Summer time is circus time in Montreal

Summer time is circus time in Montreal

Summer time is circus time in Montreal

Trampolines and trapezes are out on the asphalt in Montreal, with colorful acrobats twirling near skyscrapers in breathtaking feats.

Spellbound crowds are a July tradition with hundreds of free shows going on in the heart of the Canadian city, which sees itself as a world capital of razzle-dazzle acrobatics.

The high-flying festival, known by the French name "Montreal Completement Cirque," annually draws tens of thousands of spectators.

Stephane Bourhis, a 53-year-old Frenchman, chose Montreal for his vacation precisely for the circus.

"Compared to the circus in France, we feel that here, it's not just for kids," he said, seeming nearly dumbstruck by a trampoline number.

"Here, there are no animals or clowns; it's all about the acrobatics. It's very impressive," he said.

Behind him, acrobats climb on a metal structure shaped like a giant, which serves as their playground.

In the distance, a space between the skyscrapers gives a glimpse of Mount-Royal, the green hill that overlooks downtown Montreal.

The festival, now in its 14th year and mostly financed by public funds, brings together more than 250 artists.

"It's just so, so grand here, between the buildings," said Marie-Christine Fournier, a trapeze artist. "Who has the chance to do acrobatics in the middle of downtown, a big city like Montreal? It's really special!"

Louis-David Simoneau, a trapeze artist more accustomed to working under the big top, has had to adjust to performing in the open air before an audience made up largely of passersby. "You have to adapt to a lot of conditions, whether it's heat, humidity, sun, wind, flies, passing birds," said Simoneau, adding that Montreal considers itself "the cradle of contemporary circus."

The Canadian city is best known in the circus industry as home to the Cirque du Soleil, one of the largest circus companies in the world. But in the wake of this wildly successful street festival, Montreal has seen the birth of many smaller troupes, which often create their shows in Quebec before touring internationally.

This summer, festival organizers hope to reach 500,000 spectators before the show's final performances on July 16.