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Arden Theatre flips for Kalabanté's herculean circus feats

The hyperathletic troupe tumbling through Afrique en Cirque delivers joy and inspiration
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Afrique en Cirque returns to the Arden Theatre on Thursday, March 10, 2022, after a two-year haitus. PETER GRAHAM/Photo

If you love the dynamic athleticism of contemporary circus, chances are you’ve seen Kalabanté Productions in full-blown action. The hyperathletic acrobats — with their feats of strength, balance, and speed — draw roars of disbelief from mesmerized crowds. 

Kalabanté was slated to perform at St. Albert’s Arden Theatre two years ago when the world abruptly locked down. The troupe postponed its visit and now returns Wednesday, March 9, and Thursday, March 10, with Afrique en Cirque, a showstopping symbol of strength, agility, and joie de vivre in African youth. 

Yamoussa Bangoura is the leader of this exuberant cultural experience showcasing 11 core acrobats, dancers, musicians, and tons of personality. Although the company is based in Montreal, Bangoura’s spirit is tied to his roots in Conakry, the capital of Guinea, where he grew up and now operates a long-distance circus school for youth. 

“We talk about the life in Africa, in Guinea. What we want people to see is how Africa used to live and celebrate,” said Bangoura describing the upcoming show as a series of storytelling vignettes. 

To create this spicy African escape from reality, he developed gravity-defying acrobatic stunts, added pulse-pounding drumming, and designed bold ancestral costumes flashing a contemporary twist. 

“We are creating a universe through dance, music, and circus that shows Africa in a different way,” Bangoura added. For him, the high-energy show has always been about “creating a bridge with the public so they feel part of what’s going on.” 

When he started training as an acrobat in the 1990s, there were no circus schools in Conakry. 

“I learned by watching TV in Guinea. There was just one TV in the whole neighbourhood, and for my family, circus was like magic,” said Bangoura, who watched transmissions of European circus spectacles and practiced in the dirt and sand with friends. 

Initially, he studied how the Nyamakala, traditional circus performers in Guinea, created their stunts. Fortune smiled upon Bangoura when Circus Baobob, the first circus company formed in Guinea, selected him for a tour. While touring he rehearsed with the Nyamakala and refined his technique. 

Later the acrobat with a dream to build his own cirque traveled to France and Spain, discovering European circus traditions. Bangoura’s impressive talent was brought to the attention of Montreal’s Cirque Eloize, where he performed for five years before founding Kalabanté in 2006. 

“I was lucky, and I met people who were really good. I learned tumbling and acrobatics from them. And here in Montreal I learned aerial work and juggling.” 

Nowhere is the power of Kalabanté more obvious than in exhibitions of multi-person human pyramids and towers. Bangoura participates in these jaw-dropping feats and his reputation is undiminished.  

However, in the upcoming Arden performance, he adds musician’s skills playing the kora (harp-lute), djembe (goblet-shaped drum), krim (log drum), and dundun (cylindrical drum) — the heart of African dancing. 

“I always wanted to do music and I went back home to study. When I was young, I played, but I was not a professional musician. Here I finally realized how important it is in what we do.” 

COVID has forced the company to downsize, however its high-wattage spirit is brighter than ever. 

“We hope to bring other artists in. It’s great now, but having my old artists back will be even better. Now we want to make everybody happy, and soon we will be on the road.”   

Afrique en Cirque performances start at 7:30 p.m. The Arden Theatre is at 5 St. Anne Street. Tickets are from $22.50 to $45 plus GST and fees. Call the box office at 780-459-1542 or visit 

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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