TORONTO — Cirque Eloize head coach Nicolas Boivin-Gravel knows that some may associate his acrobatic ensemble with Cirque du Soleil.
Yet while the two internationally acclaimed troupes may share Montreal as their home base and a flair for contemporary circus arts, Boivin-Gravel says there are clear distinctions between the companies.
"There's a certain artistry in both of them. It's just we create a much smaller production with less artists and we play in theatres — that's the main difference. Cirque du Soleil is mainly playing in big tops or arenas," he says.
Celebrating its 25th anniversary next year, the troupe has 10 original productions to its credit with performances in more than 50 countries. Cirque Eloize currently has several separate shows on tour within Canada and overseas.
"Cirkopolis" is marking its English-Canadian premiere at the Bluma Appel Theatre in Toronto, where theatregoers can see the production that earned a Drama Desk Award during its successful New York run.
With video projections beamed against a backdrop, "Cirkopolis" melds the worlds of screen and stage, transforming classic sci-fi dystopian films "Metropolis" and "Brazil" into a high-flying, gravity-defying theatrical spectacle.
"Cirkopolis" features a dozen performers set in a stylish metropolis rebelling against the constraints of their monotonous life.
Among the signature Cirque Eloize showpieces is the Cyr Wheel, designed by troupe co-founder Daniel Cyr. Resembling a large hula hoop, performers can stand within the dynamic device to spin and twist in a dizzying array of acrobatic ways.
"All of the artists are multidimensional. That means they have to dance, they have to act, and most of them master one or two or three different circus disciplines," says Boivin-Gravel.
"Almost all of them have a solo act or a duo act, and most of them participate in the group juggling act that you need a very good level of passing to do."
Veteran performer Ashley Carr says he's lost track of the number of venues that he has played in as part of Cirque Eloize over the past several years.
"When you have your own big top or your own purpose-built theatre and arena, you know what the format is you're working in; whereas we have to adjust every single time to the size of the theatre, to the size of the stage, the backstage," says Carr.
"There are many different constraints that change variables. It's quite challenging."
Despite the rigours of tour travel, which can prove "quite heavy," Carr says he still relishes the opportunities to take to the stage.
"It is a pleasure to do the show every day with a freshness and a lightness that I enjoy doing."
"Cirkopolis" runs at the Bluma Appel Theatre until March 18, and will head to Quebec for several dates later this month in cities including Victoriaville, Drummondville and Rimouski.
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Lauren La Rose, The Canadian Press