Let’s talk Circus

HarbourKIDS: Circus returns this Victoria Day long-weekend featuring the best parts of the circus with music, theatre, comedy, art-making and “animals”. Throughout this three-day festival there are endless activities to enjoy with your family. We sat down with HarbourKIDS curator Allison Cummings to get her perspective on the theme of circus.

There has been a gradual change in the past couple of decades in regards to types of acts offered in circus shows. What does the circus mean to you in this day and age?

My feeling is that there are different types of circus that are being practiced in this day and age. There are those shows that offer high level tricks and are built to amaze and astound in a traditional way with the sole purpose of entertainment. Then there is the new frontier of circus artists that consider it an art form, not only of the skill set but also as choreographers and storytellers. This is how I feel contemporary circus is opening up the possibilities of the platform by taking creative risks along with collaborating within the professional arts community itself.

We are also at the tail-end of the practice of animals performing in the ring, this being a long time traditional attraction, which is now widely disapproved by society. I believe this greatly changes the circus as it forces its players to adopt a larger vision of what feats we can achieve as humans and develop the artistic skills to push the envelope.

What makes this circus unique in comparison to other circus events?

HarbourKIDS: Circus brings together many players from the local contemporary community. We are presenting high-level skill and artistry with the feel of a grassroots community coming together to share itself with a larger public. So many of the performers this year are interdisciplinary in nature and their works could be billed as circus, theatre, and/or dance. We have also made a point of encouraging immersive work in our programming, creating spaces that kids and their grown-ups can interact with either hands-on art-making activities or physically taking part.

Ours is the only circus celebration I know of that directly invites kids to experience, ponder on and form an opinion about what they are being presented with.

Why do you think it is important for children to not only see art but also participate in the creative side?

I think it’s very important for kids to have the opportunity to experience first hand what artists are doing, how the work is being made and have a say in what the outcome could be. This, I believe, can open a child to their own creative voice in an organic and approachable way. The more a child is exposed to the normality of a creative venture, the more likely they will include creative culture in their lives as they grow.

Don’t miss HarbourKIDS: Circus, May 21-23 at Harbourfront Centre.