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David Holub

Circus founders thrive on sharing these fantastic feats

Ar 170229860
Courtesy of McCarson Jones/Red Scarf Shots

Hattie Miller and Steve Ward perform on the dual straps at Imaginario Circus' "Bacchanalia"
Ar 170229860
Courtesy of McCarson Jones/Red Scarf Shots

Hattie Miller and Steve Ward perform on the dual straps at Imaginario Circus' "Bacchanalia"

If you were sitting at home last Tuesday evening, God help you. Even if you were out to dinner with the person you love most – I don’t care how good your rib eye with garlic mashers was, you made the wrong decision for Valentine’s Day.

I’d bet a lot of dollars that at least 98.8 percent of the hundreds of people waiting in line outside Animas City Theatre for upward of 45 minutes – a line that stretched nearly to Main Avenue – would concur.

The spectacle was Imaginario Circus’ “Bacchanalia” performance, and even if you knew precisely what was coming and what to expect, you were blown away, left speechless, turned on or in tears, driven to bursts of laughter or unexpected oohs billowing from your awkwardly agape mouth like smoke rings.

The show was one stunning feat after the next, and when not stunning, incredibly entertaining. It was Liz Thomas’ heart-palpitation-inducing slackline, and Andrea Thompson’s gorgeous lyra. It was Derek Rynbrand and Lexi Cox’s parkour and Elise Southwick’s contortion and dual ropes and Corrina Llopart’s bawdy burlesque. It was Rubi Starr Randazzo and Hannah Squire painted gold and standing over the crowd as statues. It was Ashley Edwards crushing her comfort zone in fishnets with song and dance, and, making it happen behind the scenes, were the likes of Alicia Laws and Kelly Rogers. It was Tyler Frakes’ sassy side-splitting drag persona and Posh Josh spinning throughout.

In total, 33 people made up the cast and crew, and at the center of it all were the ringleaders, wranglers, and founders of Imaginario, Hattie Miller and Steve Ward. (Full disclosure: Steve and Hattie are my wonderfully dear friends whose coaxing and encouragement landed me in Imaginario’s original production, “Reflections,” last year, as well as got me to dust off my trombone to honk out a few notes in “Bacchanalia.”)

And as stunning as every single act was, none was more so than the finale, Steve and Hattie’s couple’s routine on the duet straps, a performance drenched in romance, symbiotic athleticism, graceful strength, charming beauty and sheer, unadulterated sexiness. I saw tears in people’s eyes and others clutching someone they love.

And for all this, all the organizing and corralling, all the training and rehearsing, I needed to know why. What motivates Steve and Hattie to put on such a feat? It’s not money: They make sure their performers take home a little something, and any profits from the show were earmarked for Durango’s iAM Music Institute.

It all started a few years back when they saw Durango’s Salt Fire Circus and walked away inspired and ultimately training with some of its performers.

“What they were doing was so different,” said Hattie, a natural performer if there ever was one. Steve added, “It was art mixed with athleticism for me. I saw that, and I was like, ‘(Whoa) that is beautiful.’”

So they started working out, getting better, and all the time, Hattie said, “You’re dreaming of an audience.” But take the audience away and the pair would be doing their feats anyway, a way to stay in shape, to crank up the adrenaline and release endorphins.

“I love doing it. So even if I didn’t have a venue, it feels so good to do it,” Hattie said. “But when you’re training and getting good at it, you want to share it.”

And sharing in this case doesn’t mean they perform and you watch. They want the audience to feel just as much a part of the show as the performers, building a diverse community both within their troupe as well as those who come to see.

“That energy coming in the room, you can just feel it. It’s so fun,” Hattie said.

“Everybody was so psyched to be there, so psyched to be a part of it in any capacity,” Steve added. “I just love the community that’s come together to come see the shows. I want that. I want everybody to come and say ‘That was a great party and let’s do that again.’”

Yes. Let’s.