Stories about girls from Kansas are few and far between, so maybe that’s why “The Wizard of Oz” is inescapable in the Midwest. Or maybe we all need a little reminder that we already have exactly what we need to get along, just like — spoiler alert — Dorothy.
Whatever the reason, if the Midwest had a mascot, Toto the dog would be the clear choice.
This show tells the cozy and familiar tale of Dorothy and her pals in a new and exciting way: through dance and aerial acrobatics.
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Aerial acrobatics is a combination of dance and circus performing, where performers use long silks, hoops and other implements to fly through the air, spin, swing and more. Director Ariana Ferber-Carter, a professional contortionist and aerialist, says many aspects of the “Oz” story can be explored through aerial movement and interaction.
“We don’t have to tell you the exact plot,” she says. “We can riff on it because everyone already knows it.”
The show is an original production by Lucia Aerial and is being used as a showcase for its student talent. Amateur performers who attend aerial and acrobatics classes at the company’s studio, 5001 W. 117th St. at Town Center Plaza in Leawood, will be in the show. One apprentice — a level between student and professional coach — will perform with the all-student cast.
The cast comprises students from ages 9 to 50.
“The age differences have been one of the best parts,” Ferber-Carter says. “You’re not competing; you’re working together. And you have the role models who are 20 years older than you. It (also) takes away some of the jealousy that you’d often see in a show.”
As in the film, “Cyclone” revolves around Dorothy’s vivid dream of Oz. In this telling, each of the characters she meets represents an aspect of her personality, Ferber-Carter says.
The Tinwoman scene tells a story of becoming too ambitious and turning into an emotional robot. Ferber-Carter says this dance feels particularly poignant, as it points to the way that balancing ambition and time with family and friends often feels impossible. The dancers come together in this number to show that working as a team is crucial for happiness.
The witch, Ferber-Carter says, is the aspect of Dorothy’s personality that insists she’s not good enough. Initially, the choreography had Dorothy banishing the witch and her negative voice, but a late-night text from a 13-year-old dancer helped Ferber-Carter change her mind.
“I got this text, and it said, ‘Dorothy should accept the witch,’ ” she says. “Which is so right, right? You can overcome that feeling (of inadequacy), but not totally get rid of it. If you throw it away, you become this narcissist.”
Lucia Aerial owner Daniel Parks sees plenty of room for growth in Kansas City for coaches and students alike.
“Kansas City is a great place: The cost of living is lower, so (performers) can really focus on their training,” he says. “There are so many opportunities. We’re steadily getting performers to relocate to Kansas City.”
Professional aerialists, contortionists and circus performers are coaches at the Lucia studio, and classes are available for all ages and all levels of skill and experience.
When people first see aerial acrobatics, “the obvious general public perception is ‘That’s not something I can do,’ or ‘That looks really dangerous,’ ” Parks says.
Seeing students performing these “impossible” and “dangerous” moves in “Cyclone” may help convince audience members that they can do it, too, he says.
“This is like anything else, it’s a learned skill,” he says. “Natural talent is some part of it … but it’s much less about any kind of natural talent that they have and more about having the determination to make it all the way through.”
Aerial arts “lends itself to people that can be really dedicated to a task and don’t shy away from the idea that it’s going to be painful,” Parks says. “It’s going to be a lot of work, and it’s going to be exhausting.”
Once students begin attending classes, Parks sees confidence build quickly.
“They start doing things that they never expected they’d be able to do,” he says, “and, early on, they pick up a lot of things really quickly. (When things get harder), they get the confidence from the fact that that they’ve made the strides before.”
If you go
“Cyclone” is being staged at 7 p.m. Friday, May 12, and Saturday, May 13, at the H&R Block City Stage at Union Station. Tickets and additional information are available at the Lucia Aerial Performing Arts website.