Keeping The Beat While Keeping Dry

Image“Five six seven eight… five six seven eight AND TURN four five six seven eight… and BREAK five six seven eight… MOVE. Five six seven eight…”

Circus Smirkus Creative Director Jesse Dryden’s voice resounds in the high ceilings of the chapiteau  (Big Top) and claps his hands to the beat while the entire troupe of 30 performers swirls across and around the ring in the opening movements of the “chari-vari”  – the opening choreography which presents this year’s theme, time travel. (“Topsy Turvy Time Travel”)

The rainy and cold weather from yesterday has not departed our valley and the rain drums around us. Inside the dry, drafty and cool sanctuary, the troupers have busied themselves practicing the very first and last movements of each individual act. They’ve been at it all afternoon and the energy is still running at somewhere near full capacity. As they jog and hop through abbreviated versions of their movements wearing sweatpants and socks, the clapping continues and Jesse and choreographer Matt Williams call out notes. I have no idea what they’re talking about.

“No, no. Let’s go from the hippy explosion into the cowboy.”

“What do you mean it’s Vikings? It’s supposed to be clowns.”

While all of this is happening, I pick my way around the seats, snapping pictures as I go. The ground is a mess of rubber boots, rain jackets and lighting cables. The troupers continue to practice either oblivious or nonchalant to the intern in their midst. 

A traveling circus is an organism unto itself and all participants are aware of their respective roles. In the span of a given act, one performer hoists this cable, another rolls a hoola-hoop and another gathers and carries off the fabrics when the act has finished. Outside of the tent, there are people responsible for feeding the troupe and their coaches, setting up the tent and the seats, and getting people to attend. For someone joining this kind of organism for the first time, the energy and hectic organization can be a culture shock. Yet in hours, your role crystallizes and that organism puts you to work, be it choreographing, rigging and setting lights, or coaching. It keeps you busy.

And me? I’m the guy with the camera, documenting it all.

Evan Johnson, Communications Intern

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