Nonprofit gives sneak peek of professional circus acts

Amanda Gilbert, Reporter

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Several hundred Evanston residents caught a sneak of new works of circus art this weekend at the Noyes Cultural Center.

The Actors Gymnasium, a nonprofit arts organization, featured professionals from the Chicago circus community in its performance, “Circus in Progress.”

The weekend’s performances highlighted new tricks the performers developed for the upcoming circus season. During the show, professional circus performers showcased experimental moves before a live audience in prelude to their official performances in the coming weeks.

Professional juggler Dharmesh Bhagat said many people do not realize how regularly Circus in Progress shows happen. The performances take place at least once a year, and each one is presented in a different location with new acts and ideas, he said.

“It’s regular and the same, but it’s also different,” Bhagat said.

Some acts featured in this weekend’s show included aerial performances, unicycle riding, juggling and stand-up comedy, Bhagat said.

“Many of the acts were doing an amazing job,” he said. “The show didn’t even look like it was in progress.”

Actors Gymnasium instructor Nathan Drackett said Circus in Progress allows advanced students to perform alongside professional artists. Drackett said his favorite part about the show was allowing people to try new tricks, regardless of how old they were or how much experience they had performing.

“You get to see people take risks in their lives,” Drackett said. “Both children and professionals are trying something they’ve never done before on stage. It’s fun to see the empowerment that it gives people.”

Roslane Ross, facility coordinator for the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, said the show seemed to be extremely popular because online tickets sold out for this weekend’s three shows. She said she thinks the show was in such high demand in Evanston because it was different from other performances presented at the center.

“Usually we get a lot of plays,” Ross said. “But (Actors Gymnasium) does a lot of gymnastic stunts.  This is different because it’s more of an athletic show.”

Bhagat agreed that the show combined athletics and the arts. He said he and his co-performers all believe Circus in Progress cannot be constrained by traditional genre because it gives them the freedom to present anything they want to.

“It’s just me being myself up there and doing what I love,” Bhagat said.