July 2–12, 2019


This interdisciplinary seminar will provide an opportunity to learn, explore and refine research methods in the performing arts with a focus on contemporary circus and physical theatre. We will have discussions of form and discipline, method, hybridity, writing the body, writing from place, strategies and choices and working with or as performers, and developing the tools to discuss the creative process.

The seminar will be constructed on the principle of experiential learning and self-reflexivity concerning the creative process. The seminar will run all day, every weekday. Evenings, students will be encouraged to attend performances of Montréal Complètement cirque in order to discuss the work with the group the next day.


This is a graduate seminar that has also been opened to professional performing arts practitioners wishing to explore the junction of academic and artistic pursuits. Participants have a variety of experiences, both artistic and intellectual, for the most part they have experience in circus, theatre, music, video art or dance. Given the diversity of experiences and academic background, we’ll encourage an environment of debate and discussion but also of respect. Students will be expected to attend all morning and afternoon lectures and many of the evening performances being held during the concurrent Montreal Complètement Cirque Festival, as well as contributing to a circus blog and presenting an experiential research project.

Course Objectives:

  • to offer a space for sustained discussion on research-creation, practice-as-research and experiential modes of research into the performing arts
  • to explore together successful and more challenging examples of such research design, implementation and dissemination
  • to share experiences, expertise and insights into a variety of international and interdisciplinary practices; to encourage research-action and to create an environment that fosters embedded research and creation
  • to offer an opportunity to articulate a research-creation project or, for students already engaged in a project, to further develop or probe into the complexities of an existing project
  • to create an environment of intellectual and artistic exchange and possibilities that will run alongside a major festival and hopefully contribute further projects and exchanges.

Public Events:

Les Saltimbanques du social

Thursday, July 4th 1:00 – 2:00pm : 4th Space

Les Saltimbanques du social (performance/conference) with Prof. Jacinthe Rivard (Université de Montréal) and performers from Cirque Hors Piste.

An innovative meeting between four youth participants of the Collective Creations axis of Cirque Hors Piste and the researcher who studied them. This performance/conference involving the participants and the scholar seeks to touch both the intellectual and the emotional responses to meaning-making in society. Social circus as a practice for art for social change will be explored in the presentation and the subsequent discussion.

Note: This presentation will take place in French with English interpretation.

Free but registration is required. Click here to register.

Contemporary Juggling Pioneer Sean Gandini: On his creative process

Friday, July 5th 11:00am – 12:00pm: 4th Space

Sean Gandini (Gandini Juggling, UK) talk on his creative process, his company, his approach. Sean Gandini is one of the pioneers of contemporary juggling. Working as a performer, choreographer and director, he has pushed the boundaries of juggling as a discipline and as an art form for over 25 years. Growing-up in Havana, Cuba, Sean was fascinated by magic and mathematics, but at the age of 16 he began juggling, prompting a life-long fascination with all aspects of the art form. Sean’s professional career began in the 1980s, regularly performing in London’s famous Covent Garden and touring with various theatre companies – including the pioneering Ra-Ra Zoo. In 1991, with Kati Ylä-Hokkala, he co-founded Gandini Juggling and together they have been at the forefront of experiments into what juggling is and what juggling can be. This has led to the creation to a diverse array of shows, including the playful Sweet Life; the fiendishly complex celebration of the London Olympics Twenty/Twenty; and their smash hit, the darkly humorous and theatrical homage to Pina Bausch Smashed. 

Free but registration is required. Click here to register.

Yaron Lifschitz on Ensemble Work in the Performing Arts

Monday, July 8th 1:00 – 2:30pm: 4th Space

Yaron Lifschitz is Artistic Director and CEO of Circa, the Brisbane, Australia-based Contemporary Circus company. Lifschitz has created more than thirty works for Circa and these have been performed in 40 countries, and have been seen by over one million people. His work for Circa has received numerous awards including six Helpmann Awards in Australia. Since graduating from the Graduate Director’s Course at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts (NIDA) in Sydney, Lifschitz has directed over 60 productions including large-scale events, opera, theatre, physical theatre, and circus. His productions have been presented at major festivals and venues around the world. Recent shows created for Circa include Il Ritorno  (2015), Reclaimed Pianos (2016), Humans  (2017), En Masse  (2018), Circa’s Peepshow  (2018), and Wolfgang’s Magical Musical Circus (2018).

Free but registration is required. Click here to registration.

Interdisciplinary Concepts & Collaborations in Contemporary Circus

Wednesday, July 10th 10:00am – 12:00pm: EV 1-615 – this event will also be lived streamed in 4th Space

Co-presented by MICC (Montréal Complètement Cirque) and Concordia University

Three works featured in this year’s Festival consciously traverse the boundaries between contemporary circus and other arts disciplines, from dance to visual art. Circus has always been a container for many art forms within itself—yet the circus world often operates independently of other art worlds. Confirmed panelists Samuel Tétrault of the 7 Fingers, director of Festival headliner Bosch Dreams, and pioneering interdisciplinarian and Artistic Director of Circa Yaron Lifschitz, and Brigtte Poupart, experimental theatre director who has also worked with Cirque du Soleil, contemplate the porousness of the discipline in present and future practice. Facilitated by Patrick Leroux.

Meet the Participants

Wednesday, July 10th 2:00 – 3:30pm: 4th Space

Meet the seminar participants and exchange with them on what it is to write with/on/about/at the contemporary circus.

Talk by Cirque du Soleil’s Boris Verkhovsky and Concordia “circademic” Joe Culpepper

Wednesday, July 10th 3:30 – 4:30pm: 4th Space

Material Creativity, from the conception to its realization: Boris Verkhovsky (Director, Design and Performance Development, Cirque du Soleil) and Joe Culpepper (MITACS Elevate postdoctoral fellow at Concordia University and Cirque du Soleil)

Free but registration is required for this event. Click here to register.

For more information about all of the public events connected to this seminar and information about other events coming up at 4th Space, visit the 4th Space website.