Cirque prepares for ‘Nutcracker’

Joseph Pratt

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A Portsmouth tradition continues this holiday season with Cirque d’Art Theatre’s “Le Nutcracker Cirque,” which opens next weekend.

The group has been around for nearly a dozen years and has surprised all with longevity, growing numbers, lavish costumes and props, along with the talents of hundreds that rivals larger cities.

“Le Nutcracker Cirque” has been an annual tradition for many years, growing in complexity with each performance.

The directors, Trisha Schmidt and Pegi Wilkes, believe the show’s success comes from the classical elements of ballet being mixed with the extreme crowd pleasing stunts of circus, from contortion to aerial work. They also said they love the story line and the tradition of hosting such a classical show.

“When I was young, there was always a ‘Nutcracker’ performance in Portsmouth and surrounding areas,” Schmidt said. “It has become tradition. There was once a time my sister bought me tickets to see BalletMet’s performance of it in Columbus. We went up, shopped for dresses, and then went to see it. When we came back out, it had snowed in downtown Columbus and I remember seeing carriages and horses. It was such a magical time for me. I feel like it is something every community should have the opportunity to be exposed to.”

Schmidt explained that, in order to bring the magic to southern Ohio once again, they decided to make the show an annual performance. She also explained that their version of the story stands as its own entity, not only because of the circus elements, but because of a special dual-meaning ending.

“It is a good story and I like our own spin on it, because we do add our own element to it, involving the true reason for the season and what Christmas is about,” Schmidt said. “It is always so magical to see. When those ballerinas come out, I feel like the theatre gets a few degrees cooler.”

“Le Nutcracker Cirque” will feature a second-year cast of dancers who are building on what they achieved in last year’s success. The supplemental cast has been updated and moved around, however.

The show is often sold-out in early performances. The troupe welcomed around 5,000 guests last year alone.

One of the most impressive features of a Cirque show, according to the instructors, is the aerial work the students perform on giant structures that they have designed themselves.

Each show is pulled apart and the cast and instructors find elements to highlight through metal aerial equipment. They are then made by local welders to meet their exact specifics.

“Rush Welding has been good to us for many years,” Wilkes said. “They love seeing us bring in designs and sketches, because it is such a unique part of their job. They always blow us away and make them better than we ever envisioned or expected.”

The costumes are also specifically designed for the dancers as well. Schmidt explained that the costumes are always redone, to cut cost and to make them work in their art.

“The costumes can be expensive and we want to save the parents money,” Schmidt said, “Outside of that, even if we buy an expensive costume, it often won’t work in our dance. Costumes for ballerinas aren’t made for a lot of stretching and our style incorporates a lot of contortion and movement. We typically always have to take something apart and alter it, so that it works for ballet and costume, but also works for circus stunts.”

Le Nutcracker Cirque will be held Friday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 12 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m, as well as Sunday, Dec. 13 at 2 p.m.

There are also two school performances. All shows will be at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts.

Tickets will be available through the Shawnee State University McKinley Box Office. General admission is $15 for adults and $12 for students.

Reach Joseph Pratt at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932, or by Twitter @JosephPratt03.

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Courtesy photo A aerial from “Le Nutcracker Cirque” photo A aerial from “Le Nutcracker Cirque”

Courtesy photo A pas de deux in “Le Nutcracker Cirque” photo A pas de deux in “Le Nutcracker Cirque”