The Joy of Cirque


The taxi pulls away from the curb of Boulevard René Lévesque and swings north toward Mount Royal. Turning right, it sweeps past my old student stomping grounds of McGill University, skirting the plains and monuments of Mont Royal. The roads are badly potholed from Montreal’s long, harsh winters, and traffic snarls as we cut east across the hip Plateau neighborhood. The taxi driver curses the construction sites in the city, complaining that so many streets are blocked off for maintenance work.

In the summer months, Montréal, the world’s second-largest French-speaking city after Paris, pulsates with an international jazz festival, countless streets fairs, and music and theater festivals. Rue St Laurent, the lively multicultural artery that unofficially divides Montréal into east and west – or French and English – is barricaded for an extra long weekend of fun, causing many of the traffic problems. City planning may not be one of Montréal’s strong points. But in this city of intense charm and character, and in its chaos, creativity thrives.

Chaos and creativity

Small wonder that the head office of one of the world’s most creative performing arts companies is in Montréal. I am en route to Cirque du Soleil, a company that has revolutionized the field of entertainment and rejuvenated the circus. Founded by a stilt walker and fire breather 26 years ago, the company has reached dizzying heights of success, much like one of its own trapeze artists. Its productions combine traditional elements of the circus – the big top, clowns, and artists (but no animals) – with dance, drama, and choreography.

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