Pushing The boundaries of the attainable through circus: A photo essay

Tanya Burka on aerial silk – Photo/ VALENTINE ALIBERT

Cabaret de Cirque 2022 at Le Monastère From Nov. 4 to Nov. 12

Le Monastère Cabaret de Cirque is located in the St-Jax Church on St-Catherine, and is two minutes’ walk away from the Sir Geroge William campus of Concordia University. 

Before the show started, the room turned pitch black for a few seconds, with only the faint light from the stained glass church windows being visible. The room was in utter silence, excitement running through the crowd, until the lights flashed blue, and the first act began. 

The performances could be felt quite powerfully, especially from a vantage point high up on the altar. As the music detoned, it resonated through the wooden stage and through our bodies — it felt as if the crowd became actors in the performance. 

For the first presentation, aerialist Tanya Burka performed mid-air tricks on aerial silk. Her movements were light and composed. She moved in a way that seemed effortless, with the strength of her arms and core. She wrapped herself slowly, ending on a cascade down; the audience gasped, fearing the silk would not hold her.


In this second photo, Burka is holding on mid-air, only by the strength of her upper leg and ankle. The colours of the light, matching with her suit, mirror her movement as the audience remained captured by her every movement. 

Emcee Johnny Filionis is playing with balance, a pole held by his mouth is topped by a plate as he juggles two other. The whole affair was quite a spectacle to see, as the level of multitasking was impressive to the audience. 

Filion worked through the show to create a sense of discomfort within the crowd. Circuses ask the audience to interact with performances, pushing people out of their comfort zones.

This performance was set to create a sentiment of unease within the audience, while Filion hardly held his balance, people were on the edge of their seats watching.

The fourth performance showcased Maude Parent, a contortionist, as she demonstrated her extreme physical flexibility, contorting her arms, wrists and back to degrees that seemed almost subhuman. 

Her movements were sometimes pushed so out of the ordinary, that people in the crowd looked away or covered their eyes, waiting for the act to end. 

Despites some movements that disturbed our gaze, the dramatic effect of her contortions kept most of the audience fixated and excited to see what her next movement would be.

In a later act, Maude Parent comes back to the stage singing, accompanied by Marton Maderspach on the piano. The light fell only on the two of them, while the rest of the large room remained pitch black. Her voice echoed within the heights of the church, resonated within our bodies, producing a sentiment of excitement within the crowd.

The last act before the intermission was of Antoine Boissereau with aerial straps. The first part of his performance was the most impressive. As one arm was caught in the strap, it held his whole body, while he performed several figures with extreme precision.

His performance was accompanied by heavy techno music and a sharp white light accentuating his body as the audience was fixated in awe.

Laurie Bérubé and Catherine Beaudet performed a hand-to-hand duo, moving in synchronicity as their bodies were dispossessed of their natural purposes, serving as balancing grounds for one another. Though each movement was calculated, the ease with which their bodies moved together made the audience feel as if they were moving in complete natural spontaneity. The elevation and rigid balance of their pantomime was breathtaking.

Esteban Immer completed figures on the chinese pole, which was approximately six feet tall. He climbed up, slid down and stopped for figures. His poses showed his incredible strength, whether he was perpendicular to the bar, sliding down from his feet, or rotating his legs around the pole. Sometimes his legs were the only part holding his whole body hanging from the pole.


The last act was by Emily Chilvers on an aerial rope. Intense opera music accompanied her performance, which gave it more power. The lighting for her act was pink, which was much dimmer than the previous ones. As she wrapped herself with velocity, the light sometimes did not catch her movement and she seemed to be a completely separate entity —  as if her own being transcended the performance out of pure passion.

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