Cherokee Kid

Jim Alberty is a member of the Bird Clan of the Cherokee Tribe of Oklahoma. Born in Claremore, OK he now lives in Maine, working as a composer, writer and Creative for Apple. He is active in the Casco Bay area arts and education communities as a composer, musician, social dancer and actor.


As my friend C. observed, I am a genuine Cirque Geek.

The Cirque du Soleil has been a template for a lot of my teaching.  There's a reason it resonates with my life.

I've mentioned my DCI Championship performance, winning a gold ring in 1977.

The biggest memory was the view of 34,000 people standing to cheer the end of our performance. I'd not been really focussing on them and they suddenly appeared as we stopped to breathe at the end of "Rocky".

That feeling of accomplishment, of reaching into the hearts of an audience and igniting passion and joy has never left me. The feeling - if not the experience - is what drove my teaching in public school.

So I was thrilled when the Cirque show "Saltimbanco" was scheduled at the Civic Center.

Usually I try to go with C. but budgets and schedules didn't match until too late.

Still I managed to see it last night, again today with my friend A. and her 8 year-old daughter. I love watching children experience the Cirque for the first time.

In the second act, there is a number called "hand to hand" or Vis Versa. I've seen it performed with a mixed couple as well as with two men, as here. Either way it is a dramatic expression of what I get from the Cirque more than anything else.

I started crying during the performance. It suddenly hit me very hard.

While watching it this afternoon I was stunned to see them miss the last skill, an amazing front to back transfer that ends this YouTube video. Friday night they nailed it - Saturday they choked it.

Like every mistake that happens in a Cirque performance they tried it again (last night the juggler had three tries before he got the 10-ball shower - a Russian swing jump onto a suspended Russian board had to be repeated).

But the calf muscles of the porter (the one on the ground - the mover is called the flyer, even in an act like this) just gave out and he couldn't do the final lift. They took a bow and the crowd gave them a huge ovation for being willing to try.

My tears came from a sudden voice in my head. "You decide what you want, you plan it out and then you move". Very simple but suddenly it seemed those words were meant for me - that they were something that I could do.

Sounds absurd - a man in his mid-50's suddenly realizing he had control of how his life could go, but there it was.

The thing about watching the Cirque is the quick realization that those are people up there - dedicated, trained, consumed, disciplined people - who are that good because they are doing something they love - and love bears all trials and questions.

Tomorrow I'm flying out to Cupertino CA for a week of Creative training at Apple headquarters. I have plane flights, rented car, hotel room, expense account, the works. I wanted this to happen since I joined this company four years ago and now it's going to happen. I had to pass tests, work my way from the sales floor (red zone) to Small Device support (Family Room Specialist), set up the Summer camp and Field trip programs - and saw them become strong enough to turn over to others.

This company is as much concerned with excellence as the Cirque - and our success proves the rightness of this approach.

My job may not seem like much compared to my friends who are doctors, lawyers or full-time professional artists. Frankly I don't have time to care.

I look at the detail of my journey to this point, to those tears joyously confirming my small claim to stand on the stage of those who have accomplished what they meant to do by hard work, sacrifice and a belief that not only could they do it but they wanted and deserved to try.

So now, in a few hours, I'm going to see what I can do to start my next move.

I'll keep you posted.

Portland, Maine