When Cirque Du Soleil first formed in ‘84, its goal was to shift the emphasis away from animals doing tricks and focus instead on the dynamic possibilities of the human form. Kooza makes good on that promise, delivering a celebratory, dizzying spectacle with more heart-stopping stunts than you may be able to handle.

Acrobats and clowns take center stage in this joyful production, which first debuted back in 2007 and has since been seen in 22 countries around the world. This return engagement under the Big Top in the Old Port marks an overdue homecoming for Cirque, after the terrible strains of the Covid-19 pandemic saw the company forced to pause 44 productions worldwide, file for bankruptcy protection and lay off thousands of workers. Judging by audience reactions this week, Montrealers are ecstatic to see Cirque reemerge in grand style on home turf with a show that speaks to the spirit of its artistic mission.

The colorful cast of Kooza tell the story of a child – the Innocent – as he’s welcomed into a whimsical world of wonders by a magical being – the Trickster – who helps his imagination take flight. If that premise sounds somewhat similar to a book you may have read as a child, bear in mind that it sprung from the mind of celebrated mime/clown David Shiner, who directed the original production and went on to star as – go figure – The Cat In the Hat in Seussical on Broadway.

As soon as he enters this vibrant new realm, the Innocent (Cédric Bélisle) finds himself in the presence of a King (François-Guillaume Leblanc) and his aids (Miguel Berlanga Madrono and Sean Kempton), who spend the majority of the show trying to reunite His Majesty with his crown. This simple concept is elaborated upon to great comedic effect, with Leblanc clearly having the time of his life, wriggling like a cartoon character made flesh. A warning, however: do not wear a hat to the show or he might end up swiping it and using it as a substitute.

Of course, for many the real draw here are the acrobats and in that regard this production does not disappoint. Three contortionists (Sunderiya Jargalsaikhan, Ninjin Altankhuyag and Sender Enkhtur) get the party started early with their mesmerizing formations and from there, Kooza’s motto might as well be “good things come in threes”, as a trio of highwire daredevils (Vicente Quiros Dominguez, Roberto Quiros Dominguez and Flouber Sanchez) up the ante with a goosebump-producing performance that’ll have you on the edge of your seat.

It’s one thing to see a performer navigate a tightrope without falling and quite another to see three men attempting it while supporting one another and dealing with bicycles, poles and chair. Set it all to some pulse-pounding music supplied by a six-piece band and two singers (Joanie Goyette and Kathryn Holtkamp) and you may just need to bust out the smelling salts.

Kooza’s true tour-de-force, however, is the terrifying Wheel of Death, which sees two thrill-seekers (Ronaldo Solis Montes and Angelo Lyerzkysky Rodriguez) spinning around the stage so quickly they become airborne themselves.

With highs, lows and near-misses, it’s an exhilarating display of daring and exactly the kind of number that makes one wonder whether these performers might possibly be from another world. Such is the magic of Cirque.

And yet, that magic is equally present in Kooza’s quieter moments as well, such as when one acrobat (Ghislain Ramage) spins himself around the stage in the ‘Roue Cyr’, gracefully suggesting the strength and resilient nature of man from one fluid movement to another.

It’s a literal full-circle moment for Cirque du Soleil in a show that continually reminds us that all we really need – as we spin around on this crazy little sphere we call home, narrowly avoiding disaster at every turn – is some flexibility, imagination and a good sense of humor.

Welcome back, Cirque. It’s been too long.

For ticket information, visit the Cirque du Soleil website. Kooza runs until August 14th at the Big Top at Jacques-Cartier Pier and then transfers to Gatineau, where it will run from August 25th until September 25th.

Images courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

Today I met a salsa dancing Peruvian clown. High wire trapeze and juggles. I’ve always wanted to run away with the circus, do something fun and be free. You really never know who a person is until you talk to them.

Then one of my Dreamlander friends stopped by wearing a bat onesie with big fluffy ears and played a half ass game off chess with me. We talked about a warehouse party we both attended, I was a glam leprechaun, and about having to create a scene versus joining into an established one.

My wanderlust is strong, my need to quench my quest for fun, for fantastical adventures and caravans of freaks. I want to roam, I want to be with someone who understands that life.

The clown I met today said he has had girlfriends but it was hard, like they didn’t really understand the circus life. The only thing I can’t approve of is being part of a circus that still uses animals, I can’t support that ever. It’s abuse and it is wrong.

There are plenty of awesome circuses that are animal free, which means all participants gave their consent. Animals cannot consent. I adore fire dancers, sword swallowing, aerial silk dancers, clowns, dirt bike tricks, and other human tricks. I want that ethical circus life.

clowning aroundI surround myself with performers. Everyone I live with is incredible and creative. I get home and lay on the couch with my cat , eating my dumpster grapes, surrounded by smoke and candlelight.

The door opens, cold rushing in, enveloping the living room with a bitter chill that cut right through my rainbow sweater, and then in walks in my roommate and her friends: a future male burlesque dancer named Chocolate Fantasy, the most beautiful Asian girl with all of the daddies, and a low key drag queen.

My best friend is a clown, think balloons full of blood. We even did a special performance on her birthday at the Cirque De La Lune where we re-created a scene from the 1920s silent clown movie He Who Gets Slapped. I really called in the clowns for that one. I had to go in to the venue to scrub blood off the walls, it was so worth it. What a magical night.

Juggalos are so easy to make fun of, but why? I bet the Gathering of the Juggalos is a blast. They do what they want and are ridiculous. I love anyone who isn’t afraid to wear makeup. If you ever get the chance please for the love of all that is good watch Tom Green at the Gathering of the Juggalos, it’s the funniest.

I had a clown hit on me once on OKcupid, he said he liked clown farts, is that a sex act?

ok cupid clownMy roommate met a clown on Tinder in New York City, but he didn’t come out as a clown at first. He tells his friends he is a party entertainer so they all think he is a stripper. Why so ashamed bro? That’s an awesome way to pay the bills.

Lucy and I literally had the same fantasy at the same time, painting faces! So jealous of that life, I would be the happiest clown ever, that’s what I am doing after I retire from burlesque.

I love performing so much, I always fall for musicians. I want to be with someone who’s voice makes me tingle, wiggle and writhe.

Once a burlesque couple guest performed- a dancer and a musician, so funny he even mimicked her number. I wanted that life so bad, conquer the world out of a giant bus run on vegetable oil that is set up so my three cats can come with us (don’t worry I will NEVER exploit them for the show). Maybe this pussy palace on wheels will have some solar panels and a garden on it, too.

I need a fearless artist, performer, comedian, quick witted, willing to make a fool of themselves, basically me. People all say opposites attract- fuck that I will never date a racist Trump voting bigot asshat- I only want like minded fools in my life. I am extreme so my opposite is also extreme.

I love in the movie The Punk Singer. Kathleen Hanna talks about falling for her husband, Ad-Rock from The Beastie Boys. She is a feminist riot grrrl and he is in a bro rap group that objectifies women. They were idealistically opposite with their art, but both still artists, they met in the middle and he even stood up against violence towards women during an award acceptance speech.

It is important to have some differences, because that sparks great communication and conversation. Positive change and mutual inspiration. I need someone to take the lead and lead me to somewhere good and not dark. I know that light needs dark to look brighter, but two bright explosions together is also a spectacular site.

What about a photographer, a dancer, a poet, or even a clown? Sometimes the people you least expect could be incredible, perhaps your next soulmate, future tour parter, love of this moment.

It’s all we have, those spontaneous seconds where new ideas form, where people change you so profoundly they could not imagine. I want to collaborate with someone I have never met yet. I know people who run away and follow their dreams instantly without thought or premeditation. Planning is for those who don’t truly succeed.

It’s interesting to me that letting someone in just a little bit can take life into all kinds of crazy adventures. It feels like things are literally piling up on top of you- work, dishes, piles of clothes, health problems, family stuff, drama llamas, ect. and you need to escape or be trapped. I must spin a globe and go where it lands.

ShazamFest celebrates its 10th anniversary this year with a great program full of music, skateboarding competitions, wrestling, burlesque, circus, laughter, workshops and so much more. The festival starts Thursday July 9 and runs until Sunday. Camping is available on location, at one of the first certified organic farms in Canada. Also, you can join the fun on Sunday for free, a little gift to the public for the 10th year anniversary.

What is ShazamFest?

From the road, the site doesn’t look like much, just a simple field. But once you get in, you arrive at a magic place. A place that apparently has been a meeting point for a very long time. The site, located in the Eastern Townships, about 20 km South West of Magog, in Barnston West (roughly a 90-minute drive from Montreal) was an Abenaki meeting spot many centuries ago.


Ziv Pryztyk, the festival’s founder/director, explains that the idea behind the festival, more like a carnival, is to bring together a community, for people to interact and build networks with people that might not be from their regular social circles (or even age group, as it is a multi-generation event).

In its first year, the festival attracted about 400 people. Since then, the party has now grown close to 2000 people, with three generations embracing the fun of camping on the grounds. The festival is free for kids under 12 and you will never be charged for water.

Shazamfest is an eco-conscious festival, meaning local food is provided. This year’s beer of choice comes from Beau’s All Natural Brewery in Eastern Ontario. This craft beer company has been invading the Quebec market for the past five months and is now available in over 70 bars in Montreal, as well as in IGA stores and depanneurs that carry craft beers.

The Lineup

Many acts will be performing during ShazamFest this year. On the musical side of things, there will be Buck 65 on Friday, Lemon Bucket Orchestra on Saturday and Mike Goudreau on Sunday, to name only a few. Miss BonBon Bombay will be hosting the Burlesque side of things.


There will be a skateboarding competition on the famous Shazam ramp, which gets bigger every year.  There will also be wrestling events and a laughter competition held by Albert Nerenberg. Circus, forging and other workshops will be given each day of the event.

Win Tickets

Want to attend ShazamFest for free? FTB and Shazamfest are giving away a pair of day passes for Saturday. Since Sunday and camping at the fest are free already, this will get you two days and one night of Shazam for free.

To win, just share this post on social media and leave a comment below, letting us know what aspect of Shazam you are most looking forward to.

Good luck!

In the old fashioned opulence of the National, we were treated to a new take on the literal underdogs of the circus scene: the ‘undermen’ of Undermän.

Though a Swedish term, the name works perfectly in English, too. An undermän is the stable part of an acrobatic duo, that is to say the one responsible for the heavy lifting. The three main performers in this piece by Cirkus Cirkör are all ‘undermen’ who have lost their partners and are now trying to readjust and reinvent themselves in the wake of this shift.

The acrobatic partner of an undermän (a topwoman, perhaps?) seems to frequently end up becoming a romantic partner, as well. This is unsurprising, what with the trust their work requires, the hours and hours spent together, and the close physical nature of the duo’s relationship. Not to mention the fact that both of them will have similar interests and fit, well-trained bodies that must be constantly grabbed—that can’t hurt.

The three main players in the show are all scruffy, sturdy boys, and they’re all musicians too, taking breaks from the acrobatics to play drums, guitar, bass, accordion, looping machines. Their accompanying musician friend, Andreas Tengblad, (who did at one point manage to pull off a somersault) added his talents on cello and electric guitar, as well. He even performs a lovely solo at one point that involves him on his knees, singing as he plucks away at the strings of his cello.

The show begins with a monologue by one of the acrobats about how he met his partner. There is no denying that the two were in love, and that once that love crumbled, working together as a duo became next to impossible. I can’t imagine having to train for hours on a daily basis with someone who just broke my heart, or whose heart I just broke.

Melancholic, theatrical, and sometimes angsty, this show is deeply intertwined with its live musical score. The timing of the performance and the atmosphere of some pieces rests heavily on the music. Despite some simple theatrics, which were effective and not at all heavy-handed, the actors and the show itself feel very casual. The boys smash stuff, throw things around, and take time to monologue on fights, anger, and having “issues”—it is not a show about sunshine and roses.

There’s a piece involving a huge hoop and a single feather, which begins almost as a slow dance between the undermän and his hoop. Sometimes the hoop gets the stage and spotlight all to itself, as the undermän stands back, underscoring perhaps that he is used to being the less flashy member of a performance.

As the show progresses, the undermen juggle heavy kettlebells and bouncy clubs in complicated and impressive patterns, often shouting and smiling. There’s a playful edge to the way they treat each other, making it obvious that they are friends as well as co-workers. They are also pleasantly unfazed when they mess up, making for an overall very sweet and casual show.

They execute some impressive undermän-on-undermän lifts, meaning these boys were each heaving something around two hundred pounds over their heads. Though undermen, and so maybe not trained for the really flashy moves, they still pulled off some awesome lifts, tumbles, flips, and jumps. Despite the sort of self-deprecating nature of the show as a whole, these performers are still powerful, highly-trained acrobats.

After humbly thanking us for the applause, the undermen invited us to stay behind for a musical performance, a band made up of the undermen’s musician friend Andreas and a songstress from their homeland. Given that I’m not used to deciphering Swedish phonemes her name was, unfortunately, lost on me. She and Andreas have recently released an album together, though.

The music that these two make together is very soft and indie-sounding, haunting, and driven mainly by the beauty of their vocal harmonies. Clearly talented vocalists, the two of them held tight, sometimes vaguely (though obviously purposefully) discordant harmonies, Andreas’ smooth tenor melding nicely with his partner’s timbre. The lyrics of their often short little tunes were creative, cute, and touching—my favourite was probably “Peaches”, a song about staying behind in a small town, even when all your friends leave for broader horizons, because “my peaches grow here”.

The musical arrangements were light-handed and sparse, as they accompanied themselves on guitar, glockenspiel, and a small, Celtic-style drum. Like much of the Undermän show, the music these two played for the crowd had a melancholic tinge, Andreas’ guitar playing resonating chords with a folksy and sometimes almost surf quality.

The boys from Undermän stayed behind to support their friends, and we were treated to them bantering playfully with the singers onstage from the back rows of the theater. It made the crowd smile, and further reinforced my impression that these are all just young buds who found a productive way to vent some of their angst about life, and put it on display for us to sympathize with.

An effective, touching, and talent-filled show, Undermän will be at le National until the 14th of July, part of Montréal Complètement Crique.

Photos Courtesy of: Montréal Complètement Cirque