‘Mittens and Mistletoe’ offers an intimate circus experience

Courtesy photo
Clowns Jamie Coventry and Natasha Kaluza are among the performers appearing in this year’s “Mittens and Mistletoe.”
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Circus artist Natasha Kaluza knows her way around a hula hoop. Using her entire body, she spins 50 handmade rings at once while B-girling to funk music. Unlike performers who tie their hoops together, she likes spinning them the hard way: one at a time.

It’s an unbelievable feat — and the audience loves it.

“It’s really fun and it’s joyful,” she says. “When people see somebody else hula hooping there’s an instant connection because it’s a known object.”

Kaluza and her husband, Jamie Coventry, are the award-winning clown duo directing this year’s “Mittens and Mistletoe: A Winter Circus Cabaret.” The show, presented by Sweet Can Productions, is onstage this weekend at Dance Mission Theater in The City.

For those who dislike squinting at performers from the back of an amphitheater, this is the place to go. Along with live music and comedy, the show features performances on trapeze, aerial silk, Cyr wheel and more.

“The really cool thing about Dance Mission Theater and Sweet Can is it’s a very intimate experience,” Kaluza says. “You can see the performers. You can see the sweat on their brows.”

Kaluza and Coventry are modest, but it’s clear that being a clown requires a lot of discipline and hard work. There are practice sessions at the park, new material to be developed and time spent sitting at the computer doing administrative duties.

The pair met at the Clown Conservatory at the Circus Center of San Francisco. For the past 10 years, they’ve been performing in the Bay Area and beyond.

Kaluza, 37, tries to practice at least five hours a day. She makes each of her hoops by hand out of plastic tubing, wrapping them with silver tape to reflect the light. By now, she guesses, she’s spun at least 100,000 hoops.

Coventry, 39, will be juggling and playing the harmonica. He’ll also appear onstage as a comic chef “with some holiday cooking tips.”

Other artists in the show include Abigail Baird, Andy Cook, Kerri Kresinski, SAM Luckey, Jasper Patterson, Diana Strong and Matt White. The show will be hosted by performing legend Joan Mankin, a former member of the San Francisco Mime Troupe and the Pickle Family Circus.

Kaluza and Coventry say the best part about performing is making the audience laugh.

“It’s really fun to put together this holiday cabaret because it’s really all about celebrating joy and light,” Coventry says. “We get a lot of smiling faces.”

IF YOU GO

Mittens and Mistletoe: A Winter Circus Cabaret

Where: Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 and 4 p.m. Sunday, 2 p.m. Monday

Tickets: $15 to $60

Contact: (415) 225-7281, www.brownpapertickets.com, www.sweetcanproductions.com

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