Can't Stop the Big Top
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Can’t Stop the Big Top

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The circuses of today feature less slapstick and more spectacle (think: Cirque), taking audiences from peanut-strewn mall parking lots to cushy Vegas theatres. But this weekend’s Toronto International Circus Festival, which kicks off Harbourfront Centre’s annual roster of awesome summer fun, is the best of both worlds: accessible (it’s free) and theatrical.
Fire eaters, aerial artists, hybrid Parkour/martial art/hip hop stunt men, and a couple of those dudes who ride around on tiny motorcycles will be performing in the Big Top and on the event’s three stages. For scowling hipsters, there’s a one-man vaudeville show that tags itself as “hiplarious,” and if it’s been your lifelong dream to learn how to juggle (balls, not dates), you can do so in one of many hands-on sessions.
Since comedy is part of the circus tradition, we wouldn’t recommend TICF if you’ve got a severe case of Coulrophobia—although contemporary circus acts are more high brow, merging comedy and stunt work, than the borderline-creepy, flower-squirting clowns of birthday parties past.
Saying that it’s an event for kids would break the hearts of our inner, perpetually excited six-year-old selves. Still, we hope we’re not kicked out of the balloon animal workshop.
The Toronto International Circus Festival runs 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily from May 17 to May 19 at Harbourfront Centre. Admission is free.
Photo courtesy of the Toronto International Circus Festival.

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