Bellingham Circus Guild: Aerial Showcase

On December 5, Husband and I joined my parents for a performance of the Bellingham Circus Guild, apparently a well-respected local venue for regular people to learn juggling, acrobats, and the like. This was the annual Aerial Showcase, a big deal (we’re told) because all the rigging required for aerial performances means they rarely get to do much of it at one event (or at all).

The 9-10 acts we saw took place in a warehouse in the southern part of town, a nice big space clearly purpose-rigged with all kinds of equipment (not just for aerials) and big roll-top doors and giant skylights that I bet are lovely in daylight. We paid $15 a head to get in, which I am happy to pay considering all the gear and overhead – and all the skill exhibited.

What the heck is this aerial stuff? It was mostly women, in mostly tight clothes (leotards and the like, with sequins etc.), on a variety of rigs, including your more “standard” aerial silks:

…a big steel hoop:

…a single rope:

…again a more “standard” trapeze:

…and chains and hammocks. (Not all of the above pictures come from Bellingham, and none are mine. See links for sources.) It was wild. Acts began with the more basic – newer members of the Guild – but they were absolutely super impressive. I liked feeling like these were real people, like I could do this (with a LOT of work). And they got more and more intense, with these women (there was only one man, half of a couple-act) releasing the silks (or whatnot) to fall and be caught in their own web – clearly one needs to be very confident that one has arranged the silks properly!! Wow. I was exhausted, and in fact the last 2 (or so) acts were kind of lost on me, after being so emotionally involved, excited, and frightened for these impressive performers – I didn’t have any energy left for the last few! It was really something, some of the best stuff I’ve seen. Very athletic, obviously – all core strength (think about the rings that the male gymnasts do in the Olympics), and often sexual or at least sensual in nature, too. Beautiful, strong, athletic people, with grace and rhythm, and definite showmanship. Remarkable, memorable, incomparable. And again, inspirational: anybody (you or I!) could sign up to learn this stuff, although slowly & with much effort, obviously. I was over the moon. Cirque du Soleil was everything even more – more flexible, more outrageous – but you know, not more impressive. If anything, this was more awesome, because it was so intimate – in such a smaller, informal space, but also intimate in that I felt like these were just regular people I could bump into at the grocery store. And I sure hope I do.

Cirque du Soleil: Ovo!

Last Tuesday night, March 29, the Husband and I went with my parents to see a Cirque du Soleil show called Ovo. Oh my! What to say to describe this? I had never seen Cirque before, and knew it was something very impressive and unique, but I don’t think I was prepared. And I’m not sure I can paint it for you if you’ve never seen one of their productions. But I shall try.

For starters, it was really like an old-fashioned circus in some ways. I think I was picturing something more like theatre, in a fancy hall, with the audience in their finery. And they do perform in concert halls and theatres sometimes; but this was a circus tent (“big top”) set up in a very large parking lot (at a horse-racing track). It sounded like a circus when we stepped inside (circus music!) and

one of my favorites

smelled like one (popcorn!) and, well, it looked like a circus – bright colors and vendors and beer and wine in plastic glasses. The crowd was very diverse and variously dressed in more and less formal attire.

As expected, the performers were in outrageous costume. They were a troupe of various insects: grasshoppers, spiders, a ladybug, and more. And their tricks… wow. There were acrobatics and truly athletic feats of flexibility, balance, and strength – like a combination of gymnastics and dance and yoga. There was juggling, dancing, people being thrown in the air and caught and flipped… tumblers… tightrope

unicycle! on a high wire!

walking… and a truly amazing trampoline act. There were trapeze artists swinging above our heads. (The Husband and I were both reminded of the Drive-by Truckers song The Flying Wallendas. Happily no tragedies this evening!) I had not expected to be thoroughly terrified by almost every act! But I was so thrilled and exhilarated, too. There is also a story involved, of the egg (ovo), and all the insects’ interest in it; and there is a love story. But really, this show is short on plot. And that’s okay; the acrobatics and skills and various performances are the whole point.

I’m so glad I got a chance to see this amazing show. It was a very special experience, and the performers are very, very special talented people (and some of them clearly have joints that bend in extra directions, but that’s another issue). What a treat! What a magical night! And how cool and interesting to see that circus performers are still around – I think I had sort of thought that this was a dying or dead industry, but I’m glad that it’s alive and well at least in the Cirque du Soleil company. I was also glad to not see any animal acts; I’m not sure I’m really up for the animal-cruelty questions in a traditional circus, and there was plenty of thrill with these human performers!

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