I got to get an inside look at the training for Cirque Us!, a professional circus company based in New England, and learned what it takes to create the amazing performance I saw last year (and am excited to see again this year).
Here’s what I learned you need while interviewing the performers and directors:
Make sure to check out the videos at the bottom of training in action!
How Do you Keep it Fresh?
You take the base components, juggling, acrobatics, aerial, clowning, and change up the acts. For example a solo aerial act may become a duo or combine juggling and acrobatics or aerial and clowning in an act. This year they’re trying chairs as props.
How do You Create Continuity in the Show?
It is a challenge to make the show look seamless and not a series of solo acts, which is what I was impressed with last year when I wrote my post last year. In order to do this you need to highlight individual talents while bringing the whole cast together for ensembles as well. Jesse Dryden, creative director, uses colored post its to create this seamless show. Each color represents a different circus skill like juggling, aerial, etc. He puts them in order and can visually see if two aerial acts are too close together. This was one of my favorite things I learned, seeing how the show is broken down into individual elements and then becomes a cohesive whole in the process.
How do you Determine What Tricks go in the Show?
You need to balance the wow factor with the artistic factor, keeping in mind the heart factor; it’s about the “connectivity of doing something astounding while maintaining human connection,” Jesse Dryden, creative director, explains. That might mean working more on a trick that will really wow the audience and letting a lesser trick go. These are decisions Dryden makes during training.
Deciding which tricks go into the show and which do not also plays a role in the health of the performers. He has what he calls ‘body maintenance’ of the entire group to consider. The performers have to work for 16 days and then go on tour where they’ll be on the road. They can be on the road fir hours and perform, facing obstacles like soreness and fatique. Dryden asks himself is this trick worth investing more practice time.
What Makes Cirque Us! Special?
Rena Dimes, aerialist and controtionist, thinks its a combination of different strengths: the group’s eagerness to collaborate, their humility, and their talent. Everyone has something different to bring to the table, she said. As I observered, I could see that. I saw people practicing their skill set on their own, working together on a group trick, stretching, and simply thinking to process how to put their act together. All of these tasks is what Ivan Jermyn, acrobat, likes about working with Cirque Us!; there’s a common goal but everyone has a different path to get there.
This is Sam Gurwitt, who specializes in clowning, planning out his act and the timing of his jokes.
Personally, I think the joy they bring to the show with their expertise is what really makes Cirque Us! special. There was no shortage of laughs as the group trained, and yet they were clearly so focused.
I feel like their job is an important outreach to the community. They even do classes and workshops so you can learn juggling or other circus tricks too.
Rena Dimes summed it up well: “[We want] to make art that makes us and others happy,” she said.
Check out their show in WRJ on the weekend of June 23-24 to have a slice of that happiness.