L’École Brimbalante: Finding freedom in artistic expression

Pictured is a clown performing at L’École Brimbalante.
L’École Brimbalante, a non-profit clown school located in the Eastern Townships, is making a name for itself with unique trainings and workshops in a variety of disciplines. Photo by Mikaël Theimer.
Taylor McClure - CIDI - KnowltonQC | 26-01-2023
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Annab Aubin-Thuot describes herself as the “class clown.” She is also a trained musician with a degree in literature. But after partaking in a clown workshop in Bas-Saint-Laurent around 10 years ago, Aubin-Thuot found her passion in the art form. 

Combining her sense of humour and her love for poetry and music with body language, Aubin-Thuot found a new sense of freedom in clowns; a sense of freedom she wanted to share with others.

Native of Sutton, Aubin-Thuot recently moved to Frelighsburg where she founded L’École Brimbalante, a non-profit clown school located on the site of Camp Garagona. It opened its doors in the fall of 2022. 

L’École Brimbalante offers workshops in clowning and other disciplines such as acrobatics, improv, theatre, and poetry. These workshops are given by the La Brimbalante team and other professionals coming from near and far. 

Workshops are currently taking place every weekend up until May. These workshops are open to artists and to anyone that is curious as to what La Brimbalante is all about.

“It was just for fun at the beginning, like oh let’s do this. It was so, so, powerful, so free, and wild. I felt more alive like this than in any other way. I became addicted,” said Aubin-Thuot on her first time being introduced to clowns. 

It’s not just about doing comic stuff, mentioned Aubin-Thuot. 

“It’s a deep character. Some people say clowns are simple, but I completely disagree with that. Clowns are complex characters. In their backgrounds, sometimes they can have traumas, they have dark sides. (…) What makes them unique is the complexity and depth of the character. They are sensitive and poetic because they are such touching characters,” she explained. 

Aubin-Thuot added that clowning has a lot to do with emotions. 

“Clowns are very intense characters. They can play subtile, but they really are able to play out giant emotions, giant fears, bigger than reality,” she said. 

Speaking on La Brimbalante, Aubin-Thuot said that the non-profit organization offers trainings to professional artists and to those with a sense of curiosity. 

“We have trainings all year long. We have trainings in clowns of course because clowns is the first language of La Brimbalante, but we are interested in all cinic arts too and performance art,” she highlighted. “It can be theatre, puppets, improv, bouffon works. So, we have different teachers and different experts; some are from Montreal, a guy is coming from France, we have Cirque du Soleil artists coming to transmit their art and techniques.”

L'École Brimbalante has grabbed the attention of people living as far as Bas-Saint-Laurent, Gaspésie, and British Columbia.

“We’ve been approached by L’École Nationale de Cirque and L’École Nationale de Theâtre also to do collaborations on a project,” mentioned Aubin-Thuot.  

L'École Brimbalante is located in Frelighsburg in a large yurt on the site of Camp Garagona, a summer camp for adults living with an intellectual disability and/or an autism spectrum disorder. Aubin-Thuot will be working on a special show with campers that is expected to be presented to the public this summer. 

“Frelighsburg is especially a magical place. It’s just so magical, pure, and it’s small, but so full of potential, people with great ideas, and open minds,” emphasized Aubin-Thuot. “I just feel like it’s the land of the possible. Even the mayor, the political people, everyone is interested in this.”

At the end of the workshops and trainings, Aubin-Thuot hopes that people find a new sense of freedom and that artists can discover new techniques. 

“People come searching for different things. (…) Sometimes it’s more personal development, sometimes it’s just pure curiosity, but a lot of people are attracted because they want to be more in their body. They want to maybe shut down the screen and everyday life, and be in their emotions and the present moment,” said Aubin-Thuot. 

For more information on L'École Brimbalante.

Listen to the full interview below: