At the corner of imagination and reality: Cirque Eloize acrobats map the way for ‘Cirkopolis’

A city might not be the first thing that comes to mind when one pictures a circus. However, it proved to be the perfect inspiration for Jeannot Painchaud and Cirque Eloize. The Quebec-based circus troupe will bring “Cirkopolis” to Penn State’s Eisenhower Auditorium on Sept. 27, marking the group’s fourth performance in that venue for the Center for the Performing Arts.

Painchaud, the group’s co-founder and artistic director, said “Cirkopolis” was inspired by the films “Metropolis” and “Brazil,” and a trip to North Korea two years ago. His goal was to recreate the struggle one faces trying to find himself in a large, impersonal urban environment and break free from the monotony of everyday life.

Those who have seen the group’s other performances may notice that “Cirkopolis” revolves around one main character, while past performances such as 2011’s “ID” featured an ensemble cast.

“There the main character arriving in the big city trying to contemplate the world around him and searching for humanity in it,” Painchaud said. “Then you laugh and there’s a lot of acrobatics. It’s not a dark show, but we start from that environment in the city.”

“Cirkopolis” was co-commissioned by the Center for the Performing Arts and features circus disciplines including contortion, trapeze, the Cyr wheel, Spanish web and a teeterboard. The performance also incorporates video and other multimedia elements to make the urban environment come to life.

Painchaud founded Cirque Eloize in 1993, when he made the transition from circus performer to show creator. He said he is always looking to push the envelope with acrobatics in his shows, and he often walks the line between keeping the audience on the edge of its seat while making sure his performers stay safe.

“A big part of that balance is achieved through the casting,” Painchaud said. “You need to find artists who have enough energy and passion to explore outside their comfort zones and see where they can go next.”

Painchaud is already thinking about his next performance, but he said it will not be ready for at least a year due to renovations happening at the troupe’s rehearsal space in Montreal.

“I have a couple of different shows in mind, but it will be at least a year and a half before anyone gets to see them,” Painchaud said. “It’s a long wait, but having our home in Montreal completely rebuilt will make it worthwhile.”

An Artistic Viewpoints presentation by “Cirkopolis” tour manager Valerie D’Amours will be held at 6:30 p.m. at the auditorium.