BWW Interview: Cirque Eloize's Jeannot Painchaud Reveals the Secrets of CIRKOPOLIS

The New York City premiere of CIRKOPOLIS begins performances tonight, December 18th at NYU Skirball Center. From the architect of the astonishing acrobatics at the 2006 Olympic Games closing ceremonies (Cirque Éloize's Artistic Director Jeannot Painchaud) and the world-renowned choreographer of Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity and LOVE (Dave St-Pierre) comes a magnificent circus spectacle that lives between dream and reality, underscored by a continuous stream of original music, and brought to vivid life by 3-D projections.

With CIRKOPOLIS, Cirque Éloize takes their breathtaking blend of circus arts, theater, and dance to a highly-stylized metropolis setting, where twelve acrobats and multidisciplinary artists rebel against monotony, reinvent themselves and challenge the limits of the factory-city as only they can. In a world where fantasy provokes reality, the veil of anonymity and solitude is lifted and replaced by bursts of color.

Co-director Jeannot Painchaud took the time to chat with BroadwayWorld about the show's origins, his collaboration with Dave St. Pierre, and more, and you can check out the full interview below!

What was your inspiration for this show specifically?

Well, as you know we have been working on different shows doing contemporary circus for about 20 years. In Cirkopolis, we're trying to go to different places with a different concept and different creative partners. The previous show that we did, ID, was very urban. In this, we are starting out by questioning identity but from the main character.

For this one we wanted to start with one guy in his office. It was specifically influenced by the movie 'Metropolis', the movie 'Brazil,' and books from [Franz] Kafka. As it starts, he is at work, there is no personality, until things get crazy and the main character escapes from that world to be himself. That's the starting point. Very quickly though, everything becomes choreographic because it's a show with a lot of dance and physical stuff. There are a lot of acrobatics. It starts with this guy at work doing paper work and his environment starts to change. It goes from reality to something very surreal.

I understand that video projection is a big part of the show...

Yes! There is a big wall in the back that shows that city as a machine and everyone is oppressed by that. You could compare it to 'Modern Times' with Charlie Chaplin, where city gets crazy. There's no real clown character in this, but our main character brings a lot of poetry into that world. There's also a lot of poetry and French songs that emerge from the machine.

This piece seems to seamlessly integrate circus, dance and theatre. Was that always your intention?

It's very theatrical but at the same time it is very simple. It's very visual. You follow the character through this weird city, and then very quickly you get seduced by the humanity of the character. I'm all about being yourself, and this show is just another way of approaching that.

How long does it take to put this kind of show together? What kind of preparation is involved?

Once the idea is there, it moves to casting, then to rehearsals, and that's a yearlong process. We spend about six months in rehearsals. The artists usually have all of the skills, but we construct every act and try to bring a new approach to it. We cast them for their talents but also for their personality. We like to put that on stage- the eye contact, the presence... it's always very important in our work.

You worked closely with Dave St. Pierre on this project. What was that collaboration like?

We co-directed the show together. What he brings is a raw energy that was needed to express the vibe of this city. We're into bringing out this really strong energy. You have to be ready to work with Dave St. Pierre as an artist, because his work is very demanding. It's highly physical at the same time, and the poetry that emerges from that is all about the humanity.

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