Cirque Eloize had come to Penn State twice. And their shows - "Rain" and "iD" - had been successes on both occasions.
So when the opportunity came for Penn State's Center for the Performing Arts to help sponsor a Cirque Eloize show, it was a pretty easy decision for CPA director George Trudeau.
"In January of 2012, I was in New York at a conference and it included the opportunity to hear pitches from artists and companies who wanted support for their work," Trudeau said. "Cirque Eloize was pitching this show, which then didn't have a name. With our history with the company ... it seemed like a natural fit."
In this photo provided by Cirque Eloize, an aerialist is thrown into the air in a banquine act during the show “Cirkopolis.”
With the CPA's support among a series of co-commissioners, the minds behind Cirque Eloize created "Cirkopolis," which will visit Penn State's Eisenhower Auditorium at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 27.
Penn State's Center for the Performing Arts was the only American commissioner of the work. The other commissioners are the Canada Council for the Arts, Place des Arts in Quebec, Conseil des Arts de Montreal and Les Productione Neuvart.
To help off-set the cost of the commissioning, the CPA offered patrons a chance to help sponsor the show with a $250 donation. According to Trudeau, those donations helped pay for about half of the commission cost.
If you go
What: "Cirkopolis," presented by Cirque Eloize
When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 27
Where: Eisenhower Auditorium, Penn State University Park campus
Tickets: $42 for adults, $15 for University Park students and $24 for those age 18 and younger
The CPA's involvement gave Trudeau the chance to see "Cirkopolis" in a special preview performance.
"I had the opportunity last summer to go up to Montreal and see the first performance," he said. "The work was still a little bit in construction and the basics were there. It was wonderful ... it, of course, made me even more excited."
Excitement is what it's all about, according to Jeannot Painchaud, artistic director, co-director and co-founder of Cirque Eloize. He recently spoke to the Mirror in a phone interview from the group's home base in Montreal.
"We're really the first contemporary circus on stage across America," he said proudly in a thick French Canadian accent.
Cirque Eloize (pronounced "cirk EL-waz") was formed in 1993 by Painchaud and co-founders Daniel Cyr and Julie Hamelin and has gone on to perform in more than 40 countries with their nine original shows. "Cirkopolis" is the ninth original creation of Cirque Eloize and began touring in 2012. The show is co-directed by Painchaud and choreographer Dave St-Pierre.
Cirque Eloize describes the "Cirkopolis" show as being set, "in the heart of a stern and imposing city in appearance, giant gears and dark portals [symbolizing] a mechanism that crushes individuality."
The show features circus acts of all kinds, mixed with acrobatics and dance. Some of the classic circus acts include:
* Chinese pole
* banquine (a group of performers throwing an aerialist in the air again and again, using their arms as a platform)
* German wheel
* Cyr wheel (a large metal hoop which the acrobat rolls around in from the inside. Named after Cirque Eloize co-founder Daniel Cyr)
"The circus is really, really there. It's a circus show, but with a strong dance part," Painchaud said. "We have classic circus acts, but all reinterpreted. Pretty much, they're included in the dance and the choreography."
Though "Cirkopolis" follows a main character - a clown - through a dark landscape, Painchaud wants it clear that the show isn't a downer.
"It's not a dark show, at all. It's a fun show," he said. "It's a show where you laugh a lot while following the acrobatics and dancing. ... It was the first time also where I really wanted to have a main character in this show. You follow the journey of this character."
Painchaud said the show features 12 performers who work nearly non-stop during the piece.
"They're pretty much, for all the show, on stage. All of them," he said. "To be precise, about an hour and 25 minutes they're there all the time."
Painchaud said "Cirkopolis" is one of two Cirque Eloize shows currently touring. A troupe performing "iD," which premiered in 2009, just returned from Dubai.
With a worldwide touring schedule, Penn State's Center for the Performing Arts feels honored to welcome the show.
"They were a huge success the last time," said Laura Sullivan, director of marketing for the CPA. "People loved the performance and their energy on stage. It was just a wonderful family show."
Mirror Staff Writer Keith Frederick is at 946-7466.