Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Juggling Meets Hip Hop - Interview with Jorge Petit from Cirque du Soleil

Performer at Cirque du Soleil, Jorge Petit proves circus is as fresh as ever by mixing elements of street culture with juggling. Since graduating from lÉcole de cirque de Québec, Jorge has toured internationally with celebrated companies such as Cirque Éloize and 7 Fingers. In his current contract, he takes his signature juggling style on top of the rink in Cirque du Soleils first ever ice show, Crystal. Jorge reveals in this interview what an average day at circus school was like and how his passion for juggling and hip hop came together.

Originally from Santiago, Chile, Jorge relocated to Canada to attend university at the prestigious École de cirque de Québec. Located in a converted church, this extraordinary school offers three-year degrees to talented and aspiring circus performers. It was there, in its majestic halls that Jorge honed his juggling skills among a cohort of acrobats and contortionists. Jorge said of his experience: The school helped me in many ways. It helped me to organize my training, create an act, get into the market, work my promo material etc. Basically, it taught me how to be a professional performer.

Photo credit: Norbi Whitney

The reality of circus school is not all trampolines and red noses. Consisting of an intensive audition process followed by three years of committed training, attending the school was rigorous and structured. From 9-5 we had different classes where you touch on a bit of everything like theatre, dance (ballet and contemporary), workout, flexibility, direction, make-up and acrobatics, said Jorge. Students devote themselves to a single discipline they are expected to master, which in Jorges case was juggling, at school you have to mainly focus on your discipline with technique class and artistic work. The emphasis on creativity as well as technique is exactly what lead Jorge into new terrain.

Street culture, in particularly hip hop plays a significant role in Jorges unique juggling style, effecting his choreography, music choices and aesthetics. Though for Jorge his passion for hip hop is more than taste in music, Im hip hop, its my lifestyle, he said. Since 97, when I got my first hip hop album, I've been in love with this culture, the music, the dance, the art, the poetry, the fashion, etc.” reminisced Jorge.

Early experiments with movement improvisation allowed Jorge to push his juggling to new places and lead him into the vibrant world of street dance. At some point, trying to find my style in juggling, I started taking street dance classes, said Jorge. It was the style I knew the most and I love hip hop and funk music. Other influences include pioneering jugglers such as Maksim Komaro and Stefan Sing, who Jorge described as super creative and their juggling is super fluid.

Photo credit: Norbi Whitney

Since the sixties, the shift away from traditional animal based circuses has seen a surge in new practices that often draw on other art forms. Juggling has been no exception with influences coming from dance, sculpture and postdramatic theatre. For Jorge, the key difference between juggling in the traditional circus and these emerging styles is the magnitude. I see more vocabulary, more tricks, more people juggling, said Jorge. There is a big community of jugglers, a lot of festivals and conventions. Its a movement nowadays.

Thanks to the internet jugglers from all corners of the globe can share skills and expand their technique. With performers posting videos of their work every day, you see more diversity, more people trying new things and bringing new concepts to the game, noted Jorge. Despite these crossroads with other art forms, Jorge believes one element remains that makes circus distinct. In circus there are tricks, he said, we do tricks to impress people. I think thats the main difference.” 

Photo credit: Norbi Whitney

Jorge's repertoire of tricks and stunts has taken him on various international tours with a list of acclaimed companies including La Luna Cavallera, Cirque Éloize, Haut Vol, 7 Fingers and Devenchi. When asked what the best thing about his job is, Jorge replied simply: I enjoy every moment and I love being on stage, that makes me happy and keeps me motivated to improve myself every day, in many aspects of my life.

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