Monday, August 22, 2011

2011 Halifax International Busker Festival, Part 2 - My Favourite Acts

With over 30 different acts, ranging from mime to acrobatics, and from dance to magic, the EP Reader with a tight schedule might have wondered what would have been the best acts to see? That's a great question, and while I thought all of the performers were great, there were four that really stuck out in my mind as having been "must see!"

1) FlameOz, England

Originally formed in Australia in 2002, FlameOz is a unique entertainment company that blends its awe-inspiring fire show with the energy and flare of the circus. FlameOz won the Metro People's Choice Award two years in a row, in 2009 and 2010, and they were back again this year with two completely new shows (one for the day, and a night time version as well).

(When FlameOz flat-packed its Swedish team-mate, Thomas, in from IKEA, he had to be re-assembled by hand. Unfortunately, the other members put his arms on backwards.)

(The amazing Satya, standing on Ms. Gracie's shoulders, spinning three hoops...)

(... And then tossing all of them on to Dmitri in one shot.)

(Gracie, doing a straddle lever on Satya's back, while Dmitri and Dangerous Dave look on. Oh yeah, and they have flaming torches on their heads too.)

(Dangerous Dave figures he'll have a go, as well, and lifts four people. Thomas' legs are hooked around Dave's waist, and he's sticking up out of the front like a larger version of Kuato from Total Recall.)

(Everyone's favourite FlameOz show is the one they put on at night. They're worth seeing in action, so click here to watch a video clip from the 2009 show.)

(It's a low quality picture, because it's taken from afar, but here you can see Satya and Ms. Gracie spinning flaming hula-hoops of death, during the All-Star show.)

2) ILLMask/ILL-Abilities, All Over.

Consisting of two BBoy teams (break dancing), of seven people total, representing as many different countries, ILLMask/ILL-Abilities was by far the most inspirational show of the festival.

Ill-Abilities was formed by Luca "Lazylegz" Patuelli, to destroy the common misconceptions surrounding people perceived to have a "disability," and to show the world that anything is possible and that when you make no excuses, you have no limits.

(A Thalidomide baby, Sergio David Miranda Carvajal a.k.a "BBoy Checho," was born with severely effected lower limbs. His dance style involves a lot of upper body strength, and he often appears to be "floating" in the air. Here you can see him doing a move called "What Your Man Can't Do." In his home country of Chile, Sergio is a freelance electrician.)

(Living in San Francisco, California, Tommy Ly a.k.a. "BBoy Tommy Guns" was diagnosed at 18 year-old with osteosarcoma - having a malignant bone tumour - in his right knee. He was given the choice between a prosthetic bone implant and amputation. Tommy chose the amputation because it would allow him to continue with high level dance and physical activity.)

(Luca "Lazylegz" Patuelli is a Concordia University (Marketing) graduate from Montreal. Born with arthrogryposis, a condition affecting the bones which causes stiffness of the joints in the body, and in his case causing weak calf muscles. Luca believes any dance move that can be performed on the ground, can be performed on crutches.)

ILLMask is a combination of two separate dance teams, and also includes Luca "Lazylegz" Patuelli. Three of its members came along with Ill-Abililities to Halifax to help with the show.

(Some of the stunts that they performed seemed to defy physics.)

(And some of them just looked painful.)

(Bonus shot: Lazylegz and Checho perform the two-man, two-arm float. They actually perform a stunt later in which both men support each other on just one arm. It sounds difficult and looks even harder.)

3. Lords of Strut, Ireland.

Blending "pop, dance, and entertainment, into circus, acrobatics and comedy," Famous Seamus and Seantastic are the two members of Ireland's "hardest working man band." They provide a high-energy comedy-acrobatics show, that contains equal parts break dancing, contortion, acrobatic ladder and acrobalance (you'll see). Poking fun at celebrity culture, Sean and Seamus definitely put the theatre back in street theatre.

While I borrowed much of that above paragraph from Lords of Strut's official website, I'm being 100% sincere when I say Lords of Strut, more than anything, is perhaps the single greatest health care return on investment ever made by Ireland. This award winning show is supported by the Irish government and provides a nearly non-stop 45 minutes of laughter, mirth and joy.

Since, "laughter is the best medicine," and a University of Maryland study found that people who laugh are 40% less likely to have heart disease, it stands to reason logically that this relatively tiny investment in culture by the Irish government must be saving its country millions of dollars annually in health care costs. The Canadian government is welcome to take notice and make the appropriate changes to its fiscal policy any time now.

(During the show, Sean and Seamus notice a tourist in the audience with a camera and stop to get some free publicity and exposure in the Salem, Massachusetts area...)

(...Then they decide to have their picture taken in "the crazy pose.")

(They do eventually get around to dancing, but Sean has some trouble with his back spin and needs Seamus to come help him.)

(Why is Famous Seamus so mad? Perhaps it's because "you didn't see his brother, Seantastic, lift him up in the air, with one hand, by his ass!")

(Now Seamus is upset because Sean is ruining his "ladder dance" by standing in front of him.)

(Sean gets a solo too, with his "ring piece," which he'll eventually fit his whole body through. This joke works much better in Ireland, as I think there is something lost in translation when it comes across the Atlantic Ocean.)

(Toward the end of every show three unsuspecting men get dragged out of the audience to become part of Lords of Strut's back-up dance team. Together they are called the Strut-a-lites.)

(The finale though, is this stunt. They are the only two-man man band currently performing this move. And yes, that is a man standing on another man of roughly equal weight's head.)

4. Throw2Catch, Montreal

A professional circus group that typically does paid shows on cruise ships or in theatres, last year three of the members, Jean-Philippe, Nicolas and Sam, created a street show they planned to perform three times. They received so many calls after those three performances - from festivals booking their act - that this summer JP, Nico, and Sam, along with their dog "Salto", have driven over 7000 km back and forth across Eastern Canada, in a converted, old mini-school bus, to entertain their adoring fans. "Success!"

(Never ones to take themselves too seriously, Nico holds the "hot hot hot" hoop of fire in one hand, while he taunts JP The Lion to jump through it.)

(In the words of Ringmaster Sam, "Suc-cess!")

(They don't just have a good sense of humour though, the boys also have some serious juggling skills.)

(Here, Nico and Sam juggle the razor sharp swords of death, while JP does a "salto" over seven members of the audience and lands between them.

(Nico performs on the Cyr Ring, that we first saw at the Tattoo. He also seems to be losing his clothes. The woman in the front row, on the right, doesn't seem too upset though.)

(In perhaps the most dangerous part of the routine, JP gets ready to be launched into the air from the Russian Bar and do a double back flip.)

(You didn't believe me, did you? That bar is only 3 inches wide, and believe-it-or-not he's going to come down and land on it safely.)

(Let's face it though, the real reason you all came here is to see JP do a back flip through this burning ring of fire - it's real this time.)

(JP readies himself for certain death, while Nico and Sam prepare to step off the ladder of doom onto the teeter-board of terror.)


Well, EP Readers, I hope you enjoyed this year's EP Review of the 25th Halifax International Busker Festival. Remember though, when you're donating to street performers who have dedicated upwards of 18 years to their craft so that you can be awed and entertained, if you can't buy anything with it, neither can they.

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