Up in the Air: Swinging With Le Cirque Center’s New Owner, Sonya Smith
Running off to join the circus? A first stop—or perhaps a jumping off spot—is Le Cirque Center in Ashland. The art of aerial dance is a passion of Le Cirque’s new owner Sonya Smith, and we caught up with her between classes to see what the future holds.
Rogue Valley Messenger: You have been involved with multiple dance projects throughout the country, including BANDALOOP, Zaccho Dance Theatre, Dance Brigade, Sara Shelton Mann, and Eat Cake Productions—plus many more. What has been your favorite so far and why? And what from that experience do you hope to bring into Le Cirque?
Sonya Smith: I feel amazingly fortunate to have had such a diverse career, from dancing on the side of a 22 story building to dancing my way through the Tibetan Book of the Dead; from aerial clowning to aerial goddesses over a pool in Metamorphoses. I have always said I danced for so many folk because I want to do it all, and each of these companies is amazing at what they do. Bringing this breadth of experience to the incredibly talented youth at Le Cirque Centre made this opportunity to relocate irresistible. I am excited to draw on my background to encourage these young performers to deepen their theatrical capacity on the ground and in the air. Wherever life may take them in the future. I offer them the opportunity to create and collaborate early and often.
RVM: You are obviously a lifetime learner, having had extensive training in the dance arts, including two decades performing professionally, a Masters of Fine Arts in Dance with an emphasis in Aerial Dance, Pilates and GYROKINESIS certificates. What are you working on specifically, personally now?
SS: I am testing and articulating an aerial dance training pedagogy that draws on the circus techniques we love and the dance pedagogy that inspires variety and depth in my teaching. My priority is always to discover new ways to communicate about the body, through teaching and through my interactions with my colleagues.
RVM: What are your goals for Le Cirque in the coming months … years?
SS: Every time I close my eyes I have more ideas for Le Cirque Centre in this community! In the next year I would love to form an intergenerational crew on stilts to get out and about! I am also excited to bring some (BANDALOOP style) vertical dance out into public and natural spaces.
RVM: Are there any changes coming at Le Cirque? What is staying the same?
SS: I am so privileged to be able to build on Lorenzo’s youth performance foundation. That remains, so there will be performances. Wiloe Leonardo, Flora Chipowsky and Maia Livingston have joined the teaching staff at Le Cirque Centre and I am thrilled to have their expertise and dedication to the space. We have added a variety of other classes for adults, tots, and teens, to there are even more opportunities to see how you like to fly!
RVM: Can you tell us more about what your Aerial Tea workshops are, and what triumphs and accomplishments you have seen through them?
SS: Aerial Tea is a non-curated performance and feedback process open to anyone, but especial to aerial creators who often are limited in performance opportunities. The intention is to create a safe space for artists to try their ideas on an audience and receive feedback. At an Aerial Tea up to eight artists will show work, from a one-minute sketch to a nearly-finished act. Afterwards artists and audience gather to share feedback that allows artists to see how their work is received, rather than being told how to “fix” their work. I am so excited to bring Aerial Tea to Le Cirque Centre! We will have our first Tea on Saturday November 16. Interested performers are invited to contact me.
RVM: What classes and workshops and performances does Le Cirque have coming up, and what are you most looking forward to in them?
SS: Our second Fall session starts October 28, and we will fly until December 23!
Bungee Hijinks will be on Monday evenings from 6:30 –8 pm. Bungee is an amazing way to fly for folks worried about upper body strength in aerial. And you get to bound around like you are on the moon!
Maia is offering us all to get into gear before the holidays mayhem hits. The Pre-Holiday Straps Conditioning Intensive in November will challenge beginning and advanced aerialists to work smarter as they get stronger.
Curious teens can join Wiloe on Fridays at 4 pm for a Beginning Teen class, a safe place to try something so challenging and still so rewarding!
Aerial Tea November 16: I can’t wait to bring this to Ashland regularly.
And our Winter Cabaret will come together December 13 –15. I am looking forward to seeing who is out there making fun things!