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Casa Tina's Mexican restaurant in Dunedin offers lunch, dinner — and acrobats

DUNEDIN

If find yourself sitting in Casa Tina's Mexican restaurant, gazing at the magenta walls adorned with religious trinkets and skeleton mariachis, and you spot some fairy-like creatures above your head, don't worry.

It's not the tequila.

Rather, you've happened upon some cirque artists, aerial performers who train at BB's Dance & Circus Arts of Tampa Bay, a Clearwater dance studio owned by Beth Brier. This is the 11th year the studio has been in operation, and Brier credits her daughter Catie, now 21, with helping to bring the art form to the local arena.

"One day she told me she didn't want to dance anymore — she wanted to become a contortionist," Brier said.

Catie went to Montreal to learn the art. Upon her return, she shared her love of extreme twists and turns with other dance school members.

Seeing how popular the response was, Brier began hiring contortion and aerial teachers, buying equipment and holding classes. In 2006, BB's Dance Factory officially became BB's Dance & Circus Arts of Tampa Bay.

The aerialists, usually two or three a night, put on a show every Saturday and Sunday evening at the funky ethnic eatery. For the uninitiated, their performances can be as surprising as, well, a Mexican restaurant in the heart of a Scottish downtown.

Russell Luce of Chicago was dining with some relatives Sunday night when two acrobats dressed in tie-dyed leotards began their repertoire of splits, arabesques, death-defying drops and torso-twisting feats on the trapeze, hoop and fabric panels.

"When they first started, I thought, okay, we have a floor show. Cool," Luce said. But he was surprised at how good the act was.

"They were mesmerizing. I've never been in a restaurant in Chicago where you had something like this," he said.

Bob and Kay McCune of Dunedin sat just a few feet from the performers. The couple alternately smiled, gasped and clapped as the pair performed myriad fluid movements gracefully above their heads.

"It makes coming here so festive," he said. "The girls are amazing. You can tell how hard they've worked."

Cathy Beckett of Safety Harbor was also impressed but wondered about the aerialists performing without mats, belts or nets.

"It's kind of scary when they drop down," she said, referring to moments when their heads came within a few inches of the concrete floor.

To spill is a thrill, said aerialist Chelsea Meredith, 19, of St. Petersburg, who hopes one day to perform with Cirque du Soleil, the world-renowned troupe of acrobats, contortionists and aerialists.

"I like scaring people," she said as dots of glitter twinkled on her skin. "It's entertaining for me to catch someone's eye, pause, and then drop down and almost hit the floor."

Instructor Jessica Watson, 24, of Tampa said safety is the top priority. The aerialists spend hours upon hours learning to brace themselves on the trapeze and hoop and create safety knots with the fabric using their feet, ankles and other body parts.

The other performer on Sunday, Morgan Dixon, 21, of Clearwater, said she teaches contortion classes at the dance studio.

"Contortion is intense stretching with the goal of getting crazy flexible," she said. Like when one rests her chin on the floor and brings her legs and feet over the head and in front of the body, she said.

The aerial moves have quirky names like the slinky, the rotisserie chicken, the man in the moon, the coffin and the crucifix.

"The crucifix," said Meredith. "That's when I sacrifice myself."

Reach Terri Bryce Reeves at treeves@ tampabay.rr.com.

If you go

What: BB's Dance & Circus Arts of Tampa Bay presents aerial shows weekends at Casa Tina's Mexican restaurant.

When: Saturdays from 8 to 10 p.m.; Sundays from 6 to 8 p.m.

Cost: The shows are free, but tips are accepted.

Reservations: For reservations, call (727) 734-9226 or visit casatinas.com.

Circus Arts Open House: See samplings of the dance and circus arts program at 2 p.m. Aug. 14 at BB's studio. Please RSVP. Call (727) 461-0098 or visit danceandcircusarts.com.

Casa Tina's Mexican restaurant in Dunedin offers lunch, dinner — and acrobats 07/29/10 [Last modified: Thursday, July 29, 2010 5:43pm]
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