At the beginning of July, on a family visit to Montreal, I spent an extraordinary day at Ecole Nationale du Cirque, the TOHU and the headquarters of Cirque du Soleil.
My congenial host at the ENC (National Circus School) was Executive Director Marc Lalonde, who toured me through their extraordinary facility. The school was founded by Guy Caron in the Eighties and 11 years ago, with $22 million, mostly from the Quebec and Federal governments, the new building was completed.
It is an extraordinary facility, with three extra large and extra high instruction and practice studios and many smaller spaces. It has a restaurant, classrooms and study rooms (the courses of study include a normal high school curriculum). There is a dormitory for live-in students and a feeling of extraordinary professionalism and thoughtfulness. It was a lot of fun meeting the large number of American students all of whom knew the Big Apple Circus. Remember that this school draws from all around the world.
And thanks to Marc Lalonde for the delicious lunch.
On the same day I paid a visit to the TOHU which is a circular performance building on the same grounds in the outskirts of the city, in the St. Michel district. My host was Nathalie Drouin who is a program director. We talked about smaller shows that might appear there, with the Big Apple Circus being the Producer and TOHU presenting. It was very invigorating. When returned home, I discussed the meeting with Guillaume Dufresnoy, my successor as Artistic Director at the BAC.
Finally I had a meeting, at her request, with Katherine Adams who is in charge of new projects for Cirque du Soleil. She is exploring the possibility of using horses for what is presumed to be a separate production from Cirque and knew that I had many years of experience with horses and equestrians with the Big Apple Circus. As part of her charge she is heading up a program for kids in the St. Michel community that will involve Les Cavalries, the Montreal mounted police and their horses. She has been all over Europe visiting horse people to elicit their thoughts on professional programming. Interesting, eh?
A super visit.