Behind the Scenes at Cirque-Inspired "Holidaze"

RussiaMahalia Jackson

Massive presents and a giant tree fill the stage inside Mahalia Jackson Theater.  Performers are polishing an acrobatic spectacle called “Holidaze.”  It's a kaleidoscope of costumes and creative feats set in a dream-like winter wonderland.  Assistant artistic director Heather Hoffman shares some of her favorite characters.  "Penguins sliding around balancing way in the air, we have aerialists, reindeer flying across, we have snow men, strong men who balance on each other."

There's only one way you get as good as they are at acrobatics.  You start early!  Most of these international performers began training as children.  Hoffman says, "China, Russia, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Mexico.  In a lot of these other countries, when we were children we went to ballet class or soccer practice, they go to the gym or acrobatics school."

She’s talking about performers like Victor, who left his home country to attend circus school in Russia.  Victor says his mom encouraged his training so he wouldn't fall so often!

Then you have Billy, who hails from much closer to home: Shreveport, Louisiana.  He's turned a childhood hobby into a full-time career.  He says, "I started jump roping as an after school activity in my town and I never dreamed that I would continue doing it 15 years later and here I am.  It's pretty amazing!"

Billy promises he can teach me too.  He starts me out in the center of two double dutch ropes and gets me jumping.  Suddenly, Billy joins in and before you know it, we're doing circles and spins.  Not bad for our first try, but the real pros have plenty more to show off!  Billy says, "We take jump rope to a whole other level.  Everyone I think has seen jump rope before, but what we try to do is take it up a notch and blow your mind with something you've never seen before."

If the incredible jump roping doesn't blow your mind, the swing, set and other surprises are sure to do the trick.

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Holidaze runs through Christmas Eve.  Contact the Mahalia Jackson Theater for ticket availability and pricing.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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