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Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts: Buttoned up street performer's 'strip tease'

Texas native Derek McAlister combines wordless comedy and acrobatic feats in a Chinese pole routine that must be seen to be believed.
BY BRANDY MCDONNELL bmcdonnell@opubco.com Modified: April 25, 2013 at 10:06 pm •  Published: April 26, 2013

On her first visit to the Festival of the Arts, Cory Snow Hyde expected to enjoy a pleasant springtime walk, grab a few tasty treats and check out some lovely artwork.

She didn't anticipate sitting at the base of a Chinese pole and playing the role of love interest while a whistle-wielding tweed-clad clown suddenly transformed into an agile acrobat.

The Oklahoma City resident and almost 200 other festivalgoers stared up in amazement Thursday afternoon as Derek Derek nimbly scaled the 20-foot apparatus to perform jaw-dropping feats of flexibility and strength, gripping the pole with his legs as he shed his nerdy duds to reveal a slick black costume underneath.

“I didn't know I was going to get a strip tease. I was unaware of that. ... A family-friendly strip tease,” Hyde said, laughing. “I was quite surprised. That's not something you see a guy do every day.”

Also known as Derek McAlister, Derek Derek happens to specialize in astonishing acts that most people don't see every day, whether he is juggling fire, nimbly negotiating the Chinese pole or carrying on a wordless conversation through a series of whistles, hand gestures and facial expressions.

The Texas native is the official street performer of Oklahoma City's annual “rite of spring,” and two or three times a day during the festival, he does his feats of hilarity and daring in the clearing behind Stage Center. Sometimes he opts for his “Derek Derek Fire-Juggling Comedy Show. ” On other occasions, he performs “The Twin Tango” like he did with Hyde at lunchtime Thursday.

“It's my version of a clown comedy Chinese pole love story,” he said. “It's rare to find a show that's silent or mostly silent. ... It's also, so far, quite rare to see anyone do Chinese pole in the street. It's a challenging apparatus to build, transport and then rig safely in the street. So that combination is something that I quite like.”

Festival tradition

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