Normally, when Hannah Zelinger performs, she "zones out" and doesn't hear the applause. But she admits that at her bat mitzvah reception in September, she was conscious of guests' jaws dropping when she hung upside down in a metallic pink unitard, her ponytail arrowing toward the floor.
Every child wants his or her bar or bat mitzvah party to be special, and one way kids are putting their stamps on each affair is by showcasing their talents. For Hannah, 12, of Long Beach, that meant rigging a trapeze from the ceiling of Warehouse 5 in Island Park and performing a circus act. "It really, really blew people away," says Hannah's mom, Jen.
Other kids have showcased talents, including playing an instrument or singing to make their celebrations their own:
JOINING THE BAND
Jacob DeVito of Rockville Centre played the drums with Rockmitzvah, a specially formed band of professional musicians that allows the bar or bat mitzvah child to perform with them for 20 to 90 percent of the event.
"It was pretty epic, I gotta admit," says Jacob, who played songs by The White Stripes, The Who and Black Sabbath during his reception at The Sands on Lido Beach.
The goal of Rockmitzvah, says co-founder Jim Weingast of New Rochelle, is to make the musical child the "star of the show." The group can be customized -- for instance, if a child wants to play Bruce Springsteen, Rockmitzvah can include a sax player, Weingast says. The band can do pop music, even Broadway show tunes.
David Jarach's son, Dexter, now 14, played guitar with Rockmitzvah at his bar mitzvah reception at Sugar in Carle Place last fall. He practiced with the band a few weeks before the party, and he played tunes by Van Halen and the Rolling Stones.
"It's not for everybody," says David Jarach, of Port Washington. "But if you're really into music and you want to have a different experience... . It was a terrific option for us."
To contact Rockmitzvah, visit rockmitzvah.com or call 914-419-3610.
NEXT STOP: 'AMERICAN IDOL'
Mackenzie Fistel, 13, of Muttontown, filmed a mock VH1 "Behind the Music" show to lead into her mash-up vocal performance at her bat mitzvah in June. The five-minute "entrance video" had a narrator with a British accent. Comical interviews with about 10 of Mackenzie's friends were interspersed with clips of Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj and Justin Bieber, edited as if they were talking about Mackenzie's rising vocal career.
Then Mackenzie, in a short party dress and white Converse sneakers, sang live a combo of three of her favorite songs: "How to Be a Heartbreaker" by Marina and the Diamonds, "Titanium" by David Guetta and "Stay" by Rihanna.
Mackenzie had practiced the songs at The Loft Sound Studio in Plainview and, of course, in the shower. "I was nervous, but when I got onstage and I saw all my friends and family, I didn't really feel nervous anymore," Mackenzie says.
"Cirque du Hannah" was the theme of Hannah Zelinger's bat mitzvah reception, held on a different day than her religious ceremony. Hannah designed her unitard -- one side with a long leg and the other cutoff like shorts; one side with a long sleeve and the other a tank top. Her family searched for a catering venue with high ceilings that could support a trapeze rig.
Hannah thrilled her guests when she showcased the passion she's honed over several summers at the French Woods Festival of Performing Arts in upstate Hancock. Nick Steward, Hannah's private instructor from I.FLY Trapeze of East Meadow, performed as Hannah's partner. "People were shocked," says Hannah, who hopes to join Cirque du Soleil one day. "It's all about trust. You have to forget the fear."
Says Anthony Rosamilia, program director at I.FLY Trapeze: "She's not your everyday girl walking up with no experience saying she wants to do this. You could see that this girl had the ability to make it happen."
To contact I.FLY Trapeze, visit iflytrapeze.com or call 516-640-6995.