In ‘Cirque Dreams Holidaze,’ more than reindeer fly

UPDATE: Congratulations to winner Heather Rhodes!

ORIGINAL POST: Jill Winters is scared of heights.

But that doesn’t stop the creative and music director for Cirque Dreams from tracking down performers who are most definitely unafraid of heights to appear in her shows. From thousands of audition tapes she receives each year from circus artists, Winters travels the world seeking out a select few, from Russia to Ethiopia. The aim is to recruit these stellar professionals into one of her “Cirque” shows touring the United States.


The cast of “Cirque Dreams Holidaze.”

You’ll get to see some of the best of those performers in “Cirque Dreams Holidaze,” which plays Tuesday, Dec. 19, and Wednesday, Dec. 20, at the Saroyan Theatre as part of the Broadway in Fresno series. (Scroll down for a chance to enter my ticket giveaway, which includes dinner for two at Cosmopolitan Tavern and free parking for the evening.) I got the chance to chat with Winters by phone about the show. Here are Five Things to Know:



This is the 10th anniversary of “Cirque Dreams Holidaze,” so it has kind of a “greatest hits” feel. (“It’s crazy that this show has been going on for so long,” Winters says.) Expect 300 costumes, 20 acts, live singers, original music and seasonal favorites. While Christmas gets a lot of stage time, the family-friendly format includes tributes to Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and New Year’s Day, too.


Fresno has been particularly lucky the past couple of years when it comes to the timing of touring holiday shows. Last year “Elf: The Musical” played just two weeks before Christmas, and “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” is even more Yuletide friendly, coming just a week before Christmas. Don’t think that all cities get such timeliness. Most tours start out in early to mid-November and extend all the way into early January.


The first incarnation of “Holidaze” 10 years ago was a hit with an opening featuring a giant Christmas trees with performers as the “ornaments,” and the tradition continues. There are new acts as well: “This year we have a four-person jump-rope team from Hungary,” Winters says. “They’re all dressed as reindeer, which is cute.” And don’t forget the contortionist in a martini glass.


When Winters is looking for new acts, she wants stuff that people have never seen before. That’s why she was excited to bring on The Glass Balancer, who balances an entire chandelier of crystal glasses on his nose, then walks up a ladder. (Kids, do not try this home, unless you were born into a circus family.) She found him in Russia, which is one of her go-to spots for amazing acts. Spain and Ethiopia rank up there, too.


I admit to Winters that I get really nervous at these types of shows, worried that one of the performers will somehow take a death dive to the stage floor of the Saroyan, thereby scarring small children in the audience (and me) forevermore. Ah, don’t worry, she tells me. “It’s really really rare for any mistakes to happen,” she says. “These people are at the top of their craft. When things to happen, they’re little — a pulled muscle, a scrape there. But they know how to fall.”

Win tickets

I’m offering a special holiday prize package to a lucky reader of The Munro Review: a pair of tickets to the opening night performance of “Cirque Dreams Holidaze,” dinner for two at the Cosmopolitan Tavern (conveniently located in the convention center parking lot) and free theater parking. (Thanks again to Cosmopolitan and Broadway in Fresno for their generosity.)

To enter, leave a comment on this post answering this question: If you could have magical powers for just one day to perform any acrobatic circus act without having to worry about falling and killing yourself, what would it be?

Deadline to enter is 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 18. Winner selected at random. I’ll be notifying the winner on Monday afternoon so be sure to check your email. Please don’t enter if you won’t be able to attend.

Show info

“Cirque Dreams Holidaze,” 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19, and Wednesday, Dec. 20, Saroyan Theatre. Tickets are $29-$69.

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Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

Comments (27)

  • Jackie Ryle

    Thanks, Donald. Going Tuesday and you’ve heightened my anticipation!

  • Doreen Confino

    What a fun question! I’ve always wanted to fly and when I was younger I had a recurring dream that I could fly right over the tops of everyone and everything in front of me. While swinging on a trapeze swing is not exactly flying, it is as near as could be. It would be a dream come true. Thanks!

  • Craig R. Miller

    Yes … but limited. Acrobatic yet magical. My body is no longer acrobatic so magic would have to be involved. Powerful legs for contortions, yet balance to look graceful. For me, that would be magical. 😀

  • julie richter

    Ride a unicycle on a high wire

    • Stephen

      Ahhhh!! I’m having anxiety for you already!!

  • Stephen

    Fun question! Unlike the earlier commenter, I could NEVER get over the treetops in my dreams when I flew! Drove me nuts.

    As for a Cirque superpower, I’m not sure…I’ve never been super strong, so those strongman acts are cool. But I think I’d want to do something no one else can do – I would want to create colors and images with my mind, creating soundscapes and dreamscapes that could surround and envelop the crowd. Make it happen, Cirque!!

  • Patti Hann

    Definitely the Trapeze Artist! It looks like so much fun!! Thank you for your reviews and insight on the cultural arts in Fresno.

  • Heather R

    Since clumsiness is a strength of mine, I’d love to be able to do ANY acrobatic act and not fall and kill my self!

  • Chasity

    I would love to do any of it! I am quite clumsy, so it would be fun to be able to perform anything without falling on my face!

  • Michele Rodriguez

    Hmmmm. Flying sounds like fun, but I think I would rather be a person walking tall on stilts!

  • Michaela Morris

    The trapeze, for sure!


    If I could have magical powers for just one day to perform any acrobatic circus act without having to worry about falling and killing myself, it would have to be flying just so that I could be a flying trapeze artist and fly through the air with ease and beauty!

  • Janet Baker

    I think I would love to do flips on a trapeze while swinging with the belief that my body could do anything. That would make me feel like a superpower.

  • I’d love to fly like Peter Pan and turn somersaults in the sky.

  • Kaitlyn

    I would love to be able to do synchronized contortions with a partner. I find those pieces so breathtaking and the combinations unbelievable!

  • Natalie

    I would have feet that bounce, so that I could jump from one highwire to the next. At the end, I would jump to the floor, and then bounce up into a gracefully floating balloon for my exit!

  • Sheri Lee

    I think I like the idea of juggling knives while rope walking across the audience! And that’s from a person who doesn’t like heights! But since I’d have magical powers, my fear would be gone : )

  • Marie Polzin

    I’m pretty certain everyone secretly would love to be a trapeze artist and fly through the air. Me too.

  • Jenny Myers

    I would love to fly and climb and do different types of poses and tricks on the aerial fabrics.

  • Kyle Jensen

    I would love to be able to balence with one hand. On a high stack of chairs set at different angles. And slowly be adding more chairs.

  • Maureen Walker

    My magical power would be to fly, but I would want to take a member of the crowd with me, and give them the experience of a lifetime! Peter Pan style!

  • Jose

    I think I would enjoy doing the trapeze act, although I’m afraid of heights I find it mesmerizing!

  • Hannah Huyck

    I would definitely want to be a lion tamer. I love big animals and big cats specifically so being in the ring with them in a safe and fun setting would be awesome!

  • Dawn

    My fear of falling is palpable so I would love to be able to fly on a trapeze or work the silks without the threat of hitting the ground. 😊 #happyholidaze

  • Monica Flick

    Awesome! Shoot me out of a cannon!

  • Chris Foshee

    I’ve already jumped out of plane. Being shot out if a cannon would be the next logical step.

  • Allison Connelly

    I’d like to fly through the air like a trapeze artist.


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