Le Cirque Centre presents 'Mulan'

Hannah Doyle performs in "Mulan."Photo courtesy of DavidPaul Doyle

Strength and grace overcome hostile force in Le Cirque Centre's production of Disney's "Mulan." The circus-arts academy's students will present the musical drama and comedy with acrobatic performances on silks, hoops and trapeze.

"We're taking the central idea of the story and dramatizing the sad, sentimental and funny scenes with all of the elements that a dancer uses: space, time and energy," says Lorenzo SantaBarbara, Le Cirque's director and choreographer. "We look at the emotive aspects of the scenes, and our dancers articulate those emotions with physical movement. I think it will resonate well with people who know the story."

If you go

What: Le Cirque Centre's "Mulan"

When: 7 p.m. Friday and 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, June 7-8

Where: Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St., Ashland

Tickets: $15, available at Tree House Books or Music Coop

Call: 541-301-6804

Fa Mulan is a young Chinese girl who lives during the Han dynasty. She is the only daughter of Fa Zhou, an aging warrior. When a Hun warrior, Shan Yu, sets out with his army to invade the empire, Fa Mulan impersonates her father and goes into battle with her guardian dragon Mushu, a lucky cricket named Cri-kee and her companions Yao, Ling and Chien-Po.

Performances are set for 7 p.m. Friday, June 7, and 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, June 8, at the Historic Ashland Armory, 208 Oak St., Ashland. Tickets cost $15 and may be purchased at Tree House Books, Music Coop or Le Cirque Center. Call 541-301-6804 for information.

The almost all-girl cast of 85 from Le Cirque's performance classes ranges in age from 5 to 17. The roles of Fa Mulan and Shan Yu are played by Hannah Doyle, 12, and Emma Culhane, 15.

"Emotions from their scenes go directly into the dancers' psyches," SantaBarbara says. "They can take their character development as deep as they want. When students join our classes, they learn the difference between criticism and critique. They learn that critique is a good thing. There are always details in a character or a scene to talk about."

It's Fa Mulan's intellect that finally brings down Shun Yu's intimidating, brutish army.

"Kind of like the difference between women and men," SantaBarbara says. "I think the story is a metaphor for the similar fire that boys and girls sometimes share, while in some countries it is dishonorable for a girl to think about being a fighter. Stories like these can bring powerful messages to children."

One of the songs from the movie soundtrack, "Honor to Us All," is a perfect example of how circus arts can articulate character and emotion, SantaBarbara says.

"As the music escalates to a crescendo, Hannah spirals into the air on a chandelier, or a circular piece of aerial equipment held by ropes," he says.

"Circus artists realize that they need to be dancers and choreographers to work a space, just as Cirque du Soleil does so well."

Some music included in Le Cirque's production of "Mulan" is by Ashland composer Joe Romano.


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