In ‘Cirque Dreams Holidaze,’ more than reindeer fly

Win a special prize package that includes tickets for opening night and dinner for two at Cosmopolitan Tavern

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:

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Win tickets to ‘The Nutcracker’

The Valley Performing Arts Council partners with the Sacramento Ballet for the annual tradition. You can win four tickets to this weekend’s performances

It’s become a Fresno Thanksgiving Weekend tradition: First you stuff yourself with turkey on Thursday, then you shop on Friday, and then you go to “The Nutcracker” on Saturday or Sunday.

Fresno Ballet Theatre, under the umbrella of the Valley Performing Arts Council, once again partners with the Sacramento Ballet for two full-scale performances of the holiday tradition. The show features 37 professional dancers and more than 100 student dancers.

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Campbell Nearn plays Clara in the Sacramento Ballet production of “The Nutcracker” at the Saroyan Theatre. Photo / Valley Performing Arts Council

I know it can be expensive to go to the ballet, especially when you have children. That’s why I’m excited to give away four “family packs” of tickets to readers of The Munro Review. (Thanks, VPAC!) Each pack consists of four tickets. For details on how to enter, go to the end of this post.

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Donald’s list: Weekend choices (Nov. 3)

You can win a pair of tickets to New York-based Ballet Hispánico, which performs Saturday at the Saroyan. Plus: It’s time for ‘A Christmas Carol’

Here’s a roundup of promising arts/culture picks for the weekend:

Ballet Hispánico

Simply put, this is one of the prime dance events of the year, and it’s thanks to the Lively Arts Foundation. The New York-based Ballet Hispánico is making a special “run-out” to the West Coast just for Fresno.

Direct from New York: Ballet Hispánico performs Saturday in Fresno.

Plus: I’m giving away a pair of tickets to Saturday’s Saroyan Theatre performance to a lucky reader of The Munro Review. (Details on the giveaway are below.)

Diane Mosier, artistic director for Lively Arts, who prides herself on keeping up on the contemporary dance scene, has followed Ballet Hispánico for about six years.

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Dancing off to Wisconsin

Amy Querin, founder of NOCO and a stalwart of the local cultural scene, will soon be saying farewell to Fresno

Every once in a while someone bursts onto a city’s cultural arts scene with so much talent and enthusiasm that you just know she’s going to make a difference. Call it energy, sass, gravitas, charisma — it’s not necessarily something you can put into words. How about force of nature?

That’s how I feel about Amy Querin, founder of the Fresno Dance Collective (NOCO).

Feeling sentimental: As Amy Querin packs up her house, she surrounds herself with NOCO costumes from the signature works she created in Fresno. Photo / James Ramirez

In a relatively short amount of time in the Fresno area, she not only supercharged the local dance scene but made an impact on the larger cultural community as well. I constantly bump into Amy at local arts events, and not just her own. She is at heart a collaborator, someone constantly seeking out connections between other people and arts organizations. She can move from high culture to not so high — from the Fresno Philharmonic to the Rogue Festival — in a graceful flash.

So. Amy has something to share. This might be the worst kept secret in town, but she didn’t want to make it official until she’d personally told people who’d be directly affected. I offer her this forum.

Q: Let’s not bury the news. Is it true you’re going to be moving out of Fresno?

A: YES! The time has come. I’m planning to leave Fresno mid-December as soon as my finals are done with State Center Community College District.

Q: Why?

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Donald’s notes: Summer Arts, Week 1

Saturday update on the CSU Summer Arts program at Fresno State: tonight’s event is an evening with Vicki Lewis

This is a roundup of news, reviews and notes from the opening week of the CSU Summer Arts program, which is back at Fresno State after a five-year absence. I’ll be updating this post as the week progresses. If you have Summer Arts tidbits or thoughts on a performance you’d like to share, email me at For the public calendar of events, click here.

An evening with Vicki Lewis

vickilewissummerartsSaturday’s public event (7 p.m., John Wright Theatre) features actress Vicki Lewis, who is teaching in “The Voice Actor’s Ultimate Toolkit” Summer Arts class. Known for her roles on the TV series “NewsRadio,” “Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” Lewis is also an accomplished Broadway veteran and voice actor.

At Saturday’s event, Lewis will be doing something similar to an “Inside the Actor’s Studio” format with a discussion of her career, video clips and an opportunity for questions.

(Updated 1 p.m. Saturday, July 1)

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