It all started with a backpacking trip. 1984. Jeannot Painchaud left his native Magdalen Islands to see the Tall Ships in Québec City. On the way he stopped in Gaspé where Cirque du Soleil was presenting its first show. This was in June. In September, in Montréal, he discovered the National Circus School. A unique, mysterious, exotic and totally wonderful world. It was love at first sight.
While he worked on getting his diploma, he took up street performance: juggling, unicycling, acrobatic cycling… what better training than being interesting enough to convince passers by to stop, watch and toss a coin into the hat? He continued to perform on the streets for 12 years, even after founding Cirque Éloize.
1992 was a big turning point. He went to Japan with the Cirque du Soleil show Fascination and won a bronze medal at the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain in Paris for an artistic cycling act. A few months after his return to Canada he founded his own circus. In the early years, he performed as an acrobat, juggler and comedian while simultaneously serving as artistic director, but he left the ring for good in 1998 to focus on the development and artistic direction of Éloize and staging performances.
An adventurer at heart, Jeannot believes that risk is the core of every good number. If the spectators hold their breath, you’ve succeeded. But the circus is also poetry, humour, energy and sensitivity. As a pioneer in the modern circus movement, he draws freely from other art forms: dance, classical music, theatre. He also works with designers from other worlds: from Daniele Finzi Pasca (Nomade, Rain, Nebbia) to Dave St Pierre (Cirkopolis) to Alain Francoeur
(Cirque Orchestra) and Jamie Adkins. Multidisciplinarity is a crucial quality for any artist who wants to take part in a Cirque Éloize show.
Jeannot has two passions: the ring and the Magdalen Islands. In 2003, he brought the two together by founding North America’s first circus festival in the place where he grew up. In 2006, he was in charge of the acrobatic numbers at the closing ceremonies for the Olympic Games in Torino, Italy. As the company prepared to celebrate its 20th anniversary, Jeannot Painchaud branched out into other activities. In 2011, he took part in the Big Bang Exhibition at the
Montréal Museum of Fine Arts. The Musée de la Civilisation de Québec asked him to take charge of the artistic direction of its exhibition Paris on Stage, 1889–1914, in summer 2013. Also in 2013, he served on the board of the Montréal Fashion Week.
Cirkopolis, is Cirque Éloize’s ninth original creation, on which Jeannot assumed the role of artistic director along with Dave St Pierre as co director.
In the early 2000s, at barely 30 years of age, Dave St Pierre became one of the world’s most talked about choreographers. But then he has always been precocious. At 5, he already knew he would be a dancer. Despite teachers who didn’t find him especially talented, despite the laughter and sarcasm of the other students at his Saint Jérôme high school. Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly were his idols, and then Michael Jackson, and, closer to home, Louise Lecavalier and Marc Béland from La La La Human Steps.
To emulate them, he joined the extra curricular dance troupe at his CEGEP, where the choreographers were none other than Marie Stéphane Ledoux and Jacques Brochu of Mia Maure Danse. Thanks to them, he discovered Montréal and its performances from all over the world. Lonely at first, he soon discovered there were other people as extravagant and absurd as himself. He moved to the city and enrolled in LADMMI, Montréal’s School of Modern Dance. His teachers either loved him or hated him, but in the end it didn’t matter, because instead of finishing his diploma, he accepted an invitation from Brouhaha Danse. He was all of 19. In the following years, he danced for Jean Pierre Perreault, Harold Rhéaume, Pierre Paul Savoie and Estelle Clareton before leaving on a two year tour of Europe and Québec with the musical comedy Notre Dame de Paris. Upon his return, yearning to get back to modern dance, he joined Daniel Léveillé’s troupe, spending the next few years on Amour, Acide et Noix and Pudeur des Icebergs. But he also wanted to be a choreographer, so in 2003, he created his first show, No Man’s Land Show, presented at Tangente in Montréal. It hit the dance scene like a bolt of thunder. A year later, with Pornographie des Âmes and then Un Peu de Tendresse Bordel de Merde, the first two of a triptych called Sexologie et Autres Utopies Contemporaines, he brought international critics to their knees.
Raw and shameless, radical and provocative, his creations toured the planet, evoking the fragility of the body with naked dancers on stage. In Montréal, his shows were mounted at Tangente, Usine C and Agora de la Danse, as well as the Place des Arts. In Europe, his venues were the Pina Bausch Festival in Düsseldorf, the Munich International Dance Festival, the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris and the Avignon Festival. At the same time, Dave was working on the choreography for several Cirque du Soleil shows and for iD, Cirque Éloize’s last show. He also pursued his personal career with Foudre, the last part of the triptych. Cirkopolis is the first time he has directed a circus performance.