Many folks in Arviat were captivated by a world of performance art, skill and fantasy when the Iglulik-based Artcirq paid a visit to the community earlier this month.

Haley Pameolik bravely climbs up onto the hands of Guillaume Saladin during Artcirq’s visit to Arviat earlier this month. photo courtesy of Gord Billard

John Arnalukjuak High School drama teacher Gord Billard helped organize and facilitate the troupe’s visit.

The performers arrived in Arviat on Oct. 2 and spent five days in the community before making a brief visit to Rankin Inlet on their way back to Iglulik.

Billard said Artcirq incorporated tricks and routines taught during workshops into their final show.

He said it was impressive to see what the 30 students had learned from the performers in a relatively short period of time.

“When it was time for the final show, they had all the students perform who had taken part in the workshops and practiced certain movements and acrobatics in their own little groups,” said Billard. “The students actually took up about half the Artcirq show on Oct. 5.”

“The other half of the show featured Guillaume Saladin, Gisle Henriet, Patrick Leonard and Terry Uyaruak performing more sophisticated acrobatics, juggling and comedy type acts.”

Billard said Leonard was a big hit with the crowd, especially for his contortion act using a chair standing on bottles.

“It’s an amazing feat of Patrick knowing exactly where his centre of gravity is,” he said. “It was quite impressive to watch.”

Artcirq’s approach shares similarities with the methodology used by the Missoula Children’s Theatre. The main difference being students can concentrate wholly on movement and not worry about things like dialogue and script work.

Billard said Artcirq’s work with the students was slickly done; having only two days of workshops to prepare them to perform in the main show.

The workshop had a cap of 20 students.

“We had about 40 turn out for the first workshop,” said Billard, “so Guillaume told everyone who really wanted to be involved to come back the following day, but, he also made a point of saying anyone in the group who didn’t want to be part of the show and perform in front of people shouldn’t come back.

“A number of them didn’t want to perform in front of a big audience and turned and walked away, but enough said that’s why they were there that he still had more take part than he expected.

Billard said some kids he didn’t expect got involved. He said a few athletic kids took part who never get involved with drama in school.

“Our principal, Romeo Fournier, said it was interesting to see which kids it attracted because it’s in that gray area between artsy drama productions and athletic sports activities,” he said.

“I found that to be an interesting comment because I’ve often wondered where is that magical crossover point between art and sport where both can coexist?”

Billard said the crowd for the final show was phenomenal.

He said it was sad to have to turn people away, but the theatre was packed to standing room only.

“It got to the point where all the seats were filled and they were watching two or three rows deep upstairs,” he said.

“The audience just loved the show, with lots of applause and reaction, so it was a huge success.”

“Guillaume’s passion and love for what he does shows and the kids see that and get into it too, so that the feeling trickles down and they do their little performance with pride.”

Artcirq’s Kivalliq visit was sponsored by the Canada Council for the Arts and First Air.

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