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'Holiday Gaga'

Lady Gaga is an eccentric performer who personifies different and embraces her peculiarities with pride, says Lorenzo SantaBarbara, director and choreographer of Le Cirque Centre. Out of respect for her empowering message, SantaBarbara chose to showcase the chart-topping, Grammy-winning artist's music along with his own choreography in the academy's upcoming show, "Holiday Gaga."

"I turned toward Gaga not because she was bizarre but because of what she was saying and what she was doing," SantaBarbara says.

The show, which combines theater, dance and circus arts, will be at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 9-10, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, at Le Cirque Centre, 280 E. Hersey St., Ashland. "Holiday Gaga" will be the premiere of Le Cirque's new exclusive dance troupe, Circus Elite, composed of 16 advanced dancers between the ages of 12 and 19.

Students will utilize silks, trapezes, hoops, flying rings and straps to propel themselves through the air. SantaBarbara's choreography is both classical and contemporary and always "highly athletic," he says.

"We've got people on the ceiling, on the walls, on the floor and up in the air," he says.

The program features nearly a dozen of Gaga's popular hits, including "Born This Way," "You and I," "Telephone," "Hair," "Judas," "Poker Face" and "Marry the Night."

"You and I," the show's "most touching piece," is a comparison between a not-so-energetic, unhappy couple on the stage and a happy, intimate couple on the flying straps above. SantaBarbara chose two more reserved girls, Hannah Ring and Imani Gordan, to play the first couple and two best friends, Anu Sherler and Karly Stannard, to play the blissful pair in order to make the chemistry even more believable.

A more controversial piece, "Judas," features Karly Stannard as the disciple, wearing black leather and performing her acrobatics on three steel crosses. In this piece, Gaga is saying, "Jesus, I can see your virtue, but, Judas, I'm attracted to you," says SantaBarbara.

Nicholas Coolridge, 23, who is not a member of Circus Elite but part of Los Angeles' illustrious circus company, Lucent Dossier, will perform an urban dance routine to Gaga's "Poker Face."

"He is one of those kids who has the ability to be invincible," says SantaBarbara, who recruited Coolridge after he heard he would be in town visiting his parents.

SantaBarbara also will perform a solo to Gaga's "Imagine" with lyrics by John Lennon. A slideshow of images will play in the background during the number.

While Gaga's iconic costumes were impractical for the choreography and stunts, SantaBarbara invited the dancers to wear something that identifies them, including body paint, tutus and "out there" hairstyles.

Tickets to the show cost $10 and $8 for students. They are available at Le Cirque Centre, Tree House Books and Music Coop in Ashland. Call 541-301-6804.

Angela Henty rehearses for the Lady Gaga Show at the Le Cirque Center in Ashland Monday. - Photo by Jamie Lusch