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Pedal Punk: Miami to host innovative circus act

By Elizabeth Hansen, Assistant Culture Editor

Bicycles hanging from scaffolding await the Cirque Mechanic acrobat as she prepares to launch herself from the trampolines below, flip as she sails through the air and finally mount herself onto a bike.

As a part of Miami's Performing Arts Series, Cirque Mechanics will be performing their show, "Pedal Punk," at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Millett.

"Spectacle Magazine even called it, 'the greatest contribution to the American circus since Cirque du Soleil,'" said Patti Liberatore, director of the Performing Arts Series.

The show is built around pedal-powered mechanisms. Its main attraction, the gantry bike, is a giant contraption strong enough to allow acrobats to perform all sorts of tricks.

"It's an engineering feat in and of itself," Liberatore said.

Former BMX rider, Chris Lashua, founded Cirque Mechanics in 2004. It's not just a typical circus, but rather one that celebrates American ingenuity combined with storytelling and acrobatics.

Since this year at Miami is designated as "The Year of Creativity and Innovation," the Performing Arts Series saw this show as a perfect opportunity to not only entertain audiences, but also educate students about the endless limits to creativity.

"We are always looking for fun things to do that students will love and that the general audience will enjoy," said Liberatore, "[Pedal Punk] also gives us the opportunity to support something else that's happening in the community and support learning."

Liberatore reached out to Holli Morrish, co-chair of the Talawanda-Miami Partnership, at their Performing Arts meeting about bringing Pedal Punk to the Oxford community.

"We were sitting around the table talking and Patti said, 'Something's come across my desk and I might be able to bring something to the community that's relatable.' So that's how "Pedal Punk" came together," Morrish said.

Ellie Witter, Assistant Director for Audience Development for the Performing Arts Series, is excited not only for the performance, but for the educational aspect as well.

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"What Cirque Mechanics is going to do is bring some residency and outreach things," Witter said. "They're going to be coming to two different classes [at Miami] on Tuesday, both in the creative arts. But then they're also going to be going over to the high school. They're going to learn about all the machines behind the mechanics and how they are putting this whole show together."

The Performing Arts Series and Cirque Mechanics will be working with Talawanda High School students who are interested in engineering and the Oxford Kinetics Festival, an annual festival celebrating all things kinetic.

"Our art department is very involved," said Morrish. "They've done some projects with bicycles and then some other things kinetically powered."

Students participating in the Oxford Kinetics Festival create the artwork presented both at home and in the classroom.

"This is such a popular thing," Morrish said. "My daughter's friend wants to be an engineer, and her friend called and said 'Hey, do you want to help me build this thing?' And so they built this little track with a ball that moves through it."

Prior to their performance at Millett, Cirque Mechanics will put on a private show at Talawanda High School for engineering students to show how science, technology, engineering and arts can all combine to produce a show like "Pedal Punk."

"This is a really strong example of a community collaboration and something that everyone has embraced and gotten involved with," said Morrish. "It's so cool. It's not a fancy word, but that's what it is. It's just so cool."

Tickets for "Pedal Punk" are $12 and can be purchased online or at the Campus Avenue Building.