Performers hit the street — and sky — for BuskerFest

[attach]2068[/attach]Street performers of every stripe and strife converge on the historic St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood Aug. 26–29 for the annual BuskerFest.

Aerialists, clowns, dancers and musicians from Toronto and abroad will showcase their talents in front of cheering fans at North America’s largest busker festival, being sponsored by Scotiabank.

The Town Crier’s A&E editor Lorianna De Giorgio recently spoke with a few local performers to get their take on busking and what they are most looking forward to at this festival.

Jeff Krahn and Lindsay Stephens: clown and aerialist

Three years ago. married couple Jeff Krahn and Lindsay Stephens wed their two loves — clowning and aerial arts — to create a unique act.

The couple travel around the world as comedic pair Fesso (Krahn) and Lu (Stephens), entertaining audiences with their silly antics and quick moves.

Both have experience in the circus arts, with Krahn working as a busker for 10 years and Stephens as an aerialist for the past seven.

“We work together really well,” Krahn says. “We have the same humour, and we always thought clown and aerial would be a good combo.”

The two still do their solo acts, but particularly love when they get to do Fesso & Lu.

“We just do it ever chance we get,” Stephens says.

[attach]2069[/attach]Their act has taken them around the world. In Toronto, they’ve performed along Harbourfront, at the east end’s Centre of Gravity and at BuskerFest.

“There is nothing like a BuskerFest audience … they are the most responsive and pleasant crowds,” Krahn says.

And there’s no other feeling in the world like busking, he adds.

“It’s nice that in my hometown I get hired,” Krahn continues. “I get to play host to my friends from around the world.”

Ezra Houser: Stiltwalker

Forest Hill’s Ezra Houser has the legs for stiltwalking. Before stepping on the four foot stilts 13 years ago, Houser spent his college years kicking around the soccer ball on his varsity’s soccer team.

The strong leg muscles he developed keep him steady on the stilts. At one point in his career, Houser crossed over into dance theatre — where he met his wife — before heading back to the stilts.

Houser loves being a freelance stilt artist. He especially loves being one of the free stiltartists in the city — a particularly good position to be in when it comes to BuskerFest, which he’s done for the past five years.

He’s travelled to Trinidad to experience the carnival season down there and see where busking originated.

“There is not a whole heck of us floating out there,” says Houser, who stands about three metres tall with his stilts on.

Stiltwalking is the main source of income for him and his family. And he takes whatever work, corporate or otherwise, he can get.

“Stilts are a tremendous tool for interaction,” Houser says. “Stilts are joy, confidence. They are a personality changer for anyone who straps them on.”

Houser hopes to continue stiltwalking as long as his body will allow him. So far, his legs are keeping up.

“It’s a passion for me to make a life in the arts.”

Emily Hughes and Kirsten Edwards: acrobats

Acrobats and midtown residents Emily Hughes and Kirsten Edwards are the female half of Toronto circus arts group, Suspended Animation Circus.

Along with Tyler Burke and Mark Segal, Hughes and Edwards perform creative and corporate acts around town for such festivals as WinterCity, Pride and of course, the upcoming BuskerFest.

This year the four will perform acrobatic moves off of a huge helium balloon, which will float above the crowds.

Edwards specializes in trapeze, while Hughes works mainly with silks and rope.

“We are bringing a lot of clowning into the show,” Edwards says.

She enjoys aerial arts and circus elements as they are a combo of her artistic side as well as her athletic one side too.

“I never dreamed I’d find a way to combine the two.”

Hughes agrees. She began training in acrobatics as a child, thanks to the encouragement of her mother.

“My mom took me to the Harbourfront Circus Camp when I was little,” Hughes says.

Nowadays, she teaches both children and adults her skills.

“You are soaring above the crowds and you’re in tip-top shape.”

The two enjoy festivals like BuskerFest as they allow artists’ creativity to really shine.

“I have a passion for circus arts. It is really addictive,” Hughes says. “It gets into your blood.”