A celebration of the circus of life

By Christine Chung

What would you get
if you morphed a Volkswagen full of clowns with an eight-piece New Orleans-style
Jazz band, and a group of Decidedly Jazz Dancework dancers? (Try saying
that six times fast.)

Soul Jugglers, baby.

Asked to sum up the production in three words, Vicki Adams Willis, the
brainchild behind Soul Jugglers, responds instead with seven: "[A]
Celebration of dance, music, circus and life." But who can blame
her? Just the written description of Soul Jugglers seems to induce sensory
overload. Playing at the Arts Centre’s Max Bell Theatre, Soul Jugglers
offers an appealing mixture of magic, juggling, dance, jazz, clowns and
trapeze work. But don’t be expecting the Shrine Circus.

"No, we’re a dance company. We don’t do death defying feats,"
laughs Willis. In other words, expect dancing clowns, not man-eating lions.

Also, unlike the circus, this production involves a story. A clown known
as Little One journeys through a maze and meets a whole bunch of wacky
characters including a gender-neutral mischief named The Trickster, who
tries to lead Little One wayward from the maze of life.

Sound like something for an audience of 12 and under? Willis is quick
to respond:

"No, no. Older kids could enjoy it, but it’s a full evening
for adults."

The sophisticated yet lighthearted nature of Soul Jugglers, according
to Willis, makes it more suitable for adults. For instance, the Trickster
is played by every dancer, reflecting how in society, we all play the
part of the trickster in some way.

Its conceptual nature also sets the production apart from past DJD productions.

"We work more abstractly but it’s definitely a story. It’s
very metaphorical—it’s fun," says Willis. "It seems
to be well liked and well received."

Although Willis doesn’t mind tooting her own horn (pardon the pun)
she is just as enthusiastic about the band. Apparently, not only is the
dancing and choreographing great, but the music, according to Willis,
is a definite draw as well.

The band, led by Alberta’s own Tommy Banks, is an eight-piece brass
band. When asked to explain her choice of music, Willis traces her choice
to her visit to New Orleans.

" When I was in New Orleans, there was a band called The New Orleans
Night Crawlers. Their sound came to mind," recalls Willis. "They
took the traditional sounds and gave it a new flavour I thought it was
very suitable for the play."

When asked to address clowns and their tendency to disturb people, Willis
seems confused.
"Well, I wasn’t afraid of clowns," responds Willis.

So when you buy your Soul Juggler tickets at Ticketmaster, don’t
worry about being scared or disturbed; expect some definite (sorry in
advance for my corny sense of humour) clowning around.

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