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Holiday Arts Preview

Reindeer games, roller skaters, and aerial feats in Cirque du Soleil’s ‘ ‘Twas the Night Before …’

An acrobat is suspended in air in Cirque du Soleil's " 'Twas the Night Before … ."Kyle Flubacker/MSG Entertainment

Visions of sugarplums, a jolly old elf, and the prancing and pawing of reindeer hooves — the imagery in Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas” instantly conjures the magic of Christmas. So it’s no surprise that Cirque du Soleil, the Montreal-based entertainment company that has reimagined circus arts, should bring those images to life with “ ‘Twas the Night Before …, ” an evening of gravity-defying acrobatics using the Moore poem as a frame. The show arrives at the Boch Center Wang Theatre Nov. 25-Dec. 11.

“We usually build an acrobatic skeleton for a show first,” said James Hadley, creator and director of “ ‘Twas the Night Before … .” “But for this show, the poem came first.”

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The poem functions as an inner frame for a story about Isabella, a teen who has become jaded by the high-pressure expectations of the holiday season. Although she’s no longer interested in the family tradition in which her father reads “A Visit from St. Nicholas” aloud, when she opens a gift he gives her, it transports her into the winter wonderland of the poem.

Hadley says some of the performances use specific images from the poem, including Isabella being lifted into the sky by straps (“as leaves that before the wild hurricane fly”); an acro table act that imagines “children nestled all snug in their beds” actually unable to go to sleep or even sit still; a “sleigh full of toys” delivered through the aerial antics of a hotel cart; and reindeer, in the form of hoop divers, landing on the roof.

Other acts include a pair of roller skaters performing on a “frozen lake” with an impossibly small circumference, completing lifts and dips and spinning at breathtaking speeds, as well as “Sharing the Spark,” in which “Les Tuques” — mischievous elves — dance with a spark of light that leads Isabella into the world of adventure.

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Performers dressed as reindeer jump through hoops in Cirque du Soleil's " 'Twas the Night Before … ."KYLE FLUBACKER/MSG ENTERTAINMENT

Since this production plays indoors rather than under a big top, there are no trapeze acts, and Hadley says there is a greater use of dance and movement to create more fluid connections between the various pieces of the poem and the circus routines.

While the poem creates some parameters for the design and order of the acts, Hadley says it also provides flexibility. When Isabella is transported to a magical world, there’s room to play with images, such as having her greeted by Jolly, a juggler trying to put her at ease.

“There are some iconic images,” he says, “but there are other moments I hope will surprise audiences.”

There are also musical surprises, he says, courtesy of Cirque du Soleil composer-arranger Jean-Phi Gonçalves (Cirque’s “Alegria”). Gonçalves has written new arrangements of familiar Christmas carols, including “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “O Christmas Tree,” “Do You Hear What I Hear,” and “Joy to the World,” as well as new music to accompany the circus acts and provide transitions between scenes.

‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE …

At the Boch Center Wang Theatre. Nov. 25-Dec. 11. Tickets start at $30. www.bochcenter.org, 800-982-2787

Terry Byrne can be reached at trbyrne@aol.com.