I’m wondering. Is it okay to say ‘break a leg’ to a circus performer?
Next weekend Harbourfront is presenting Circus Sessions. It’s being touted as a female-centric circus, as all but two of the performers are women. They are, of course, the two I interviewed.
Toronto audiences probably already know Yury Ruzhyev. In 2014, Yury’s theatre company produced Komunka, a play about gay rights in Russia and the following year they produced In The Dark, an exploration of personal taboos and sexual liberties. I saw his one-man show back in 2008, in which he impersonated dozens of celebrities, his quick-change outfits and dead-on mimicry bringing the crowd to its feet. “I never did drag,” he clarifies, though lots of his impersonations were of famous women.
Lately, Yury has been training in acrobatics and clown, specifically in aeriel hoops. “The hoop is so stable and round, like holding on to a man, versus the silks, which are very deceiving,” he explains. He has also trained in juggling and magic, recently performing a trick for Mayor John Tory. As much as Yury loves it, not every clown school is right for him. “I was kicked out of one clown school for attitude,” he told me. “I couldn’t help it, I had my Russian face on.” He has no such qualms with Circus Sessions. “I’m the right guy to be doing a female circus act,” he jokes. Yury is also planning his Pride week spectacular, two shows at the Rivoli on June 30, and then it’s off to Dallas, Chicago, and Paris for more shows and training.
The other guy in Circus Sessions is Roy Gomez, who is working on a PhD in circus performing at Western, having completed a Master's Degree in Guadalajara, Mexico with a dissertation about Cirque du Soleil. “I do rope tricks and ground acrobatics. I started practicing as a way for me to understand it better, what it means to be an acrobat.”
Roy explained how circus has changed in the last 40 years, first with the elimination of animal acts, then with the development of themes and storylines, and finally, by incorporating other disciplines. “Circus performers began integrating choreography, as well as things like parkour, break dancing, and capoeira. It’s about the body doing extraordinary things, part of our new fitness culture.”
Circus Sessions will likewise grow from experimentation. The company will work with a mentor to create the entire show this week, culminating in two exciting performances. I for one look forward to the spectacle. But I’m still not sure whether or not it is appropriate to say ‘break a leg’.
CIRCUS SESSIONS 2016 at the Harbourfront Centre Theatre, Friday, May 20 & Saturday, May 21 at 8pm. Tickets: $20 Regular / $15 Students, Seniors, Arts Workers