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Want to join the circus?

PORTSMOUTH – For those who have watched, the famous "Cirque d’Soleil" can thrill and wow even the most skeptical spectators.

Wednesday, August 22, 2001

PORTSMOUTH – For those who have watched, the famous "Cirque d’Soleil" can thrill and wow even the most skeptical spectators.

Dazzling aerial maneuvers using only suspended ropes of cloth, amazing balancing acts, intricate tricks with various props – they’re all put together by troupes of professionals for hours of enjoyment.

Now, that same kind of modern circus is coming to the area through a new performing arts program for students ages 7-18 at the Southern Ohio Museum in Portsmouth.

Cirque d’Art Theatre will begin Sept. 11 as a pilot project offered by the museum.

Patterned after artistic European circus acts like "Cirque d’Soleil" and "Cirque Ingenue," the local program will instruct students in aerial ballet, modern acro-dance, tumbling, mime, clowning and adagio, said Pegi Wilkes, the museum’s curator of performing arts and Cirque d’Art Theatre director.

A Portsmouth native, Mrs. Wilkes ran a similar program in Florida for 26 years before returning.

She and her mother, Joy Gould, will conduct circus classes in a newly-renovated building at 218 Market St., Portsmouth.

The first year starts Sept. 11 and runs through mid-June 2002.

Students can learn aerial circus equipment such as the trapeze, Spanish web, ladder and rings, as well as the more modern hoops, scaffolding, rigging and cloud swing.

Mime and clowning will include skits, make-up and stunts. Acro-dance is a modern dance discipline that combines acrobatic movements with ballet, while adagio is couple hand-balancing stunts, Mrs. Wilkes said.

There will be eight class sessions lasting one and a half hours each for 32 students. Classes will be scheduled each week after school and on Saturdays – a total of three hours a week.

Class fees will be determined on a sliding scale similar to school lunch program scales. Classes cost $30 per month for full-pay students, $20 for partial pay and students on free lunch programs pay $10 a month; plus a $5 registration.

At the end of the 10 months, students will stage a public performance.

Cirque d’Art Theatre also offers hands-on workshops for local youth groups, which conclude with mini-performances.

Mrs. Wilkes said all safety and liability issues have been addressed by her and her staff, who have conducted years of accident-free circus performances in Florida.

The overall goal of Cirque d’Art Theatre is to provide a participatory arts program for area students that encourages academic success, creates community involvement, promotes healthy bodies and behaviors and builds self-confidence in an atmosphere of teamwork, Mrs. Wilkes said.

For more information, or to register, contact Mrs. Wilkes at 740-354-5629.