A long line of community members of all ages, along with Oswego State students, gathered outside a striped yellow tent for the Vague de Cirque next to the Marano Campus Center from April 15 to April 18.
The audience was ushered into the dimly lit tent with red drapes and twinkling fairy lights around the top. The heated tent was small and intimate, with audience members sitting just feet from the stage.
Vague de Cirque, based in Quebec, has traveled around the world with its troupe of eight and Oswego State hosted them last week.
According to John Shaffer, director of the ARTSwego Performing Arts Series, “These are world-class artists, mostly trained at the National Circus School in Montreal, which also supplies performers for the Cirque du Soleil.”
The tent held 200 audience members and each of the four shows were completely sold out. Shaffer said the highly engaging performances appeal most to college audiences.
“It’s different from their daily life, so mediated by electronic devices, to experience live performance with its immediacy and risks,” Shaffer said.
Junior Austin Joseph said the circus was different from the ones he visited in his home country, Sri Lanka, because it was up close and personal. He appreciated the wide variety of age groups present.
“From small kids and college students to old people and parents, everyone was there,” Joseph said.
Freshman Cadi Hannold volunteered to help with the circus. She took tickets at the door and assisted with seating.
“It was really amazing what they did with such a small space,” Hannold said. “When I saw the stage, I thought there was no way they were going to be able to do the things I heard they were going to do.”
College students were not the only ones enthralled by the performance. Oswego resident Jim Bushey said he follows circuses and makes model circuses. He described the Vague de Cirque as “more off-beat than a traditional circus.”
Bushey said the performers were “incredible athletes” and that the acrobat climbing a rope and performing stunts on it particularly impressed him.
“I’ve seen a lot of rope acts and she’s very, very good,” Bushey said.
Audience participation was encouraged and members obliged while gasping, applauding and standing up to get a better view of performers. The acts included juggling, contortions and even a Stayin’ Alive ‘70s dance number.
The two ringmasters, more like modern clowns, introduced each act with their own comical routine. One cracked raw eggs over herself to the delight of the audience.
During the intermission, some performers came out into the audience to interact with its members, staying in character the whole time. This fit perfectly with the relaxed, down-to-earth atmosphere of the circus.
“The people were really friendly,” Joseph said. “They came out and took photos with us.”
Shaffer attended all four performances and described them as “remarkable.”
“No one was more than six rows from the action,” Shaffer said.
Beatrice, Amelia and Clementine Rastley attended the circus with their mother. Eight-year-old Beatrice said her favorite part of the performance was “when the girl went up on the rope and started doing flips.” Her 5-year-old sister Clementine added that she would be too scared to do the feats she witnessed.
French music played, and typical Quebec humor showed through in the performance, according to Eloise Colson, an exchange student from France.
“They are making fun of themselves,” Colson said of the slapstick humor throughout the show.
There was no fire, large animals or flashy effects at the Vague de Cirque. The circus was more unconventional and focused on the talent of the performers. The troupe danced, jumped and flipped with huge amounts of energy.
After the lights went down on each performance, Oswego State students had opportunities to interact with Vague de Cirque in other ways.
“A French class tried out their conversational skills with a native French speaker from the troupe and theatre students honed their acrobatic skills with coaching by the cast members,” Shaffer said. “Noémie Gervais, founder of Vague de Cirque, shared personal experiences with future arts administrators in the Business of Music class.”
The yellow tent at Oswego State captured the attention of the community, and many are sure to be talking about it and sharing their pictures on Instagram for several weeks. Acording to Shaffer, similar events may come to the college in the future.
“After we’ve caught our breath from this experience, it’s always a possibility,” Shaffer said.