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Pendulum Aerial Arts putting on a 'poignant' performance this weekend.



TIMES PHOTO: ADAM WICKHAM - Pendulum Aerial Arts founder Suzanne Kenney poses for a photo before rehearsal for Pendulum's upcoming show 'The World is a Circus.'When Suzanne Kenney takes the stage this weekend at the French American International School, it will be for the last time.

Kenney is stepping back from performing with Pendulum Aerial Arts, the group she founded 17 years ago. Although she will stay on as its executive and artistic director, she is taking this performance — titled “The World is a Circus” — as an opportunity to tell her own story alongside her students and coaches, while also passing the torch to a company newcomer, Cirque du Soleil veteran Cory Sylvester.

“She’s passing some responsibilities on to me as we go along, so it’s pretty important that we perform together during this show,” Sylvester explained.

“We’re aligned in our artistic sensibilities, but I just feel like he’s got new energy,” Kenney said of Sylvester. “A lot of the kids — we train kids professionally — their goal is to go to Cirque du Soleil, and he’s had that experience, so I think passing that on and being able to have them understand what it takes to actually do that from someone who’s had the experience is really going to be wonderful for the school.”

Pendulum fuses acrobatics, dance, theater and other performance art elements in its shows, characterizing its performances as “aerial storytelling.”

“It’s a unique thing to do,” said 16-year-old Rosie Rogmans. “It’s getting more popular, but it’s not widely known as a thing to go to.”

“I think people will like it,” said Mackenzie Beam, 14.

Beam and Rogmans are both Pendulum students, but they have taken different paths to get there. Rogmans said her mother signed her up for an acrobatics class when she was 5.

“I’ve just been doing it ever since,” Rogmans said, “so I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t doing it.”

Beam is a relative newcomer, starting in the field when she began taking classes at Pendulum two years ago, she said.

“It’s really fun,” she said. “I like interacting with everyone here, and it’s just amazing. I love being able to do these things. It’s not something you get to do every day.”

“Except when you’re here,” Rogmans added.

TIMES PHOTO: ADAM WICKHAM - Pendulum students practice aerial routines during a rehearsal for 'The World is a Circus.'Beam and Rogmans both talked about being able to emulate the performances they’ve seen, such as the Cirque du Soleil acts Beam remembers going to see with her father when she was younger.

“I really like those moments when you accomplish something that was once impossible for you,” Rogmans said. “Like, when you watch something and when you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s so cool,’ and then before you know it, you’re working on it, and then doing it, and then performing it — that’s such a cool moment.”

Both students are trying something new for this show. Beam said she will be doing a contortion act for the first time in a show, while Rogmans will debut what she called her most advanced rope act to date.

“The World is a Circus” is a collaboration in every sense of the world. Kenney said she worked with Anna Vigeland, who is based in Montreal, to create the show, and enlisted Sasha Lazard and Dina Finai in New York to compose music for it. She will be performing in the show, as will Sylvester, along with their coaches and students, including elementary-age children in Pendulum’s recreational classes.

The show is dedicated to Pendulum professional training student Stephanie Cadd and her sister Samantha. Stephanie, originally slated to perform in the show, was injured and Samantha was killed in a car crash near Gaston earlier this month.

Between the circumstances of the crash — which Kenney said prompted a reworking of the show because of Stephanie Cadd’s absence — and saying farewell to performing with the company she founded, Kenney said “The World as a Circus” will be a “poignant” show for her. She will continue performing afterward, but in a different context.

TIMES PHOTO: ADAM WICKHAM - Pendulum shows meld gymnastics, acrobatics, dance and other forms of performance art.“I actually have a show I’m going to be doing in November in New York,” Kenney said. “I just want to do other things. Maybe put together a one-woman show.”

She also wants to focus on the directorial side with Pendulum, such as planning a full performance season.

“I just want to put my energies in a different way, to try to do more artistic things,” she said.

“The World is a Circus” has three performances scheduled. The show will begin at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, with an extended 2:30 p.m. matinee Sunday that will feature Pendulum’s younger students. Tickets are available online from Pendulum's website.

The show is being staged in the gymnasium of the French American School, 8500 N.W. Johnson St., Portland.