International circus festival brings St. John’s under the big top

The circus world’s finest coming to the rock for a weekend of entertainment, laughs and more

Wonderbolt Productions artistic director, Beni Malone, is ready for the St. John’s International Circus Festival to begin. He hopes it will bring growth and recognition to the circus community.  Alex Kennedy/Kicker

Alex Kennedy

From Sept. 27-30, St. John’s will showcase the best circus it has to offer, as the International Circus Festival kicks off.

Over four days, circus acts from across Canada and Europe will take the stage at the LSPU Hall and the Arts and Culture Centre in St. John’s. The jam-packed schedule includes panels, over 20 workshops and four shows.

Beni Malone, artistic director of Wonderbolt Productions and one of the festival’s organizers, has been in the circus business for over three decades. He hopes this festival will be able to kick-start circus attractions across the country.

“Circus (shows) in Canada (are) really concentrated in Montreal and Quebec … and we really wanted to expand into across Canada and have people share their experiences,” said Malone “The circus community in Canada was really ready for this. A lot of people are excited about coming here.”

The circus has been part of Malone’s life for over 30 years. Before creating Wonderbolt circus back in 1982, it was a clown car company. Over three decades, he has seen the industry grow immensely.

“It’s certainly grown in this province. Now, you see circus acts and a lot of entertainment in shows and festivals; aerial work and things like that. You see unicycles going down the street and jugglers in Bannerman Park.”

Malone has also seen the definition of the circus change during his time.

“When people think of modern, contemporary circus, it’s human feats of skill rather than animals [and clowns]. It’s more atmospheric, sometimes with a story line or abstract themes.”

One performer who demonstrates those human feats of skill is Abby LeDrew. Originally from this province, she trains in both aerial and floor work gymnastics in Montreal. She has returned home to help with the festival and notes the benefits it could have on performers in this province.

“It’s a great way to network with people and grow the circus community… It’s [also] good for Newfoundlander’s to be exposed to (the) circus, and the level of these performers.”

“Hopefully, you’re not out of touch, your audience will tell you.”

Like most things that have been around since the 1700s, the circus is constantly changing form and has

The Ringling Brothers pioneered the circus back in 1882. Alex Kennedy/Kicker

had to adapt to a newer audience over the years. Malone says the circus has had to make changes, but the goal of performing has always been the same.

“You’ve got to try to keep creating what you think is interesting and entertaining and relevant; and what you’re passionate about. Otherwise, no one is going to be interested.”

Malone notes his environment can also be a sense of inspiration for him and Wonderbolt Productions.

“We just follow our passions. You kind of got to soak in the influences that are around you, and broadcast what you want to do. Hopefully, you’re not out of touch, your audience will tell you.”

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