At the Le Cirque Vagabond Dreamaire shows earlier this month at the Reno Little Theater, the Vagabond’s performers flew through the air tied to thin pieces of fabric, kept five hula hoops spinning at once, turned incredible martial arts into dramatic works of art, and created hand-to-hand acrobatic balancing acts that seemed to defy the laws of gravity. Yep, it was quite a show.
While Le Cirque Vagabond is entertaining, it really is all about a small group of locals, mostly young people, who have dedicated themselves to perfecting their crafts. It’s 16-year-old Louisa Lopez, who practices silks at least three times a week, so she can tie herself up in knots and hang upside down 10 feet off the ground, or fly around in circles with one little foot wrapped precariously around a piece of fabric. Or 10-year-old Brandon Venzon, a precocious little sprite who dazzles with what he can do while spinning a bo—a martial arts weapon that will remind some of a pool cue—or with his efforts during a practice session to jump onto those silks and see if he can do it as well as Louisa can. It’s also Brandon’s Sensei, Mark Cancino, owner of American Tae Kwon Do Association Black Belt Academy on Kings Row in Reno, who, with several of his students, delivers crisp martial arts moves that turn self defense into rhythmic dance. And then there is 21-year-old Destynee Howell, who does seemingly impossible things with hula hoops and then a few minutes later is held precariously in the air by Le Cirque Vagabond founder Ben Pierson, as part of an elaborate double balancing acrobatic act. If training for these feats was not enough, this little group of performers also does flag spinning, sword whipping, cube juggling, Chinese pole dancing and lots of dancing.
The man behind it all is Pierson. His fellow performers call him “the Maestro.” With an extensive background in martial arts and acrobatics, Pierson founded Le Cirque Vagabond as a place to “set an example of what can be accomplished if you set your mind to it.” A performer himself, he is out there spinning, flying and acrobatting with the rest of the vagabonds. Pierson finds performers at the Boys and Girls Club, where he is a volunteer, or by getting out into the community looking for people who are interested in dedicating themselves to their art. He added the name “Vagabond” because it fits with the historical tradition of circus acts being a group of vagabonds traveling around the country providing entertainment. While he works very hard to put on a great show, when you talk to him you realize what is most important is to give performers the opportunity to shine.
“The main benefit I see for the performers is they learn perseverance,” says Pierson. “The shows are very hard and it is hard to see how it will come together. We break through that and it becomes spectacular.”
Pierson, who was looking for someone to train as a hula hoop artist, found Destynee Howell practicing with a local hula hoops group.
“He liked some of the things I was doing, and invited me to start training if I was interested,” Howell says. “Ben taught me new and challenging things, things that could not be mastered without a measure of discipline. I began practicing for hours every day to master new techniques. This changed my life drastically.
“I had never been exposed to such discipline, or to someone so skilled and hard-working. Ben has really been an inspiration to me. He makes the most of every situation, and whatever he has to work with. I was partying all the time, putting myself in dangerous situations, and hanging around dangerous people.
“Since working with Le Cirque Vagabond, I have found strength in myself, and confidence in what I can achieve if I throw myself into something full force. I would go as far as to say Le Cirque Vagabond has saved my life.”
Le Cirque Vagabond’s mission statement sums up what it is working toward: “To be a positive influence in the community. To use our skills and strengths to give a place for children to build their own skills, while providing performance and job opportunities. To be an example of self-discipline, respect, inner and outer balance to youth, as well as to others in the community. To show that hard-work has a reward of confidence and success. Our message is a message of words and of actions, as success is not only achieved through thought and desire, but by taking action. We hope to show the community that with strong will and perseverance, we can make truly remarkable things happen.”
For the audience, it is a joy to watch these performers fly, throw weapons around, or execute flawless acrobatics that seem impossible to most of us. To the performers, however, this little troop has provided the opportunity to dedicate themselves to perfection. To work really hard to obtain a challenging goal, and then be rewarded when they do so, not just by the cheers of the audience, but more importantly, by the personal satisfaction of accomplishing something truly challenging. If you talk to Destynee Howell, you will quickly realize this is a group that can truly can changes lives.
Le Cirque Vagabond will perform regularly in the Reno area. To keep track of future performances, check out its website www.lecirquevagabond.com or friend its Facebook page. It is also always on the look out for those who might want to become future stars, or for venues for future events. Contact Ben Pierson at email@example.com or (775) 527-3733 for information.