“Crooked River Circus is really about the fact that a lot of us found the circus through a crooked river—we weren’t trained that way, it was not a straight path for us, some of us started late in life, and we celebrate that.” ―Jaime Bouvier
As performances of How the Circus Stole Christmas: A Circus Holiday Extravaganza! start in a couple of weeks, we thought you might want to meet one of the show’s Co-Creators and Director Jaime Bouvier (pronounced like zhĕm bōō-vee-ay) of Crooked River Circus & School.
Let’s get this out of the way―she may or may not be related to Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. The legend has it, her dad on a whim and not knowing whether, or not, they were related wrote Jackie for money―he never heard back. She has French Quebec (Quebecois) ancestry, hence the French name, and grew up in Iowa where she attended the University of Iowa before moving to Cleveland in the 1990s. Shortly after moving to Cleveland, she started working with some small theater companies; and while she loved theatre, she realized that she wanted to make more money so that she could financially support a family, so she enrolled in law school.
It wasn’t until the late 2010s nearing the age of 40 that she made the transition into circus school. While studying yoga at The Studio Cleveland, she became friends with a trapeze artist who was a few years older than her, which inspired her to take an aerial silks class. “It was important for me to pursue something I wasn’t good at, which is something I would not allow myself to do when I was younger. I did it for the sake of enjoying it instead of trying to be the best.”
Before long, her group began receiving requests to perform and the turning point came in 2015 when she went to a month-long professional training program in Vermont to take a deep-dive into lyra. While in her 40s, she was performing and holding her own with 18-and 19-year-olds. Also, around this time, she started mixing theatre with circus which is “something rare in theater as they are very different skills. Circus is more like dance than theater. Circus artists rarely speak. I wanted to bring voice and character to Circus. These are skills I can translate even if I can’t do the most intense acrobatic feats.” She slowly added more apparatus like trapeze, straps, and partner acrobatics; and continued to study at prestigious circus schools abroad while supporting her circus training as a law professor which gave her summers off.
Jaime, who turned 50 this year, is a strong advocate of the health benefits of circus, especially the community aspect of it. “I am not great at just working out for the sake of working out. But if I am meeting up with friends, trying to achieve a new skill, or even better, trying to achieve a new partner skill with a friend, I am much more motivated to eat well and exercise.”
Crooked River Circus is also a school; thus, many of the performers that have been a part of it have gone on to have careers in other cities, many of which will be featured in How the Circus Stole Christmas: A Circus Holiday Extravaganza! While many people equate the circus to kids, the school is actually for adults. “We often think play is for kids and I reject that. I think adults need play that they don’t often have. Part of the joy of the circus is that it’s not about what we look like, but what we are able to do. I would recommend this to people of any age, as it’s not terribly hard on the joints. It’s more accessible than you think. “
When asked to describe How the Circus Stole Christmas: A Circus Holiday Extravaganza!, Jaime had this to say: “Scrooge’s great grandnephew is sick of Christmas and summons the Ghost of Christmas Presents. She whisks him away to the North Pole to restore his Christmas spirit. But when they get there, they find that the elves are on strike, the reindeer won’t pull his sleigh, the misfit toys are staging a revolution, and Mrs. Clause is divorcing Santa. Alien frogs are also lurking about. And the lovebirds from The Gifts of the Magi wander in and out, underdressed for the North Pole weather. The audience will get to participate in a competition to determine what group will win: the elves, reindeer, misfit toys, or alien frogs. And the audience also gets to participate in a big song and dance number at the end. The production features 30+ performers, with many of whom are members of the Cleveland circus “diaspora.” “It’s family-friendly, kid-friendly, but not a kid-show.” The show is recommended for ages 5+.
How the Circus Stole Christmas: A Circus Holiday Extravaganza! runs December 1-10, 2022. Tickets can be purchased at cptonline.org. All tickets are Choose What You Pay and start at $1.