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Dinosaurs in the air, tap dancers on the floor: 'Va-Va-Va-Vaudeville' delights all

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A dancer in a dinosaur costume performs a dance routine in the air with another performer Saturday afternoon during the "Va-Va-Va-Vaudeville" event in the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.  Matt Begala Buy Photos

A woman in an inflatable dinosaur suit crept down the aisle, earning screams from children in the audience, before grabbing a cloth hanging from the ceiling and beginning an aerial performance. On Aug. 18 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater, anything was possible.

“Va-Va-Va-Vaudeville,” sponsored by the Dance Network Alliance, returned to the Buskirk-Chumley for the second show of its three year run, gaining an audience of all ages for their matinee show at 2 p.m. 

When entering the venue, attendees of Vaudeville were greeted by Jungle Joe’s Flea Circus and musician Anna Wrasse.

“Nobody leave the lobby,” Joe Lee, a performer with a flea circus, said to the children watching him. “We have a flea escaped.”

Lee, a graduate of Ringling Brothers Clown College, performs at Lotus Blossoms and Bug Fest, and worked as a circus clown before creating his Flea Circus. He created all the pieces of his set himself, he said, and it included small chairs and other objects.

Joe Lee, a flea circus performer, puts on magnifying glasses to look for a "lost" flea Saturday afternoon before the start of the "Va-Va-Va-Vaudeville" event in the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.  Matt Begala Buy Photos

“I gravitate toward older forms of entertainment, so Vaudeville is perfect for that,” Lee said. “I always was very curious about flea circuses, which were very popular during the Victorian times.” 

Jungle Joe’s Flea Circus wasn’t the only “magic” the kids and other attendees experienced at the show, though. The audience also got to see Aerialogy silks dancers, the Hudsucker Posse flow artists, a unicyclist and juggler, Bloomington Acro Yoga and more, all local to Bloomington.

“The original concept was to put together a show where performers exclusive to Bloomington could get on the stage,” Paula Chambers, the producer and creative director, said. “Somewhere where they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to perform, which would give them experience in a larger setting and expose the community to fringe performers that shouldn’t be on the fringe.”

The show began with Riff Hatskin’s Jazzy Combo, featuring Travis Puntarelli. Puntarelli walked on stage, barefoot and wearing bright orange pants, and began singing a cover of “It’s Only a Paper Moon” by Frank Sinatra. The band performed between acts.

Travis Puntarelli sings with a jazz band. The band performed during the "Va-Va-Va-Vaudeville" event on Aug. 18 at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.  Matt Begala Buy Photos

The band was followed by four young tap dancers, the aerial dinosaur, unicycling juggler Kai Smith, musician Anna Wrasse and more. 

The idea for the Vaudeville show was formed four or five years ago, Chambers said, and the performers had a small amount of time to get the performance right.

“We only had the theater for two days — one day to rehearse and one day to present the show,” Chambers said. "It’s fast-paced, putting it all together. So, it’s exciting to see it all come together in one from all these individual, amazing performers.”

Jenny Page performs with the group Dark Side Tribal Dancers. The group performed during the "Va-Va-Va-Vaudeville" event Saturday afternoon in the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.  Matt Begala Buy Photos

The night performance of “Va-Va-Va-Vaudeville” is more risqué, while the afternoon show was geared toward children. 

“I have two granddaughters here and I knew they would love it,” said Marilyn Horlander, alumna and Bloomington resident. “Plus I think it exposes them to a whole lot of different things.”

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