By Brandon Gillet
A performance by contortionist and Faculty of Arts student Élodie Paquin at a talent show for the uOttawa United Way Campaign in November 2015 has led to her first paid gig.
“After I did the United Way show, I was recruited by Orbital Talent,” says Paquin. “So now I’ll get opportunities through them to perform for money.”
Orbital Talent is a local agency that also represents uOttawa Theatre Department technical director and professor, Jonathan Lockhart. Lockhart and Orbital Talent CEO, Brian Wilson, make up the performing duo the Cowguys.
“I was also involved with the talent show in November. I was performing a juggling comedy routine, and when I saw Élodie perform I thought that she was very talented,” says Lockhart. “Contortionists are hard to find. I told her to email me after the show and then put her in touch with my friend over at Orbital Talent, Brian Wilson, another uOttawa grad.”
Paquin also performed a free show on campus on the first floor of the Desmarais Building on February 3 and 4 during the Festival of Flavours, held as part of the recent International Week celebrations.
Paquin explains that contortionism is more than just a circus act. She trains regularly and does strength training and stretches to keep herself in shape.
“It is a circus act but it’s artistic as well,” says Paquin. “It’s not just showing up and doing tricks. It’s a performance and there is music and dance. You’re essentially playing a character, so you can engage and make it interesting for the audience.”
Paquin has practised gymnastics since she was six years old. However, she attended a Cirque du Soleil performance when she was 11 and found herself spellbound by the contortion performance.
“When we got back to the hotel room, I wanted to try a few of the tricks I had seen and realized I could do them,” says Paquin, adding that she has always been naturally flexible. Her training in gymnastics has helped too.
When she was in Grade 8, Paquin made two appearances on the French television program, Zéro à 1000$, L'échelle du talent. “I won first place, so they called me back to compete on an all-star episode and I won that as well,” she says.
For three summers while still in high school, Paquin completed formal training at Montreal’s National Circus School. She had hoped to apply to the school’s postsecondary program, but an injury that required knee surgery last year has put that plan on hold.
“I still like to think it’s something I could do one day,” says Paquin. “But we’ll see.”