Mardi Gras acrobats’ origin story begins in Wake Forest
By David Leone
WAKE FOREST — You’ve seen them at town parades and festivals: jugglers, stilt-walkers and acrobats.
They’re Cirque de Vol performers and they’ll be back this Saturday for the town’s annual Mardi Gras celebration. But did you know their Wake Forest connection?
Sara Phoenix, founder and owner of Cirque de Vol Productions in Raleigh, spent much of her youth in Wake Forest.
“I lived on South Main Street and went to school there from fifth to ninth grade at Wake Forest Elementary, Middle and High School,” says Phoenix. “I also went to the Wake Forest Boys & Girls Club during those years and loved it.”
Later she got into performance art, with a special interest in compositional improv, moving up to hoop and fire dancing, aerial hoops and silks. Now Phoenix teaches those skills and more to people of all ages at the Cirque De Vol (“flying circus”) school, and her troupe appears at a lot of corporate events and family festivals.
“We perform all over the Southeast, mostly in theaters and convention centers,” she says. “Our calendar tends to fill up three to six months in advance.”
But it’s the school that makes up a large portion of what Cirque de Vol does.
Teen and adult classes range from makeup tutorials to Argentine Tango to Cize fitness to aerial silks and yoga. They teach kids some of those same aerial skills and trapeze fun, and offer track-out and summer camps and the like.
Though basic body awareness and coordination is helpful, people don’t need to be athletic to learn the ropes, so to speak, according to Phoenix.
“You can start wherever you are,” she says. “You will learn and get strong through the training.”
And while it may be a cool way to jumpstart a unique and interesting career, many of their students aren’t quite ready to run off and join the circus.
“Some folks train with us to be performers, others do it as an extracurricular hobby or sport, and for fitness. Its a whole lot more fun than going to the gym,” Phoenix notes. “Circus arts are very empowering. They require focus, build confidence, and self-esteem. They are also a whole lot of fun!”
Cirque de Vol performers have been coming to town events since the first Mardi Gras five years ago.
Saturday’s festival, which runs 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in downtown Wake Forest and is free to attend, includes a host of fun activities, including hula-hoops, face-painting, live music, bounce houses, costume contests, a mask-making contest, bubble-gum blowing competition, food and drink.
The highlight of the day is the walking parade at 1 p.m. Several Cirque de Vol performers will march in the parade, and you’ll see others performing throughout the rest of the event.
That includes, according to Phoenix, “a stilt-walker, juggler, living statue, acrobatic duo, hula hoop performer and an instructor with our kids mini aerial rig.”
To learn about the acrobatic school, go to cirquedevol.com. For more about the Mardi Gras festival, see tiny.cc/wfmg17.