Pittsburgh has become a favorite stomping ground for Cirque du Soleil and I have to admit that I have seen virtually everything the venerable Montreal troupe has to offer.
So as I took my seat at the Benedum Center for the PIFOF world premiere of Hotel, I wondered what else this other Montreal circus troupe, Cirque Éloize, could do to impress.
There was much to tickle my fancy.
Montreal has become a hotbed of circus arts and fostered a number of artists and troupes that tour the globe. Soleil is the most famous through their immersive tent shows, Las Vegas productions and the arena performances.
But Hotel showed that the Montreal cirque community has a lot of depth and varying personalities, probably fed by Canada’s National Circus School located there. Hotel was a show that took place in a stylized, Art Deco-inspired lobby, where guests and staffers used the extra long reservation desk, a curvilinear sofa and a geometric backdrop (two triangles with a cube wedged between) as an entertainment playground.
We’ve also seen several stage performances, most notably with the Pittsburgh Symphony. Cirque Éloize doesn’t have razzle dazzle body-enhancing glittering painted costumes (save for a “celebrity” who came and went and surprisingly did not contribute much). Instead the focus was on timing — to the millisecond.
For this was a three ring circus condensed onto a proscenium stage. At times there were multiple acts and stunts overlapping each other — audience members had their pick of performers sliding behind the desk, a head popping out of the sofa or elevated performers peeking from behind the wings.
When the spotlight was on a single act, there were jaw-dropping routines that had a healthy, imaginative dose of choreographed connections. They literally provided twists and turns that kept my interest — the rope girl, almost a tomboy, who tied herself in knots, a juggling act full of invention, human stacks. And they created their own house band.
This Hotel lobby and its inhabitants became an oversized jungle gym, a fun house for all and someplace that I’d like to visit again.