Local choreographer runs off to join the circus

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First Posted: 4/22/2013

If you’ve ever seen Fred Tallaksen somersault as he zips along on inline skates, you might wonder if he spent his youth wheeling around the hills of Scranton, where he grew up.

“No,” the award-winning choreographer said with a laugh. “I did spend lots of time at the roller rink, but I was a dancer and singer before I learned how to do all kinds of crazy stunts.”

Nowadays, he designs movement, including some crazy stunts, for performers as diverse as dancers and musicians, aerialists and cheerleaders, BMX riders and skateboarders – and even an entire circus.

If you attend the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey show in Wilkes-Barre Township this weekend, you’ll see his work.

The Northeastern Pennsylvania native is the man behind the big production numbers and even the way the two clowns, Anton and Victor, propel forward the arc of the circus’ “Fully Charged” story.

“Anton keeps stealing the power, pulling the plug on the lights and causing all kinds of mischief,” Tallaksen said. “He learns you can’t hog all the energy for yourself. You have to learn to share.”

Tallaksen has enjoyed sharing the limelight ever since his student days, when a part in the musical “Pippin” convinced him he really didn’t want to go into medicine (an earlier ambition) or computer science (his major field at the University of Scranton).

Dance teacher Gail Ercoli of Jessup was the “Pippin” choreographer and convinced Tallaksen he had the talent to become a successful professional.

“She really believed in me and helped me believe in myself,” said Tallaksen, who returned to Scranton this week for a hometown visit and to take his mother, Catherine Tallaksen, to the show.

His mom and his late father, also named Fred Tallaksen, had envisioned a different kind of career for their son but later were happy for him as he garnered success.

Tallaksen has worked one on one with Madonna and has coached a multitude of celebrities, including Selena Gomez, Gwyneth Paltrow, Enrique Iglesias, David Spade, Valerie Bertinelli, Marisa Tomei, Queen Latifah, and many others.

He’s been living on the West Coast for several years but is now considering a move to New York, he said. What’s next?

“Maybe Broadway,” he said.