Cirque’s Nutcracker this weekend


Not every community has a circus school, but, for Portsmouth, it is just another unique opportunity the area has offered residents for two generations through Cirque d’Art Theatre.

The school of dance and circus arts is ready to present their annual Nutcracker review, this time with a Disney’s Frozen theme titled “Arandelle’s Magical Music Box Nutcracker.”

This holiday performance treat blends the popular characters from the Frozen stories with the traditional Nutcracker characters to make a magical tale woven throughout with ballet, tumbling, acrobatics, dance and circus aerial routines.

This year’s combined cast is over 160 local performers from age three to adult. The performers will, once again, perform on original circus aerial equipment designed by Cirque and Rush Welding, including the snowflake, reindeer, and snowmen, along with new candy cane aerials this year.

“We do a version of the Nutcracker every year. This year is the second year we are showcasing it through the eyes of Elsa and Anna from Arandelle,” Cirque’s Pegi Wilkes said. “We have Olaf and Sven, we can’t go wrong. The kids are just over the moon.”

Traditional equipment will include the silks, silk chandeliers, and Spanish Web. Dance routines include tap, ballet, jazz routines, as well as everyone’s favorite tumbling and contortion routines.

“The students love Nutcracker and how we do it every year, but shake it up,” Wilkes said. “Like, next year, we are already planning the traditional Nutcracker, but, maybe, have the Arandelle characters in the parade only. This is just a way to add a spin to it and also give us more roles for our advanced dancers, since our cast is over 160 students. We need a lot of roles when we do a program. This allows us enough roles to be flexible and do what is best for students.”

Cirque instructor Taylor Sparks-Reeves is very excited for the enthusiasm and the creativity of all the performers, as well as the growing number of second-generation students involved in the program.

“My daughter is a second-generation student, as I grew up participating in Cirque d’Art. We have at least 12 students in the program whose parents were students who now bring their own children to the program,” Sparks-Reeves said. “To know firsthand our program, believe in what we teach our students, and trust the instructors with their own children is one of the greatest compliments anyone can give us.”

Wilkes has watched the previous generation grow up in the school and move onto instructor status. She believes it takes dedication to stay with the program.

“I love the fact that, one, there are that many kids who want to be involved in performing arts, especially circus performing arts, because it isn’t the easiest of the performing arts,” Wilkes said. “None of them are actually easy, but there is an element of a little risk when you’re doing circus arts and it doesn’t always feel good. You’re on a hard piece of metal, hanging by your knees. That isn’t a very feel-good feeling. Secondly, I love how we blend in ballet, tap, modern, character, acrobatics and other elements within the performances. It wraps so many disciplines all into one production.”

Cirque d’Art Theatre is a non-profit performing arts instructional program, offering sliding-scale tuitions and scholarship opportunities for local participants. Funding from the Scioto Foundation, Scioto County Commissioners, and Southern Ohio Medical Center make the tuition assistance program possible.

Cirque’s most advanced group, Cirqueworks, features instructors and performers who are teens and adults. Many have participated for years in the program.

“Their level of professionalism onstage is amazing and thrilling to watch and is the reason that Cirque d’Art Theatre has never brought in outside guest dancers for lead roles,” Wilkes said. “All Cirque d’Art productions are 100 percent local adults and youth.”

Arandelle’s Magical Music Box Nutcracker will run December 2nd, 3rd, and 4th at the Vern Riffe Center for the Arts. Admission is $17 for general admission, $12 for students, and $10 for 12 and under. The performances are 7 p.m. on Friday, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday, and 2 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call the McKinley Box Office, 740.351.3600.

Reach Joseph Pratt at (740) 353-3101, by email at [email protected], © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved

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