As a child, Catie Brier wanted to run away with the circus. • Now after three years of training at the San Francisco Circus Center, she's coming home for Christmas. It will be a working vacation. • The 20-year-old will be one of the lead instructors at her mother's Cirque Camp, which will focus on circus arts Dec. 29-31 at the Largo Cultural Center.
Her mother, Beth Brier, taught dance for more than three decades and opened BB's Dance Factory in 2000.
"But Catie started showing a real interest in contortion," Brier said. "When she was around 10 years old, she really did say she wanted to join the circus.''
Because of Catie's interest, her mother slowly began adding circus arts at her studio. In 2004, Brier officially opened another business venture, Dance and Circus Arts.
Go inside her Clearwater studio and chances are you'll feel like you've stepped into Cirque du Soleil, the famed Canadian troupe made up of dancers, acrobats, trapeze artists and contortionists. (Cirque du Soleil is French for Circus of the Sun.)
At her 3,600-square-foot facility, she conducts both dance classes and "cirque camps and workshops,'' she said. "As a matter of fact, one of my camp instructors in 2004, was Debra Brown, the first choreographer from Cirque du Soleil.'
Last March, the Largo Cultural Center presented Fairies Inc., a program blending dance, circus arts and musical theater choreographed by Brier.
"If you see her work, Fairies Inc., you'll see its unbelievable,'' said Ann Palumbo, Cultural Center business manager. "One of the things the Cultural Center wants to do is bring in more classes and camps. We also want to create memorable experiences..''
The camp will have seven instructors, including the mother-daughter team.
Brier expects that for many campers it will be their first venture into circus arts. Everybody seems to be weak when it comes to upper body strength, she said.
"The more you train, the more strength you gain and the better you are,'' she said.
And what about those parents who might be apprehensive about their little girl or boy flying through the air?
For beginners, the trapeze is 4 feet off the ground, Brier said. Only after instructors deem a student responsible and ready, can he or she go higher.
Don Short, technical director for the Cultural Center, said all mats and pads will be in place and trapezes will be inspected before camp time.
"And I swing on most of them myself," he said, "before I let anyone else do it.''