Performing Arts

‘Cirkopolis’ brings taste of ‘Brazil’ and ‘Metropolis’ to Miami

Office drones find fantastical ways of getting through the boring workday in Cirque Éloize’s ‘Cirkopolis.’
Office drones find fantastical ways of getting through the boring workday in Cirque Éloize’s ‘Cirkopolis.’ Cirque Éloize

Timothy Fyffe was like so many other kids on a hot summer day.

One of the acrobatic stars of Cirkopolis, the Arsht Center for the Performing Arts’ big summer show that opens its month-long run July 8, Fyffe remembers turning on the sprinklers in his back yard and pushing the nozzle under the trampoline at his family home in Melbourne, Australia. The spray, directed up and through the netting at his feet, felt so good in the blazing heat.

Dangerous? Sure. But irresistible — and good training for what was to come.

“When I was about 8, my parents bought a trampoline, and I spent hours jumping around. Fell off a few times. My mom was worried and would have to find something to control my technique,” Fyffe, 26, said on the phone while in rehearsal in Montreal.

Fyffe’s family found a local circus school for him. At 15, his focus was almost entirely on training. Soon, he was studying the craft at the prestigious École nationale de cirque in Montreal. He realized he could make a living soaring, twisting and leaping on stages the world over as a member of Cirque Éloize, the Montreal-based circus troupe founded in 1993 that is presenting Cirkopolis. Cirque Éloize previously staged the urban hit iD at the Arsht in 2011 and 2015.

Cirkopolis, which has toured for four years, takes its inspiration visually and thematically from the movies of Fritz Lang (Metropolis), Terry Gilliam (Brazil), Art Deco architecture and 1950s noir. The presentation, utilizing video projections, unfolds on a cold, gray world — a modern office building in a nameless city. The room is populated by desk-bound worker drones who manage soul crushing tasks day in and day out.

Fyffe, who will make his debut in Cirkopolis with the Miami shows, realizes how lucky he was to avoid that grind. The creative circus life offered by Cirque Éloize gave the agile athlete an out. “The idea of the story is a main character representing the modern-day worker and how constrained it’s like in the 9-to-5 routine,” he says. “As the show goes on, he expresses his desire to escape this.”

His character and others find release through bursts of color via large projections. The welcome color entices the eyes away from all that gray. The contrast is meant to elate. Contortionists, hand-to-hand acrobats and jugglers leap from file cabinets, vault “coworkers” into the air and seesaw around the room — activities that would get you fired in the average office, but on stage are designed to elicit audience appreciation.

Amid all the movement, the cast of 12 find themselves on various contraptions like a large, rotating Cyr wheel, trapeze, ropes and straps, plus Chinese poles and teeterboards.

To achieve the effect and action, Cirkopolis called on the talents of artistic director and co-director Jeannot Painchaud. The Montreal native got his start 30 years ago as a street performer. He worked for Cirque du Soleil in 1992 and a year later landed at Cirque Éloize. One challenge he faced in the non-verbal, non-linear storytelling of Cirkopolis was “to find the right balance between acrobatics and poetry, theatricality.”

Another challenge is that Cirque shows have played before millions and demand constant reinvention to keep the seats filled for every new tour.

“It’s a great pleasure, but also a great challenge trying to reinvent yourself every time,” he says. “It’s not always easy.”

But helping Painchaud are advancements in technology and the quality of training at schools like École nationale de cirque. The skill sets of performer and technician have improved from 20 years ago, Painchaud says, making his job a bit more manageable.

One new feat he’s proud of offers a female contortionist who maneuvers from one end of the stage to the other without ever touching the floor.

“I have the vision first and [co-director/choreographer Dave St-Pierre] completes the vision. [We] find new ways of moving on stage,” Painchaud says.

Rehearsals for shows like Cirkopolis can run 10 hours a day, six days a week, but the high-flying Fyffe says the work is fun anyway. “At times it can be tough, but for the most part it’s really fantastic, like a family.”

He’s ready for his Miami adventure.

“When I was young and would see a circus show there was that feeling of sitting on the edge of your seat,” Fyffe says. “If I can create that sensation for someone else, and they can walk out of the theater and feel they have more energy, that’s pretty rewarding.”

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If you go

What: Cirque Éloize’s ‘Cirkopolis’

When: Preview 8 p.m. Thursday. Runs 8 p.m. July 8 through July 31. Show times are 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday, with 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday matinee shows

Where: Ziff Ballet Opera House at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami

Tickets: $49, $69, $89

Information: 305-949-6722 or www.arshtcenter.org

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