waist-high dandelions at roadside, Montreal
Two weeks ago I was in Montreal connecting with Jeremie Robert, a super-talented acrobat and circus performer currently performing with Compagnie XY.
Jeremie and I met through his work with ArtCirq, an indigenous circus in Igloolik, Nunavut, Canada.
I have been applying for grants to travel to Nunavut for about two years now (still no luck) and would love to write about these performers in the Arctic. It’s super-expensive to get to the far north, though.
Climate change is occurring in the Arctic twice as fast as in the rest of the globe, with a predicted 5 to 7 degree Celsius temperature rise in the next century.
Igloolik is a community on the front-lines of climate change, and also a place deeply invested in the healing powers of performance art. I can’t imagine a better place to record stories.
What is circus, anyway?
I asked this question to a Compagnie XY acrobat at a barbecue a few nights before their first show.
“Almost anything can be circus in the right context,” she said, “and there are whole theoretical classes at circus school devoted to this exact question. Circus art is something that you have to train and study for years in order to perfect.”
(I’m familiar with this line of questioning, though I’m usually on the receiving end of it: What is Folklore & Mythology?“)
Circuses are generally performed in round tents, too––or so I learned from a mini-exhibition at TOHU.
Ringling Bros. is dead, but circus is not. Modern circuses don’t have animals. It’s more about skill and training than flashy oddities.
If I decide to go to grad school in the coming years, Performance Studies is a field I’m considering. I love the idea of wrestling with the circus question, and interviewing / writing about performers in this sphere.
Montreal though, what a place. Light tastes different in every city.
My favorite thing to do in Montreal was just wander.
Montreal is spiral staircases on the outside of homes.
(I love walking up and down these kinds of stairs. It feels like being inside of a seashell.)
…long afternoons in the park, eating fruit and watching the world go by,
… rainbows everywhere,
… and of course, poutine. (Pro tip: poutine tastes best after drinking local beer in the park with a new friend, and will keep you full forever & ever.)
I think I’m falling in love with public spaces / places where people can picnic. Afternoon light. Fists full of blueberries — blue blessings.
Montreal is full of bicycles. Jeremie let me borrow his for the week.
In attending a few performances at Montreal Completement Cirque, I learned that I’m fascinated with flying… maybe because I know it is something my body won’t do.
Is it too late to learn?
Why do I travel?
To see more fully. To be surprised. To search for the blessing that sits just outside of my comfort zone. To begin over and over again.
When I travel to a new place, the days are long. Empty and waiting to be filled.
Before I left the states I bought myself two rings, one for the middle finger on each hand. My left hand is a tree, to remind me to stay grounded:
The right is a feather for flying free. Serendipity.
When I visit a city, there are always layers––the detritus of cities I have been. The shape of houses in Montreal is not unlike DC. The parks that make me breathe deeper remind me of Paris. And anywhere I feel disoriented in language has an odd similarity––I could be in Fiji, or Tuvalu, or Thailand again.
I’m grateful for the sense of dislocation that not knowing a local language can provide. I get lost in the recesses of myself that I didn’t realize were still there.
Montreal, I’ll be back. I want to connect with the Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling (COHDS) this fall, where I have been an affiliate for three years.
… and maybe find some Canadian folks to collaborate with on the audio map in progress.
still one of my favorite signs — spotted in Suva, Fiji, 2014
More soon. Here’s to living the questions.