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Cirque de Poulet – a circus marvel coming to Caledon

May 19, 2022   ·   0 Comments

By Constance Scrafield

“We’re bringing a different act bouncing around the theme of a chicken, like juggling chickens (no real animals),” this remarkable statement came from Natalie Parkinson Dubley.

Co-owner of Hercinia Arts Collective with her friend and performance partner, Emily Hughes, they are bringing their “Circus Cabaret Show Cirque de Poulet” to Caledon for a single show on Sunday, May 29. It will be online to see virtually from Friday, June 17 until July 1.

Audiences are promised that the show, will be “a variety of acts including aerial acrobatics, physical comedy, juggling, stilt dance, burlesque and more!”

This remount of a spectacular show for its 10th anniversary the Cirque de Poulet will be staged at the beautiful Cambium Farms near Alton at 18333 Winston Churchill Blvd. 

Ms. Dubley told the Citizen, “Essentially, I co-direct with Emily Hughes; we create different events and this one is live and going out virtually later. For this event, we just looked up a farm where we could perform. We enjoy using spaces that are open and large. We called around and looked for a great venue.”

Natalie Dubley and Emily Hughes opened their Hercinia business in Toronto in 2009. Theirs is a non-profit performance company. All the money goes back into the show and to pay the artists.

“The shows are a combination of our experiences,” said Ms. Dubley.”From busker festivals, training, gymnastics.”
For finding the right talent to include in their shows, she explained, “We meet people over the course of where we are, through friends of friends. A lot of the time, we’re on tours.”

The tours have taken them as far afield as Dubai and Berlin. There have been lots of interesting adventures and meetings.

“We do all that’s needed to support and organize the shows and we also perform, produce. We have gargoyle characters and fish,” she encouraged readers to envision the scene. “Basically, we roam and entertain.”

Touring demands simplicity. For equipment, they need “just us, costumes and make-up. If we’re doing aerial acts, we need to take our rig. We’ll have our 20ft areal rig set up in the barn at Cambium. We want to make sure safety comes first so this is a steel structure but it still fits in the back of my Subaru,” Ms. Dubley commented. “As long as we have power, we can make it happen.” 
They love to do weddings and other special events.

Like so many other performers, they had the show mounted before Covid in Toronto but couldn’t produce it.

To bring it now in Caledon, Ms. Dubley wanted to apply to the Ontario Arts Council and “they gave us a grant for it.”

Natalie Parkinson Dubley has taught at local studios in Bolton and Orangeville and she wanted to come back to the old neighbourhood. Here they are back home with a lot of fun memories in Caledon. Ms. Dubley and her partner have different connections in different areas and they wanted to start off back in Caledon. This show can be pitched for different events but it requires money.

“The Ontario Arts Council gave us this opportunity,” she told us. “They are what made this happen.”

During Covid, many of them are artists, teaching circus, looking for other grant options. Ms. Dubley moved up to North Bay for a while to work remotely as a benefit advisor. Most of them are doing full time teaching, lots of training for lots of hours.

They can do shows indoors or manage whatever is needed by way of rigging, bring ground performers – a small but versatile mobile circus.

“It’s a lot of fun and always different and always an adventure,” we were assured. They have a list of festivals they want to apply for and they would love to travel across Canada.

“A lot of festivals did some things on line. You can make shows accessible for those who can only go online,” she said.

Wanting everyone to come to the Cirque de Poulet, Cambium Farm is wheel chair accessible; they offer sliding scale ticket prices; people needing a little help with the tickets prices can be accommodated.

For the long run, the two of them are aiming to provide the arts for communities that don’t get to see such circus entertainment. They want to diversify; go to different communities and rural communities.

“We’re applying for grants in the future to travel across Canada, still sharing the fun of circuses, sometimes in busker festivals. Then there are no tickets just how the people believe what you’re worth. We put a bucket out; generally speaking, people tip. It’s also humbling. You have to be sure you offer what you have to make people smile.”

Going to a Cirque de Soleil as a young girl was the beginning for Ms. Dubley. She wondered if she could do that and she joined a company, where she and Emily met in a martial arts gym. They decided that they could do their own show. 

The Hercinia is a dramatic Firebird. It flies as they fly and its glowing wings light the way for travellers. Emily Hughes designed the company logo.

On the rig, there is lots of spinning and lots of falling, falling in half. “You can always produce different effects – just chose the right apparatuses.”

Advice to the young performers in training is to keep really well hydrated and the “super key” is the snacks during the day, which should be small but nutritious.

“At the end of the day,” Ms. Dubley admitted, “I eat nonstop.”

On Sunday May 29, the doors for the live Cirque de Poulet at Cambium Farm open at 6:30 pm. for the pre-show entertainment, the food truck and bar.

The virtual show is not live yet but as soon as they post on June 17, tickets are available anytime until June 30. The suggested donation is $10 to $30.

“It’s something I love so I see myself always doing it,” said Ms. Dubley looking into the future. “But I love teaching too. Jazz, Acro.”

She was involved with Anne Marie Dance Academy in Orangeville, grew up dancing competitively. She was admitted into Mayfield Secondary School for dance, telling us, “My parents drove until I finally got a car. I was in dance shows, at the studio five, six days a week.” 

Reflectively, “All the times we’re doing this and sometimes we look back and think ‘I’m really doing it…’”

The moment when: “I was at York University for dance. Classes were cancelled over a professors’ strike. I thought I can wait and stay or open Hercinia with Emily; made myself take a decision. Now, after Covid, we’ll see if we can make a comeback and get into a studio space.”

For all the information and to purchase tickets go //

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