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Bringing circus – and new hope – to a remote Arctic village

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Then he turned his attention to Artcirq, the Arctic circus he’d helped launch seven years earlier. Artcirq is a unique artistic hybrid, a collective of young performers who blend techniques of modern circus with elements of Inuit culture, such as throat singing, music, drum dancing, and juggling. In a short time it’s gone from amateurs balancing shakily on homemade teeterboards to proficient jugglers and acrobats who balance atop each other’s shoulders, perform aggressive back flips, and somersault while leaping through hoops.

An Olympic appearance

In February, six members of Artcirq will represent Nunavut at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, part of a 14-member ensemble of Canadian Arctic performers.

The circus is credited with bringing hope and pride to many dispirited young people.

“My life got brighter when I joined the circus because I had stuff to do,” says Reena Qulittalik, an Igloolik high school student. “Before that, I didn’t know what to do.”

It’s an odd juxtaposition – the circus and the Arctic. But Saladin recognized the potential to change young lives in this 2,000-person hamlet, which he describes as “very poor, and at the same time very rich – for the culture, for the land, for the 24-hour sun, and for the energy coming from out of the houses.”
Igloolik is one of the most traditional of the 26 communities in Nunavut, Canada’s largest federal territory. Men hunt seal and caribou much as their ancestors did. Women hand-stitch clothing from the skins.

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