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The next generation of UMO performs
There comes a point in the life of every performer when they pass the baton onto the next generation. For the acclaimed UMO Ensemble, that moment will happen on Saturday evening at the Open Space for Arts & Community when students — not the professionals — of the UMO School of Physical Arts will jump through hoops, tumble on mats, swing from aerial silks and generally clown around in the first annual Circus Spectacular.
For the last four years, the UMO School of Physical Arts has flown under the radar while the organization focused on the ensemble’s performances and their annual cabaret fundraiser, highlighting vignettes from the troupe’s main talent: aerialists, burlesque artists and circus acts.
But times change, and according to UMO’s executive artist Elizabeth Klob, timing is everything.
“This is the moment,” Klob said. “We’ve got to move over. The organization needs to shift its focus onto the school, to make it shine and grow.”
That shift meant changing the annual cabaret into a benefit for the school and letting the students run the show.
Well, not exactly run the show. The ensemble does that as stagehands and general behind-the-scene worker-bees, while the students do what UMO has always done, the fun stuff. They creatively brainstorm ideas that form a concept, which becomes a script that suggests action for the performers to physically explore and shape into a performance.
“It was their turn, and they steal the show,” Klob said. “I am blown away by their skills. They are a talented bunch.”
Klob credited the students’ success to the school’s student-to-teacher ratio as being “outrageously low, so the level of attention is amazing. It shows in the kids.”
Kajsa Ingemansson, the school’s manager and show director, agreed, noting that some students have been with the program for only a few months while for others it’s been three years.
“The school also attracts athletic students who might not want to pursue traditional sports,” she said. “It’s a great physical outlet that teaches team building and helps the kids feel strong and confident.”
Sessions run for 12 weeks in the fall and 16 in the spring, with one or two classes per week in acrobatics, aerial work and clowning.
At the Circus Spectacular, proceeds from a wheel of fortune, game booths, fortune telling, $5 plates of food from The Hardware Store Restaurant, a silent auction and ticket sales are all earmarked to support the school. But Ingemansson wants the public to know that the show is “90 percent about the kids and 10 percent about the fundraiser,” she said. “No one will be turned away for lack of funds. Everyone is invited to join our circus.”
In traditional circus lore, “being circus” is a name given to performers who come from a multi-generational circus family. On Saturday four students might well be christened with that unique moniker when their UMO parents pass on to them the circus baton.