Charming circus troupe encores holiday ‘Mittens’

Courtesy PhotoOn the rope: Sweet Can Productions co-founder Beth Clarke says the company has had continued success with its intimate circus-theater shows.

For Beth Clarke, perhaps the most satisfying thing about her circus-theater troupe Sweet Can Productions is that it touches folks of all generations.

“People of every age, from 6 months to the oldest grandma, really enjoy it,” says Clarke, who co-founded the group in 2006 with then-San Francisco Circus Center cohorts Kerry Kresinski and Daniela Steiner.

“There’s something for everyone to appreciate,” adds Clarke, describing not only previous shows, but encore presentations of “Mittens and Mistletoe: A Winter Circus Cabaret” running Friday through Dec. 24 at Dance Mission Theater.

This year’s show includes old and new Sweet Can friends and favorites Clarke, Kresinski, Eli Cherweznik, Eli Halperin, SAM Luckey, Karen Quest,  Tera Zarra and Matt White, who does really fun things with a broom.

Collectively, the performers work the trapeze, slack rope and Cyr (steel) wheel, as well as juggle, clown and bounce around acrobatically.

What makes Sweet Can different from other circuses is its intimacy.

“Instead of using our skills to make distance, we use them to connect with the audience,” says Clarke, who, with her co-creators, established Sweet Can as a more personal alternative to massive spectacles such as Cirque du Soleil — where audiences can’t see the expressions on the performers’ faces.

With a goal so precise, they were an immediate hit. Sweet Can’s first show “Habitat” was a big success and got extended. The follow-up “Yes Sweet Can” had three outings.

“Mittens and Mistletoe,” created for the season and with families in mind, remains an extraordinary amusement, particularly in today’s technology-driven world of video games and 3-D movies.

“Kids see amazing things humans can do with their bodies in real life,” says Clarke, who specializes in slack rope and also teaches pilates. “And it’s a completely unique, shared experience.”  

Clarke took a break from performing last year, after a memorable appearance in 2010. She says, “Two years ago I was pregnant, and I stood on my head.”

She’ll be back this year, with her little one in tow and his dad, White, “the broom guy.”

lkatz@sfexaminer.com

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