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December 16, 2018

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Cirque du Soleil performers heading to CCSD classrooms

arts nomades

Mikayla Whitmore

Benedikt Negro, Arts Nomades teaching artist specialized in circus arts, gives a demonstration during a press conference at the Public Education Foundation on Aug. 31, 2016. Cirque de Soleil is partnering with the Public Education Foundation to launch Arts Nomades, an academic collaboration enriching artistic and cultural education in elementary schools.

Arts Nomades

Pendu Malik, Arts Nomades teaching artist specialized in dance arts, gives a demonstration during a press conference at the Public Education Foundation on Aug. 31, 2016. Cirque de Soleil is partnering with the Public Education Foundation to launch Arts Nomades, an academic collaboration enriching artistic and cultural education in elementary schools. Launch slideshow »

The hands of the Cirque du Soleil performers waved and their knees shimmied. They dressed as clowns and danced for part of an hourlong presentation last week to announce the partnership of the Montreal-based performing arts organization with the Clark County School District.

The partnership, called Arts Nomades, features former and current Cirque performers assisting teachers with topics ranging from rhythmic dancing to poetry writing and math, presenters said during the event at the Public Education Foundation.

“Community involvement lies at the core of our DNA; it always has been and it always will,” said Anik Couture, head spokeswoman for Cirque du Soleil. “We feel like we can and we should build a better world, and we’re excited to see what’s going to happen here.”

Arts Nomades will be available for about 1,200 students at Quannah McCall and Gilbert elementary schools. The free program will feature one-hour weekly lessons from former and current Cirque performers, who will accompany the schools’ teachers in the classroom.

The goal is to inspire students to pay closer attention to what they’re being taught and to enhance their creativity.

“We want to raise the bar of arts and integrations,” CCSD School Board President Linda Young said Wednesday. “Students need to not only be motivated, but inspired. And that’s what the arts do.”

Pendu Malik was a five-year performer in Cirque’s "Beatles Love" show before leaving to teach private dance lessons in 2013. She’ll move into a new teaching role this month, using dance to educate third-graders at Gilbert.

Focused on the physical fitness and creativity benefits of the arts, Malik, who holds a master’s degree in kinesiology, said her lessons will help students discover different ways to express themselves.

She demonstrated chest-thrusting, hip-bumping dance techniques at Wednesday’s presentation to upbeat pop music, next to two fully dressed Cirque du Soleil clowns.

“I think anyone can dance, and it depends how much effort you put into it,” Malik said. “I’m open to the freedom of dancing, the freedom that kids will have with it.”

Cirque producer Cheryl Hobbs is one of three Cirque staffers set to teach students at McCall. Hobbs said stimulating visual arts can help students learn everything from mathematics to poetry and reading because they encourage both teamwork and individual learning.

“Any subject or topic that leans toward using creativity and developing ideas could be explored in this way,” Hobbs said. “The possibilities are endless, really.”

Las Vegas is the second city to offer Arts Nomades. Cirque du Soleil has offered the program in Montreal to over 5,700 students citywide since 2006.

Cirque representatives said the program will be in a trial phase from August to the end of December. If all goes well, they said they’d be open to expanding, perhaps one day across the Las Vegas Valley.

“We’re going to get started, get our feet wet and take it from there,” Hobbs said. “It’s the seed right now, we’re going to water it and let it grow.”

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