Arts

Cirque Éloize Hotel marks world premiere in Pittsburgh as part of Festival of Firsts

By September 27, 2018 No Comments

“We’re bringing the audience into that strange hotel
from somewhere.”

Scenes from Cirque Éloize, part of the Carnegie International’s Festival of Firsts.

In the Magdalen Islands of Quebec, the flashes of heat lightning seen on the horizon are called éloize. This natural wonder was the inspiration behind contemporary circus company Cirque Éloize whose founders hail from those islands. So it’s no surprise that the shows the troupe performs are equally electrifying.

Whether you’re looking for acrobatics, live music or humorous theatrics, Cirque Éloize Hotel, the company’s newest show debuting in Pittsburgh this week at the Benedum Center, has something for everyone.

Cirque Éloize brought it’s latest production to the city for its world premiere as part of the 2018 Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts running through November. The show is part concert, part play and part gymnastics competition, carrying on Cirque Éloize’s tradition of giving new meaning to the word circus.

The setting for the production is a hotel straight out of the Wes Anderson film Grand Budapest Hotel. There are zany doormen and bellhops, star crossed lovers and even a visiting starlet.

“What we know really well from touring so many countries around the world is hotel lobbies,” says Jeannot Painchaud, Cirque Éloize president and chief creative officer. “It’s a pleasure to see in hotel lobbies all these funny characters, people from different countries and different cultures and also the staff of the hotel. We decided to use that playground as a starting point. We’re bringing the audience into that strange hotel from somewhere. Maybe it’s the 1920s, maybe it’s the future, maybe it’s the past.”

From the jump, the tricks the cast performs put the audience on the edge of their seats. Of note is a cyr wheel number where a cast member performs acrobatic moves while rotating within a large metal ring. The trick was developed by Daniel Cyr, one of Cirque Éloize’s cofounders.

While the acrobatic prowess of each of the cast members is certainly impressive, the theatrical antics of the performers in the background is equally eye catching. It’s clear these are performers who don’t take themselves too seriously. Before the show’s final act, a high-flying acrobatic number, a cast member addresses the audience to say, some of them might fall, but “falling is fun.”

“We wanted the show to be very funny. We wanted people to have a lot of joy and pleasure so there’s a lot of comedy in the show,” says Painchaud. “What we always like to do is to bring magic, poetry, emotion. We always want to find this balance between impressing people and touching people.”

The company’s latest production marks the first time Éloize has incorporated live music into their performances. A live vocalist brings the disparate elements of the show together harmoniously to create an experience pleasing to all the senses.

“What’s new is the way we mix the acrobatics with the choreography, the dance, and with the music, and the way the singer is involved in the traffic of the acrobatics,” says Painchaud. “I think that’s the magic of the show we do, to mix all those elements that allows each of the artists to shine individually.”

Cirque Éloize was founded 25 years ago and since then has seen 15 different productions tour in countries around the world. To date, they’ve performed in 600 cities in 60 countries.

“The company never stops moving and we’re currently touring three shows simultaneously,”  says Painchaud. “The show in Pittsburgh is to celebrate our 25th anniversary. It will tour for many years to come so it’s the start of a show that will have a long life.”

Tickets are still available for Cirque Éloize hotel’s six remaining performances running through Sun., Sept. 30. To get yours, visit www.trustarts.org.

Rebeca Addison is the Pittsburgh Current Special Projects Editor. Contact her at rebecca@pittsburghcurrent.com

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