One of the CircusWests’ greatest assets is the experience and expertise of our coaching staff. Senior Coach Sylvain Drolet has performed around the world as an acrobat and clown. We sat down with him to ask about his experience as a performer, what is was like to transition from performer to coach and the state of Circus on the West Coast compared to the rest of Canada and the World. Read on to learn more about Sylvain and his journey to CircusWest!
- When and how did you get started in Circus Arts?
Sylvain: I was 10 years old when I started in gymnastics and I started circus at 15 years old. It was my parent’s decision in the beginning to put me in gymnastics to find something for me to do, then my gymnastics coach called me one day and we made a street show together. That ‘s how I was introduced to circus, on the street.
- Sylvain, as we all know, you are originally from Quebec, a province famous for its art and performing arts scene. What made you decide to eventually to settle in Vancouver?
Sylvain: Girlfriend (laugh*) but I fell in love with the city too. I love it here. I moved here about 15 years ago. I’m not with her anymore. (laugh*)
- What do you find different between the Montreal and Vancouver Circus Scene?
Sylvain: In general, Circus in Montreal, the community is very big compared to Vancouver. Over here, it’s pretty small but It’s growing, very slowly but it’s growing. If I think about it 15 years ago, it’s grown quite a bit. I feel it’s the west coast culture. It’s outdoors here. People want to go outdoors.
- How long have you been coaching at CircusWest?
Sylvain: 12 years, maybe even a little bit more. I came when we moved into [the Garden Auditorium].
- What was the thing that attracted you about CircusWest?
Sylvain: The team here. Good people, good energy. It’s a very friendly place.
- What would you consider to be the best part about coaching at CircusWest?
Sylvain: The kids when they are successful and you see that they start to enjoy the program. It also brings back a little bit of nostalgia sometimes.
- What kind of performances do you do now?
Sylvain: Mostly stage shows. I don’t do street performances as much anymore. Most of the time, I’m part of the building process for the shows here at CircusWest as well.
- What projects did you do before joining CircusWest?
Sylvain: Oh many things, but mostly National Circus School and Cirque Éloise, where I was part of a group called “Trio des Iles” for a while. There was another company called “Carte de l’Aubergine” where I did clowning for a couple years. We did touring mostly, going around the United States, Europe, and Asia.
- I heard that you also performed in Japan for a period of time. Can you describe what that experience was like for you and how is circus in Japan similar and different in Canada and North America?
Sylvain: Yea that was actually my first gig with Cirque Éloise. The experience was amazing; it’s like a new world. First time I travelled; it’s pretty far too. It was a lot of fun. Japan was unreal, definitely a culture shock.
- What would you consider different between the circus scenes in all the places that you have travelled to? The United States, Europe, Asia? How would you compare them to the circus scene in Canada?
Sylvain: It depends. It’s difficult to say but there are definitely some differences. In North American, circuses tend to be more artistic like Walt Disney and Cirque du Soleil. In Asia, I felt the circus scene over there focused more on the technicalities and the big skills, the art of the skills, not as artistic as the North American ones. In Europe, it’s wild. They have everything. From traditional to very modern creative circus, it’s been part of the history over there for so long. Over there, it’s an art. Over here in British Columbia, Circus is still not considered as its own art form [Editor’s Note: Circus has recently been recognized as an art form by the Canada Council for the Arts]. Some people classify it as theatre, others classify it as gymnastics. In Europe, if you are a Circus Artist, you are a Circus Artist. But then again, Vancouver is pretty young so we’ll get there. People’s perspective will change eventually.
- What experiences were you able to transfer from your performing career that helped you transition into a Senior Coaching Position at CircusWest?
Sylvain: Just the whole experience. I feel making mistakes along the way and learning from them, meeting different people and learning on the job. You learn as you go. I learned a lot at the National Circus School, but I learned way more when I was touring and performing.
- Why do you think that people kids, teens, adults should get involved in Circus Arts and CircusWest?
Sylvain: The main thing I feel is that it helps a person build self-confidence. In Circus, there is so many things that you can do, there is always something for everybody. It doesn’t matter what body type you have or what skills you have, there will be a role for that person. It’s a very inclusive activity and you can expect to contribute at all times. At the end of the day, you will feel so proud of yourself.