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Halifax International Busker Festival

Pyromaniacs breathe fireballs into the night sky. Contortionists writhe and wriggle, looking like human pretzels. Acrobats leap and twirl. Magicians wow audiences with mind-bending illusions. From the Australian didgeridoo to hard-driving hip-hop, music echoes around the Halifax waterfront.

Halifax International Busker Festival, Photo: JodyLeBlanc

Returning from August 2 to 12, the Halifax International Busker Festival is Canada’s biggest and oldest event of its kind, bringing together street-performers from around the world. Six free stages along the Halifax waterfront boardwalk (along Lower Water Street) host free shows daily.

Highlights include B-Xtreme, an American high-energy acrobatic interactive break dancing show packed with acrobatic stunts, hilarious antics and hot dance moves. Also representing the U.S. is silent comedian Rob Torres and dancer Snap Boogie, who appeared last summer on America’s Got Talent. Further south, acrobat Pancho Libre brings tricks like the Chinese Pole and Cyr Wheel from Mexico. And regular attendees will remember Argentine comic Victor Rubilar, last year’s winner of the People’s Choice Award.

From the U.K., Funny Bones won the
 Critic Choice award at the busker festival in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2011. His specialty is ad-lib comedy, often with an unexpected twist. Switzerland’s Jessica Arpin is also a hit around the world, performing her unique fusion of theatre, street and cabaret from Brazil to Greece to Nunavut. Magician Diogo Alvares visits from Spain, sharing magic tricks he’s mastered since he was an eight-year-old.

Australia contributes mightily to the roster this year, with several popular acts. Kiki and Pascal are an unlikely pair, blending acrobatics and magic. Comical absurdist Australian Rani Huszar is known “as the Queen of Quirk.” Miss Australia 1963 brings Louis Vutton glamour from the catwalk to the streets of Kiama. Back on the road, suitcases, lipstick and powder packed, the irrepressible “Madge All Seasons” is a hard act to tame. If you don’t like audience participation (and you’re not a stylish dresser), this isn’t the act for you.

OKA also represents the land down under, returning with progressive roots music: electrified didgeridoo, heavy slide guitar, soaring flutes and juju rhythms. Aussie Judith Lanigan offers a collection of party tricks and hula-hoop stunts. And finally, Australia offers more music with Juzzie Smith, embracing elements of blues, folk, groove and roots he plays guitars, harmonica and percussion. And finally, it’s death-defying acrobatics and fire breathing with Zap Circus.

Of course, homegrown talent abounds as well. Acclaimed Canadian mime artist Kate Mior returns to Halifax to delight and enchant audiences with her unique take on living statue installations and unorthodox mime acts. Meanwhile, Jeff Bradley blends comedy, stunts and illusion.

From Quebec, Les Vitaminés are a pair of comical acrobats, marrying technical abilities and burlesque-style staging. Finally, look way up for Spring Action.

High-flying acrobatics and spring-stretching antics make this team a perennial favourite on the festival circuit.

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