Erin Lovett Sherman on Lyra. (Courtesy photo)
LACONIA — Erin Lovett Sherman grew up in Laconia, then left to study and travel the globe, along the way becoming engrossed in the world of circus arts. She now resides in her native city, and will be among the dozens of performers on stage during Saturday's Multicultural Festival, a day-long exhibition of food and performance which revels in the diverse cultures and histories that come together to create the contemporary American community.
Lovett Sherman's world tour includes The University of the Arts, in Philadelphia, where she studied dance. She has spent time in Peru, Russia, Lithuania, Bermuda, India, Jamaica and Ecuador, sometimes as a teacher and sometimes as a student. She has also taught, and learned, in Montreal, where Canada's Ecole nationale de Cirque is located, and where the internationally-known Cirque du Soleil is headquartered. For the past ten years, Lovett Sherman's company Artsfest has been based in the Laconia Community Center, where she teaches performing arts classes for all ages of students. She also is the director of youth programming and outreach at the New England Center for Circus Arts, in Vermont.
On Saturday, Lovett Sherman will lead a troupe of performers as part of the Parade of Flags that marks the beginning of the 15th Multicultural Day in Laconia, and will be one of the first performances on the main stage at Rotary Park.
Lovett Sherman said that the modern circus mirrors contemporary society in that it has evolved through the combination of techniques sourced from myriad cultures. Circus performers will display skills that can be traced back to eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. These skills were first brought together in England in the 18th Century, and were brought to North America in the mid-19th Century, where touring big-top circuses took advantage of the developing railroad network, and where a distinctly American circus culture developed. The circus arts are currently enjoying a renaissance, Lovett Sherman said, thanks to Cirque du Soleil, which redefined the circus experience.
"This is a whole revolution in circus. It's probably grown ten times in the last 20 years, and it's continuing to grow," she said.
Through her teaching of circus arts to young people, Lovett Sherman has become convinced that these centuries-old skills still hold their value in today's world.
"I have seen really amazing things working with youth," she said. Circus arts are athletic and promote teamwork, yet provide an experience unlike sports.
"It's non-competitive. Everyone has their chance to shine in a circus, so I feel that it's incredibly relevant," she said. "I've seen it both for boys and girls, it's very empowering."
She would love to share her skills with more people in Laconia, especially young people, so she eagerly accepted the invitation to participate in this year's Multicultural Festival.
"It's my favorite day in Laconia. I'm really excited to be part of it," she said, adding that the festival highlights, "people that are hidden in our city and we can find them and show things about their culture that we didn't know."
Becky Guyer, executive director of the festival, said that Lovett Sherman, and her Cirque du Soleil-inspired performers, was asked to participate to help alleviate an under-representation of French-Canadian heritage at the festival, and that their unicyclists and stilt-walkers will add a new dimension to the opening parade, which begins at 10 a.m.
In fact, those who come to the Multicultural Festival will see lots of new things, including an all-new schedule of entertainment, with non-stop performances from on three different stages, beginning immediately after the parade and continuing until 4 p.m. Rotary Park will host the main stage, while other performances will also take place at stages at City Hall and in the Healthlink parking lot.
"I love our entertainment schedule this year, I'm so excited about it," said Guyer. The Belknap Mill is participating for the first time this year, with an open house featuring historic displays and demonstrations, an art exhibit and a display of all the flags carried in the parade.
Even more diverse than the entertainment schedule will be the many food an craft vendors. By Guyer's count, 36 distinct cultures will be represented among the vendors. Every year, she said, she has experience of finding a new favorite food at the festival, something that she probably wouldn't have the courage to order on a menu or try to make at home. But, when she sees and smells the food on display, she dives right in.
"You walk up and it looks good," she said. "This is celebrating America – all the different cultures and diversity that is in America. It's like sharing."
Erin Lovett Sherman on Spanish Web. (Courtesy photo)
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