the festival.
La Tohu also hosts a free circus weekend from 2 to 5 p.m. July 23 and 24. Activities include introductory circus workshops; a performance of African dance, song, percussion and acrobatics by Productions Kalabante; a horse-riding demonstration by the mounted service of the Montreal police department; a sneak-peak rehearsal from the circus show "Song of the Turkey"; and a visit to "Equus," La Tohu's temporary art exhibition that portrays the importance of the horse in circus performance.
And then there's "Slips Inside" by the Belgian troupe Okidok.
"That would be clowns in underwear," Beaudry said.
Yes, an acrobatic comedic duo who have tackled the art of jumping into underwear. It's an all-ages affair performed for free at 1:15 p.m. July 20 through 23 at La Tohu.
Steven Howell is the author of Montreal Essential Guide, a Sutro Media iPhone travel app available at iTunes.com.