Categories: Entertainment

Acrobats with a mission

Kalabanté Productions makes its debut at the International Children's Festival of the Arts from May 31 to June 4.

There is something truly inspirational about Kalabanté Productions and the generous African artists that help make Afrique en Cirque a must-see show.

It’s more than just a show with spectacular energy that symbolizes Africa’s strength, agility and love of life. It’s more than the sound of drums and strings creating fiery rhythms as tumblers build human towers and dancers dressed in traditional costumes dance to the pulsating beats.

It’s more than that, much more than that.

Kalabanté is a made-in-Quebec show that supports a circus school built near Conakry, the capital of Guinea in West Africa.

Artistic director Yamoussa Bangoura with a group of friends created the acrobatic troupe as a humanitarian project in 2007.

“I wanted to do something with my culture. I wanted to expose people to my African culture. And when I was out of my country, I wanted to help my people,” said Bangoura in a telephone interview during a practice break.

At the time, he had been training and touring with Montreal-based Cirque Eloize since 2002.

A multi-disciplinary artist, acrobat, dancer and musician, Bangoura grew up in Guinea where he was part of the Conakry-based Circus Baobab of young athletes.

Although Guinea has rich resources, it is one of the poorest in West Africa. World Bank data states the 2013 average yearly income per person is $309, one of the lowest in the entire continent.

Poverty is a huge issue in Guinea and few people in the country’s agriculturally based economy have access to schooling that broadens individuals’ skills.

Bangoura explained that when he started learning the circus arts, he primarily practiced in an empty room. Using the empty space to their advantage, the cadre of Baobab’s energetic young athletes practiced acrobatics and tumbling. They developed extraordinary flexibility, stamina, balance and co-ordination to create breathtaking routines.

“I am trying to give people a chance. I remember how I started and all the difficulties I had to pass through. I want the younger generation to avoid all the difficulties,” Bangoura said.

KalabantĂ© rents a venue furnished with the basics of juggling equipment, silks and a few mats. From Canada’s KalabantĂ© troupe’s profits, Bangoura funds free training for Guinean students and pays teachers’ wages, meals and transportation.

“We have asked the (Guinean) government for support. We asked for five years. But we are not getting what we want.”

Despite the government’s disinterest, KalabantĂ© continues to press on with determination, smiles and sold-out shows.

Nine troupe members – acrobats, dancers, contortionists and musicians – will perform at the International Children’s Festival of the Arts from May 31 to June 4.

Afrique en Cirque is a rich story about a man who comes to a village and steals the villagers’ dreams. To protect the village, all the acrobats go on a journey to find the thief.

“Everybody everywhere has a dream. When dreams are stolen, people get lost. People are sad.”

KalabantĂ©’s last foray into the capital region was a performance at Kaleido Family Arts Festival.


Afrique en Cirque
Kalabanté Productions
International Children’s Festival of the Arts
May 31 to June 4
Arden Theatre
5 St. Anne Street
Tickets: $11 Call 780-459-1542 or at ticketmaster.ca or at Arden box office

Anna Borowiecki: Anna Borowiecki joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2000. She reports on local people and events in the arts, entertainment and food industry. She also writes general news and features.

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