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Bob Keyes

Bob Keyes has written about the arts in Maine since 2002. He’s never been much an artist himself, other than singing in junior high school chorus and acting in a few musicals. But he’s attended museums, theaters, clubs and concert halls all his life, and cites Bob Dylan as most influential artist of any kind since Picasso. He lives in Berwick.

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Posted: December 11, 2017

Circus Maine celebrates the solstice with a weekend of shows

Written by: Bob Keyes
Performer Mike Kelley Photo by Casey Jacque

Performer Mike Kelley
Photo by Casey Jacque

Circus Maine welcomes winter with open arms — and extended legs, head-over-heels enthusiasm and full-bodied physicality.

The circus academy that is based at Thompson’s Point in Portland presents its second Winter Solstice cabaret Friday through Sunday. The weekend’s shows coincide with the movie release of “The Greatest Showman” about the circus showman and promoter P.T. Barnum, and Sunday’s performance will include a post-show discussion about the circus and a ticket-giveaway to the movie.

“This year, the theme is celebrations,” said Michael Trautman, a clown, mime and longtime performer who directs the youth performance troupe at the academy. “There’s some sort of solstice observance in almost every culture and often some sort of celebration. I am using that as my starting point.”

The performances at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday will include feats of skill and artistry, a nod to the circus tradition and what Trautman calls the “new circus sensibility” that focuses on acrobats, tumblers and aerial performers. Among the skills on display will be handstands, hoop-diving, juggling, human pyramids and “feats of strength and daring.”

Performer Sierra Nichols Photo by Casey Jacques

Performer Sierra Nichols
Photo by Casey Jacques

The show will include performers from the Circus Maine youth troupe and the professional training program, as well as professional circus artists. In all, more than 30 people will perform in the 90-minute program. “We will be using all the performance skills we have,” Trautman said, promising a “spectacle” of ensemble pieces, duets and solos.

The mingling of the youth and professional performers also is a nod to Barnum and the circus tradition, Trautman said. Traditionally, circus skills were handed down from one generation to the next, as a family tradition. The weekend performances will embody that.

On Sunday, Circus Maine will host a post-show discussion and Q-and-A with performers from the professional program along with circus veterans, including physical comedian John Towsen, a Ringling Brothers alumnus and author of “Clowns”; Fred Garbo, who performed as Barkley the dog on “Sesame Street” and as the chief juggler in the Broadway musical version of “Barnum”; Cory Tabino, former Cirque du Soleil performer and Circus Maine artistic director; and Trautman, a new vaudevillian who has performed with the Big Apple Circus, New York International Festival of Clown Theater and many others.

Circus Maine also will give away tickets to the movie “The Greatest Showman” on Sunday.

Circus Maine Winter Solstice

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Circus Maine, 4 Thompson’s Point, Portland
HOW MUCH: $14 adults, $12 ages 14 and younger, in advance; $16 at the door

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