Daniel Sullivan Unthaws His Comedic Flair in FLIP Fabrique's "Blizzard"

By: Kathleen Morris

Daniel Sullivan soared into the air, clad in an olive green parka and dusted with flakes of artificial snow. He dove after his woolen winter hat that had been snatched off his head by a gargantuan fishing pole.

As Sullivan lept, castmate Mathieu B-Girard would deviously jerk the rod and send his red-haired companion into a flurry of frustration. Eventually, B-Girard lured Sullivan off the stage and into an audience enthralled by every move performed by the ensemble of FLIP Fabrique’s "Blizzard."

The Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts hosted two lively crowds on April 14 and April 15. "Blizzard" drew a multigenerational audience, with theatre-goers young and old prepared for a thrilling night of circus stunts.

Sullivan, a native of Colorado, joined an eclectic crew of circus artists who transformed the Regina A. Center for the Arts into an ice-encrusted postcard of a Canadian winter for two nights only.

The show encapsulates the fun-filled and frosty childhood of its creators: seven circus artists hailing from Quebec, Canada. Sullivan joins a new cast, who maintain FLIP Fabrqiue’s artistic legacy that is defined by awe-inspiring acrobatics and themes of deep camaraderie. He is thrilled to showcase his diverse talents that reflect a lifelong passion for performing and intense training.

He entered the arts at a young age, inspired by his older sister. His sister, an Irish step dancer, held the key that unlocked an innate desire that would alter the trajectory of his life.

Ben Nesrallah is the composer of the "Blizzard" soundtrack, a musical jack-of-all-trades that shows off his vocal and instrumental abilities throughout the show. Above, Nesrallah shrugs after witnessing the hula hoop routine of a summery and shirtless Sullivan.

“I was just like, ‘I want to be on stage like her!.’” Sullivan exclaimed. “Then, I think it came to a point where I saw a spotlight and thought, ‘Ah! I need to be in the spotlight!”

Sullivan gestured dramatically to the glowing lights that outlined his dressing room mirror, as he admitted “Like a moth drawn to the flame, I was drawn to the spotlight.”

"Like a moth drawn to the flame, I was drawn to the spotlight."

- Daniel Sullivan, Circus Artist

This innate urge, which began to fester at the age of four, guided his path into the world of circus. By the age of thirteen, he joined Circus Smirkus and trained as a member of the only international youth circus in North America. After five consecutive years of touring, Sullivan had become skilled in aerial hoop and earned his acceptance into Montreal’s prestigious L’École nationale de cirque (National Circus School).

He expanded far beyond his roots of Irish Step Dancing, a footwork-focused art form that prohibits the movements of one’s upper body. Sullivan quickly embraced the full-body movement, a stylistic transition aided by his education.

“Growing up, my legs did all of the work,” Sullivan explained, restricting his arms and demonstrating a few kicks. “Luckily, in circus school, we have dance classes that allowed me to learn how to express with the upper part of my body.”

"In circus school, we have dance classes that allowed me to learn how to express with the upper part of my body.”

- Daniel Sullivan, Circus Artist

With a giddy laugh, he admitted that he talks too much with his hands now. However, his ability to be uninhibited while on stage has become a trademark of his artistic presence. His embodiment of rhythmic joy is in full display in Blizzard, as his role contradicts the show’s somber tone.

“I’m really happy with my role,” Sullivan shared. “The show is very poetic.”

Sullivan then lowered his volume, as if to conceal his words from his castmates who were indulging in catered sandwiches in the adjoining green room.

“I am here to break up the poeticness so that it’s not so one-lined,” he revealed, grimacing. “Or, maybe, so it’s not so flat.”

Nikolas Pulka, the Tour Manager of "Blizzard," taunts Sullivan with his effortless ice skating abilities. Pulka hails from French Guiana and fell in love with acrobatics due to his upbringing in the Amazon rainforest, an environment equipped with trees to swing and climb on.

Sullivan clarified that, although the other elements of the show are beautiful, he finds value in his infusion of comic flair. In addition to chasing a burgled beanie, Sullivan ditches his long johns for a grass skirt and climbs onto a piano to fling neon hula hoops. In yet another number, he flips across a massive inflatable mat and sticks the landing with a boisterous guffaw. His sharp humor extends beyond the confines of his character, as it is a defining aspect of his personality in day-to-day life.

He advises young, aspiring circus artists to be unbound by external expectations. To be successful, performers must not be followers or “sheep.” Instead, they must not hold back and should take every opportunity to “put their spin” on directorial choices.

“If you wanna dance in the mirror to Vogue music, put on a Vogue tutorial on YouTube and dance in your hotel room,” he counseled. “Okay, that's just what I've been doing these past days. But literally, whatever feels right, do it.”

Jean-Philippe Deltell crouches down to interact with young fans during a meet-and-greet in the Quick Center lobby. On the left, a little girl is lit up by the blue glow of a light-up hula hoop that Sullivan retrieved for a brief demonstration.