Sequim Acrobatics ventures into the world of ‘Avatar’

Alicia Laxson said her staff had talked about some sort of “Avatar”-themed performance off and on for years.

Replicating even a portion of James Cameron’s 2009 science fiction epic that at the time was the highest-grossing film ever, however, seemed more than a bit daunting for Laxson, owner, producer, head coach and choreographer of Sequim Acrobatics.

“I was very reluctant to do it; I was aware of the huge amount of costume work and makeup and props that came along with it,” she said.

After all, Cameron wound up spending more than $230 million on his film’s production, and most of the main characters, the Na’vi, are 9- to 10-feet tall — and computer generated at that.

Photo courtesy of Sequim Acrobatics / Cast members rehearse a scene from “Pandora,” Sequim Acrobatics’ feature show that’s slated for performances on Friday, June 21, and Saturday, June 22, at the Sequim High School auditorium.

Photo courtesy of Sequim Acrobatics / Cast members rehearse a scene from “Pandora,” Sequim Acrobatics’ feature show that’s slated for performances on Friday, June 21, and Saturday, June 22, at the Sequim High School auditorium.

It took a convincing PowerPoint and visual aids from Sequim Acrobatics coach Mia Underwood to convince Laxson to dive into Sequim’s own version of an “Avatar” story, one the performance troupe is bringing to local audiences this week.

“She showed me how we can tell the story,” Laxson said.

“Pandora,” a locally-created story based on Cameron’s “Avatar series and told through acrobatic storytelling, is set for two performances, 7 p.m. Friday, June 21, and 5 p.m. Saturday, June 22, at the Sequim High School auditorium, 533 N. Sequim Ave.

Tickets are $16.84, and are available to purchase in advance at sequimacrobatics.com and Over the Fence, 118 E. Washington St.

(See a 44-second “sneak peak” online at sequimacrobatics.com.)

An ‘Avatar’ prequel

With all the challenges built in of replicating the original story, coach Logan Laxson (Alicia’s son) said the show’s creators opted to tell a kind of prequel to the original but keeping it set in the familiar world of Pandora, where the indigenous Na’vi live.

Photo courtesy of Sequim Acrobatics
Several cast members with Sequim Acrobatics’ “Avatar”-inspired upcoming production of “Pandora” will feature the physical characteristics of the Na’vi.

Photo courtesy of Sequim Acrobatics Several cast members with Sequim Acrobatics’ “Avatar”-inspired upcoming production of “Pandora” will feature the physical characteristics of the Na’vi.

“Pandora” explores new characters and creatures and tell a story with cirque-style performances.

“We can still pull in the familiar iconography without having to have it tied to the human invasion element,” Logan said, noting that audience members will be able to enjoy the story even if they’re not familiar with the films.

“This is our own story,” Alicia added.

Last year’s Sequim Acrobatics feature,” Neverland,” transported audiences to the familiar world of Peter Pan. And while the “Avatar” films are popular worldwide, the Laxsons said this production presents more of a challenge for her young performers.

“People already have a story in their mind [with the Peter Pan performance],” Logan said.

“Storytelling is hard when you don’t get to talk,” Alicia added. Performers have to figure out how to tell people what’s happening or what character is related to another using movement.

That, Alicia said, means bigger, more obvious gestures. That element of the production led her to cast performers who are very comfortable with self-expression and being put “on the spot.” They key, she said, was for the performers to know when to pause and let the audience take in the information.

All-ages show

Logan, a coach, choreographer and performer, will join Underwood, his longtime performing partner, along with a cast of 40 to 45 — mostly younger performers, although some adults are involved. Their ages range from 8 to about 45, Alicia said.

Photo courtesy of Sequim Acrobatics / Cast members rehearse a scene from “Pandora,” Sequim Acrobatics’ feature show that’s slated for performances on Friday, June 21, and Saturday, June 22, at the Sequim High School auditorium.

Photo courtesy of Sequim Acrobatics / Cast members rehearse a scene from “Pandora,” Sequim Acrobatics’ feature show that’s slated for performances on Friday, June 21, and Saturday, June 22, at the Sequim High School auditorium.

Along with the familiar blue-skinned look of the Na’vi, “Pandora” will feature music that Logan likens to a DJ mix that will have elements of the “Avatar” soundtrack. The Sequim native spent several weeks researching music — everything from Mongolian throat singing to West African drums — to create sounds for the upcoming production.

“Music is such an important part of the emotion of the story,” he said.

Music from “Avatar” has heavy tribal and orchestral elements mixing together, he noted.

“The music, I knew, was going to be challenging,” Logan said.

Movement among the performers, so key to acrobatics, has proved to be a challenge as well, the Laxsons said.

“People have to grip each other,” Logan said.

“We have to do all these physical movements with costumes on,” Alicia said. “And the Na’vi have tails.”

Fight scenes are also tricky, Logan said; in martial arts, a focus is taking an opponent down as quickly as possible, while this performance sees actors and actresses stretching out combat to hit a two-minute mark.

Photo courtesy of Sequim Acrobatics / Performers with Sequim Acrobatics wow the audience with “Neverland” in 2023. The group presents “Pandora” on June 21-22.

Photo courtesy of Sequim Acrobatics / Performers with Sequim Acrobatics wow the audience with “Neverland” in 2023. The group presents “Pandora” on June 21-22.

Despite all of the challenges — or perhaps because of them — audiences are in for a treat, Logan said.

“For me, [what’s great about this is] how cohesive it all is; the music, the movement,” he said.

“People are going to feel very immersed in Pandora.”

For more information about this performance or classes, visit sequimacrobatics.com.

‘Pandora’

Sequim Acrobatics cirque-style show

When: 7 p.m. Friday, June 21; 5 p.m. Saturday, June 22

Where: Sequim High School auditorium, 533 N. Sequim Ave.

Tickets: $16.84, available at sequimacrobatics.com and Over the Fence, 118 E. Washington St.

More info: sequimacrobatics.com

Photo courtesy of Sequim Acrobatics / Cast members rehearse a scene from “Pandora,” Sequim Acrobatics’ feature show that’s slated for performances on Friday, June 21, and Saturday, June 22, at the Sequim High School auditorium.

Photo courtesy of Sequim Acrobatics / Cast members rehearse a scene from “Pandora,” Sequim Acrobatics’ feature show that’s slated for performances on Friday, June 21, and Saturday, June 22, at the Sequim High School auditorium.