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Fall head over heels for Cirque Zuma Zuma

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By Robert Villanueva

Performers tonight at the Hardin County Schools Performing Arts Center will be bending over backwards to entertain their audience — Literally.

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Cirque Zuma Zuma, an African troupe of Cirque du Soleil-style performers, lands on stage at 7 p.m. and brings with it much more than a night of entertainment.

Bart Lovins, PAC director, said Cirque Zuma Zuma provides a glimpse into another culture, which is “laced” into the performance and possibly unfamiliar to audience members. The presentation is educational while still being entertaining, he said.

Learning a little about another culture is one of the two main draws for audiences, Lovins said. The other has to do with the style of the show.

“It’s the mass appeal of a circus-type event,” he said.

Lovins said the show is similar to one of the first presented at The PAC, the Peking Acrobats. The show was very popular, he said.

“Since that time I’ve been looking for something in that same vein to bring in,” Lovins said.

That search ended when Lovins saw Cirque Zuma Zuma on the TV show “America’s Got Talent” in 2011. The group became a finalist that year.

Cirque Zuma Zuma produces customized shows from a pool of African performers. The show has traveled throughout the world, including Europe and Australia.

Wendy Kay, of Cirque Zuma Zuma, said the performers represent various African countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.

Jugglers, acrobats and contortionists are among the performers in the troupe.

About 15 performers will be on stage at tonight’s performance, Kay said. The audience should expect things like a human pyramid and tumbling.

“They can expect amazing African acrobatics,” Kay said.

The show is intentionally unlike anything offered at other local entertainment venues, Lovins said.

“We’re trying to fill in the void,” he said.

The daring feats and heart and soul of the performance, Lovins said, might surprise audiences.

Performers in Cirque Zuma Zuma typically send funds back to their families in Africa, he said.

“They are forming their own family as they’re traveling the country,” Lovins said.

Much of that has to do with the nature of the performances, he said.

“When you’re 14 chairs high, juggling someone with your feet ... you get to know these folks really well,” Lovins said.

The show lasts about two hours, and tickets are $15 to $30.

Prior to the Cirque Zuma Zuma performance, Hardin County Schools will present Diversity Festival. The event will feature live entertainment, such as choral presentations and a dance troupe, student artwork and a variety of booths where community groups will show how cultural diversity is an integral part of their organization.

The Diversity Festival is 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

Both events, Lovins said, focus on culture, so they are a good fit.

Kay said elements of the African culture, such as the drumming, dancing and acrobatics, will be part of tonight’s show. At www.reverbnation.com/cirquezumazuma, elements of African cultural listed in the show include limbo artists and dancers from Egypt, Gabonese Tumblers and South African gumboot dancers.

The Cirque Zuma Zuma performance likely will be a one-shot presentation because the PAC plans to seek groups from other cultures, Lovins said. But the culture it brings to Hardin County speaks to the theater’s goal of providing arts beyond the bounds of the local area.

“Our motto right now is ‘All the World’s a Stage,’ and that sums it all up,” Lovins said.

Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743 or rvillanueva@thenewsenterprise.com.

IF YOU GO:

Cirque Zuma Zuma, a troupe of African circus-style performers, will appear at 7 p.m. today at Hardin County Schools Performing Arts Center at John Hardin High School. Ticket costs range from $15 to $30. For more information, call (270) 769-8837 or visit www.thepac.net.