Move, groove and laugh off the holiday stress! “Fun-derful Holidaze” is a jubilant show for the entire family. Bay area clown Unique Derique, his daughter Mali, and Prescott Clown Circus theater alumni combine juggling, hip hop and hambone body music. Presented at The Marsh Theater, the show engages the audience in a nuanced and exhilarating way.

Early in the show, Derique swears that any person can do what they do — with lots of practice! Each cast member shines with personality, whether jumping rope on a ball, poi-twirling, making music with a rubber chicken, or doing “hip-obatics” (hip hop acrobatic fusion). Derique has been an artist-in-residence the past thirteen years at Prescott Circus Theater in West Oakland. For him, the process of collaborating with youth has been “pure inspiration and excitement!”

“I want [the youth] to experience the power of their creative suggestions, and for them to feel honored and respected in the process developing our show. It brings me pleasure to see their enthusiasm,” he says.

In the intimate Marsh theater, the enthusiasm of the cast is palpable and contagious. Big top circuses often spotlight gravity-defying feats accomplished by elaborately costumed, ethereal characters. The down-to-earth allure of “Fun-derful Holidaze” is about reconnecting audience and performers with the joy of gravity and the human body.

The body music ensemble act begins with an empowering statement: “Hambone is an African American art form. Performing it today, I’m acknowledging my family, my culture and my ancestors.” Then the group propels into an exciting segment of personalized solos and syncopated joint (no pun intended) rhythms.

Derique explains, “I think it’s significant to honor where these art forms (hambone and African stilt dancing) come from, as they are sources of strength and build community through drumming and dance.  It is significant to make sure these cultural connections through circus arts, which have been influenced by African traditions and rituals, are understood in a historical sense. Especially given that they are not talked about in the history books.”

The hambone body percussion originated when enslaved African people in the U.S. were not allowed to practice their cultural traditions, such as playing the drum. It became apparent they could communicate through the drum, which could possibly lead to their escape from slavery.

“The taking of the drum only elicited their internal soul strength and resilience,” Derique points out. “Thus hambone body percussion became a source for survival within the community.”

Stilt dancing has been and is used for healing ceremonies and other significant rituals for centuries throughout Africa, not just for entertainment. “Having the youth understand these cultural practices of stilt dancing and the history of hambone encompasses the old, the new and the unknown … as they develop their connections with themselves, it can lead to the essence of who they are becoming through the circus arts.”

Juggling hats as well, Derique is a drama therapist who recently graduated from the California Institute of Integral Studies, and currently counsels children in East Oakland public schools. Regarding his balancing act of being a clown and drama therapist, he remarks, “They are both connected to the human condition of finding joy and dealing with sorrow.”

“Like Shakespeare said, ‘All the world’s a stage.’ For me, life is about finding a healthy balance between joy and sorrow … If I can laugh at myself then I can laugh at most things.”

On the other side of the stage (where he flips the script as a drama therapist), Derique understands how internal conflicts can block people from feeling laughter, due to wounds from life’s challenges.

“Nothing funny there,” he says. “The stress from conflict has hijacked their full potential, and most importantly, their aliveness.”

This is where Derique comes in as the Joker, the Fool, clown and drama therapist. He hopes to help others shed some of their unpleasant and dark shadows “by allowing the light to come in to see something funny … such as life and themselves!”

“Fun-derful Holidaze” continues its run at The Marsh through January 3rd. Also, don’t miss “Mr. Yoowho’s Holiday” and “Yes Sweet Can”, playing at NohSpace and Dance Mission theaters – two terrific shows with clowns, circus arts and marvelously unique spin.

Happy holiday!

Happy holidays!

Upcoming events: (subject to change, confirm times)

Navidad Flamenca Annual Holiday Show

A Spanish Christmas celebration of flamenco, tapas, performances by Caminos Flamencos and special guest artists. With guest singer Paco Borrego from Cordoba, Spain. Special desserts for the kids, beautiful decorations, open stage juerga and Spanish caroling. Presented by Yaelisa and Caminos Flamencos. Wed., Dec. 23. Two different shows at 8 p.m. & 9:30 p.m. Ticket good for entire evening, $18-$22; children 12 and under free. The Verdi Club, 2424 Mariposa St. (between Hampshire and Portrero)

“Where the Wild Things Are” (2009)

There’s one in all of us, and mine plays cowbell. Directed by Spike Jonze. (100 mins) Wed., Dec. 23. 6:30 p.m. $5-$9.75. Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St. (near Valencia)

Christmas Eve Service

All are invited to a candlelight service with sacred story and song celebrating the birth of Jesus. Children are encouraged to join with their parents. Thurs., Dec., 24. 6pm-7pm. Dolores Park Church Sanctuary, 455 Dolores St. (btw 17th and 18th)

"Navidad Flamenca" at Verdi Club on Dec. 22nd

"Navidad Flamenca" at Verdi Club on Dec. 22nd

Christmas Eve / Víspera de Navidad

Thurs., Dec. 24. 5 p.m. – Christmas Mass 11:30 p.m. – Christmas Carol Sing Along. 12 a.m. – Midnight Solemn Mass (bilingual). Mission Dolores Basilica, 3321 16th St. (near Dolores)

“The Bicycle Thief” (1948)

60th Anniversary film screening of Italian neo-realism classic on a new 35mm print. Directed By Vittorio De Sica. (93 mins.)
Dec. 25. 4:45 p.m. $5-$9.75. Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St. (near Valencia)

“La Danse — The Paris Opera Ballet” (2009)

Documentary following the production of seven ballets by the Paris Opera Ballet. “One of the finest dance films ever made” (NY Times).  Directed by Frederick Wiseman. (158 mins.) Dec. 25 – Dec. 30. $5-$9.75. Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St. (near Valencia)

Yes Sweet Can

Who says a garbage can is trash? Who says sweeping up is a chore? “Yes Sweet Can” instills new life into old ideas, creating a world in which anything can happen. Acrobatic brooms, disco-dancing chocolate milk, a trio of tap dancing trash cans, circus apparatus, aerial silks, acrobatics, slack rope, hula hoops and the magic of everyday life, accessible to everyone. Dec. 26 – Jan. 3. $15-$20. Dance Mission, 3316 24th St. (at Mission)

Mr. Yoowho’s Holiday

Following rave reviews in Europe and Brazil (“Charlie Chaplin of a modern time”, “Humor converted into poetry.”) Moshe Cohen brings his show back home to San Francisco. Precision high diving, yodeled serenades, European clown, Japanese kyogen and butoh, and Yiddish absurdism. With Cohen as Mr. Yoowho and Jubilith Moore as Koken. Dec. 26 – Jan. 3. Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays at 3 p.m. $15. NOHspace, 2840 Mariposa St. (btw Florida and Alabama)

Fun-Derful Holidaze

Bay Area’s beloved clown Unique Derique is joined by his poi-twirling daughter Mali and Prescott Clown Circus theater alumni for a fun-filled holiday extravaganza. Amazing youth jugglers, hambone body music team, hip hop dancers, and dynamic movin’ and groovin’ clowning. 60 minutes, no intermission. Dec. 27– Jan. 3 (see website). All shows at 2 p.m. $7-$50. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia St. (near 22nd St.)

The Greatest Bubble Show On Earth

Gobs of bubbles brew in the Marsh: flying saucer bubbles, smoky square bubbles, cosmic bubbles, centipede bubbles, even kids in bubbles. Float into an iridescent paradise with Louis Pearl, the Amazing Bubble Man. Accompanied by Jetty Swart’s winsome live accordion and vocal music. This show continues its extended run; buy tickets while there’s still seats left. Dec. 27-Jan. 3. $7-10. The Marsh, 1062 Valencia St. (near 22nd St.)

Dance with Books

Local dancer Alli Spector is teaching a dynamic and inclusive workshop this winter for children ages 3-5 and their caregivers. To register please call Alli at 415-217-9885 or email clandestina[at]riseup.net. Dec 28-30. 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. $20 for one day; $50 for all three. Dance Mission, 3316 24th St. (at Mission)