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    Setting The Stage

    One of art’s innate features is its ability to be malleable. This ability enables art to reach all people – no matter what superficially perceived differences we may have. But this was not always the case. Strong arguments could be made that art was once deemed fit to be enjoyed, analyzed and created only by the elite. However, art has since evolved from that origin of thinly veiled exclusivity to become a part of life that attempts to include and encompass everyone. Louisville’s own CirqueLouis, a circus theater company, performance art initiative and compassionate outreach program embodies this current, inclusive idea.

    “Circus meets Theatre. Fitness meets Art.” This is CirqueLouis’ mantra. Christine Moondancer, CirqueLouis’ Co-Founder and Artistic Director, repeated those two sentences to me multiple times during a rehearsal for the upcoming Pinocchio production and our subsequent interview. Christine believes in those words, words that are personified in the company’s practices and performances.  Along with the entire crew and the two other engaging founders, Lynley Elliot (President of CirqueLouis) and Abbie Springer (Treasurer), Christine combines four unique disciplines – circus, theater, fitness and art – into spellbinding performances and the pursuit of ambitious endeavors that enrich and involve the Louisville community.


    Image: Chris Gray

    Louisville’s Own CirqueLouis

    On December 9th, Bomhard Theatre will open its doors for all to come and enjoy CirqueLouis’ production of Pinocchio, their first show at the Kentucky Center. Just a year ago in December of 2015, they put on their debut performance, called Bootleg Untapped, at the Mercury Ballroom.  Bootleg Untapped was a performance that invited the community to “celebrate the repeal of Prohibition, circus style.” From there, CirqueLouis set their sights on a bigger venue in July of 2016: The Iroquois Amphitheater. Called A Midsummer Night’s Circus, their second production was based on one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays – it was the company’s biggest stage and turnout to date. Now, CirqueLouis’ is ready to showcase their third major production at a well-known and prestigious venue. 


    Image: Brad Cottrell, A Midsummer Night's Circus

    Having only existed since May of 2015, CirqueLouis has already shown that they are full of ambitious talent, talent that is unafraid to put on performances that boast imaginative interpretations of timeless tales. While there are other establishments in Louisville that promote circus arts – varying aerial skills, poi spinning, hooping (hula), juggling, hand walking and other socially-obscure yet amazing and highly specialized circus skills – CirqueLouis is at the forefront of Louisville circus training and performing companies that strive to bring all of those disciplines together into engaging, full-length theatrical presentations.

    Christine Moondancer believes “people usually identify performance art [as] dance, opera, acting – and circus is this whole other entity, but it’s really not. It’s an entire performance art itself. And we wanted to get that out into the arts culture.” Moondancer’s - as well as Springer’s, Elliot’s and the entire company’s - passion for circus arts is what drives them to foster a larger community of circus artists and an awareness of that community in Louisville. An early result of their efforts was the return of Jordan Clark to his hometown after studying abroad at the École Nationale de Cirque (National Circus School) in Montréal. After completing his schooling, Jordan continued to perform outside of the U.S and away from his home of Louisville, but upon learning of CirqueLouis and the founders’ (whom he has known since he was very young) desire to become a true circus theater company, his homecoming was all but inevitable. And he has now been their enthusiastic and experienced Artistic Advisor and Choreography Director since the summer performance of A Midsummer Night’s Circus

    The direct results of CirqueLouis' focus on theatrical circus arts, like Jordan Clark's return to Louisville, propel the company forward and validate their pursuit to create an impact within the Louisville community. While an entertainment company like Cirque Du Soleil is nationally known and promotes theater and circus arts, it cannot maintain its grasp on the public without smaller, rising companies like CirqueLouis cementing lasting footsteps in their own communities.

     

    Community of Cirque

    Moondancer wanted me to understand the performance side of CirqueLouis, but she also made sure I understood that there are two other branches of the company, branches that connect and uplift the Louisville community and the communities of others: CirqueKindness and CirqueCompassion.

    CirqueCompassion is a CirqueLouis initiative that originated, Moondancer says, with the purpose of “using the circus arts to be able to instill things like discipline and confidence and trust.  Just by teaching those [circus] skills we want to innately help build those things.” The entire company feels that CirqueLouis’ social outreach is tantamount to the impact of their performance arts, if not exceedingly more impactful. They offer classes once a week at Love City, Inc., free of charge for children eight to fourteen years old. This joint effort with Love City, Inc. is the first social circus program for CirqueLouis and hopefully not the last of its kind in the Louisville area.


    Image: CirqueLouis, "Race Against Time" 5k Walk For Progeria

    The other side of CirqueLouis’ community outreach, a piece of the company’s heart, is called CirqueKindness. Simple and beautiful, it is the complete company’s ongoing project to carry out “random acts of kindness” throughout the city. They have participated in the “Race Against Time” 5k walk for progeria research, aided in giving out lunches at the St. John Center for Homeless Men and contributed in other ways to help give back to the community. CirqueLouis seeks to have a positive and robust presence in Louisville, and at such an early point in their company’s development, this aspiration leads one to believe that this group of performers and creators deeply care about the city they call home.

     

    CirqueLouis' Pinocchio

    The compassion that fills and warms the hearts of the CirqueLouis staff and crew will be personified in their performance of Pinocchio this Friday, December 9th. As the Artistic Director, Moondancer explained that the idea of unconditional love and kindness was what drew her to craft a production based on the age-old story of the mendacious puppet. This two-hour show was originally slated to be just a 20-minute segment, but it exploded in Christine’s mind with all of the different scenes and plot elements she could interpret and expand upon. Yet the major details within the production will tie back to the central motif that compassion has a resounding, transformative effect on people.

     
    Images: Chris Gray, Pinocchio rehearsal

    With tickets almost sold out, you’ll have to act fast in order to secure a seat at the Bomhard Theatre this Friday. But if you’re able to watch this theatrical circus spectacle, you’ll witness the hard work, dedication and purpose of CirqueLouis. It’s a beautiful company, one where: Circus meets theatre. Fitness meets art. And gifted performers seek to make a positive impact within their beloved community.

    For ticket information, visit here.
    To learn more about the CirqueCompassion classes, contact Abbie Springer at abbie@cirquelouis.com or Love City, Inc at 502.365.3917. 
     
    Cover Image: Brad Cottrell, CirqueLouis
     
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    About Christopher Gray

    I'm a young scribe with a lot to say. And I'm happy to share.

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