Acrobatics. Aerialists. Contortionists. Jugglers. Tight rope walkers.
Every year Cirque Us! weaves the skills of talented young men and women into an amazing show that will keep your eyes glued to the stage. "There is more mystery and more chance with circus that other art forms which keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. Having that effect on people and hearing their satisfaction as you complete a trick is my favorite thing in the world," says founder, Doug Stewart.
This year is no exception. Tightrope walker Sorrell Nielsen is especially looking forward to this dynamic: "Last time I toured with Cirque Us there were 10 of us. This year there are only 6 of us and I haven't toured with any of them before. I'm really excited to meet the new cast members and to see what we create together. I think our different backgrounds will come together to create an amazing show!"
They blend group and solo acts
Each year there's a theme and story to the performance. It takes careful planning to determine what order the acts go in to create continuity which I learned about last year when I got a behind-the-scenes look at how a show is put together and what a practice is like (which you can watch and learn about here).
Performers Help to Create the Show and Their Own Acts
Cirque Us really highlights the talent of the individual and this is what makes the show really shine: "Cirque Us is so unique because its shows are really driven by the cast. A lot of other productions will create a show in their minds and then go out and find the people to fill those roles. At Cirque Us we do the opposite. Each year we select a cast with talent, stage presences and a whole lot of energy to join us on the road for the summer. From there, Jesse Dryden, the show's creative director, looks at all the talents and abilities of the cast and creates the show from there. As an artist in the show, its extremely fun to work in this way because you can really contribute to the development of the show," says Doug.
Aerialist Rena Dimes explains: "Cirque Us was my first professional touring experience. After last summers tour I immediately flew to Germany to work as an aerialist for AIDA cruises. Cirque Us is very different than cruise life because the show is much smaller and catered to the needs of the performers. For example, when I was rehearsing for AIDA, there were other people rehearsing my role in other casts, because our show is produced on 6 different ships. Cirque Us is the complete opposite because I not only got to create my role, but I am the only person who will perform it."
Many of these performers work for larger companies so having more of a say in the production of a performance is empowering to the artist and exciting: "This will be my first summer with Cirque Us, but its very different to other companies I've worked for. I toured in arena's with Ringling Brothers and Barium & Bailey's circus, and it will be very cool to perform in much smaller and more intimate venues this summer with RagTag," says Joy Powers, whose talent is clowning.
What does this mean for the audience?
More enthusiasm, emotion, and variety in the show because the artists got to help create it. Just more fun!
They Keep Things Fresh
Each year is a mix of returning performers and new performers so you never know what mix of talent you're going to get when you sit for a Cirque Us! performance, but you know it's going to be good.
They're also evolving as a performance group, trying new tricks and this year a new rigging system. Aerialist, Rena Dimes, is excited about this. "Last year, and in all previous years, all the aerial equipment was rigged directly to the rig which means all the equipment had to be at one height. I'm excited because this year we are able to adjust the heights of aerials during performances to add new levels to them."
As an audience member I'm looking forward to seeing what aerial acts at different heights will look like. How will it add even more flavor to the show?
The Clowning Acts Often Interact with the Audience
Once they got a volunteer. Often they respond to the audience's reaction. I still remember the pet roller skate and the dating show. Very funny.
Clown performer, Joy Powers, explains why she loves the circus so much: "I love to make people smile. When I'm on stage I can be as completely free and myself as I want. Its really nice having a place where you can be crazy and look foolish and have people laugh at you! Nothing is better than getting the audience to laugh at your jokes!"
I can't wait to see what she has up her sleeve for us this year.
Want to Try it?
Want to learn about the circus? Try the adult workshop night in Cornish in August or the juggling jam in June. Have a kid that wants to try something new? How about circus camp?
It's not something you have to have grown up with. Kevin Flanagan is a guitarist who got interested in juggling and now just loves to share this passion with others: "I like juggling and showing people my juggling."
See their events page here.
or Just Want to Love it?
Nina Gershy encourages us all to love the circus: "Circus is the one place where everyone can truly be themselves and will be accepted. Through the physical nature of circus, there is a skill for everyone. From aerials, to juggling, acrobatics, unicycle or clowning, there is something that everyone can do and enjoy. The circus community is also the most welcoming one I have ever been apart of. Circus allows everyone to be able to come together for common goals and to learn to lift one another up, both mentally and physically. I think that if the world was more like a circus, there would be a lot less fighting and a lot more red noses."
Want to See Behind the Scenes?
What's a Show Like? Read Cirque Us!