Author: Elisa Shoenberger

The Flying Trapeze: Camille Swift, the Monstress Madame Mantis

Circus has been making a comeback across the country for the past few decades. Chicago has seen the rise of circus schools, companies, and shows all across the city. Performers train and present their work to audiences while amateurs can learn new circus skills for health and self-expression. Any given month, you can see at least two homegrown shows, not including shows by smaller companies and the occasional visiting circus. The Flying Trapeze is a column that will bring you the best and brightest of Chicago’s vibrant circus scene. Circus artist Camille Swift came to the world of circus through an unexpected avenue: Meishi-ha Mugai Ryu Iaihyodo or a form of Japanese sword fighting. In her mid-20s, Swift had gotten into anime and decided to buy herself a sword. But when she realized it was “lame not to know how to use it,” she started taking sword fighting lessons. Swift took classes but stumbled upon the circus when her sensei told her about an underground circus show, known as Circo Cheapo (since moving into Aloft’s permanent location …

Flying Trapeze: Yes, Ma’am Circus

Circus has been making a comeback across the country for the past few decades. Chicago has seen the rise of circus schools, companies, and shows all across the city. Performers train and present their work to audiences while amateurs can learn new circus skills for health and self-expression. Any given month, you can see at least two homegrown shows, not including shows by smaller companies and the occasional visiting circus. The Flying Trapeze is a column that will bring you the best and brightest of Chicago’s vibrant circus scene. Ever think to combine John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost with acrobatics and aerial arts? Or the dulcet phrases of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night with trapeze and juggling? Yes, Ma’am Circus has successfully brought these works to the circus world in the past few years. Executive Director Amancay Kugler didn’t expect to be running a small theater company but through her dual dance and psychology degree, she was exposed to the circus craft. She had taken a required class on dance composition which resulted in her developing an …

Out of Site: Public Performance goes Virtual

Since its inception, Out of Site (OoS) has sought to create wonder through “unexpected encounters in public space.” Performances took place in unusual places, such as alleyways, parking lots, underneath the El tracks, as well as during the middle of Wicker Park Fest. However like many performance art groups and initiatives during the coronavirus shutdown, Out of Site pivoted to present innovative performance art through live streaming tools. Started by Carron Little and Whitney Tassie in 2011, this public performance art series has brought artists from all around the world and on to the streets of Wicker Park, Noble Square, and other parts of the city. Performances varied in tone whether it was two women, Elena & Erin, pushing a cabinet down Milwaukee avenue or Austin-based artists performing an underwater puppet show with a truck-sized whale in Ballenarca.  Taking performance art into the digital realm seemed like a natural step. Out of Site teamed up with Experimental Sound Studio’s (ESS) The Quarantine Concert series on May 26th to present Out of Site Virtual Performance. Donations …

The Flying Trapeze: Raks Geek

Circus has been making a comeback across the country for the past few decades. Chicago has seen the rise of circus schools, companies, and shows all across the city. Performers train and present their work to audiences while amateurs can learn new circus skills for health and self-expression. Any given month, you can see at least two homegrown shows, not including shows by smaller companies and the occasional visiting circus. The Flying Trapeze is a column that will bring you the best and brightest of Chicago’s vibrant circus scene. Raks Geek is a cabaret of belly dancing, fire spinning, and other arts celebrating geekdom. Think Chewbacca dancing or Thor fire dancing.  Dawn Xiana Moon, Raks Geek’s founder and director, hadn’t originally planned to start the group. It had come out of her own interests as a self-professed geek who wondered if anyone had combined belly dancing and geekery. After searching on YouTube, Moon saw some geeky belly dancing but felt that it wasn’t high enough quality. As a professional belly dancer and singer-songwriter, Moon explains …

The Flying Trapeze: Cyril Rabbath, Master Juggler

Circus has been making a comeback across the country for the past few decades. Chicago has seen the rise of circus schools, companies, and shows all across the city. Performers train and present their work to audiences while amateurs can learn new circus skills for health and self-expression. Any given month, you can see at least two homegrown shows, not including shows by smaller companies and the occasional visiting circus. The Flying Trapeze is a column that will bring you the best and brightest of Chicago’s vibrant circus scene. For Cyril Rabbath, master juggler, the “sincerity and authenticity” is what pulled him into the circus. He’s been in the top circus shows throughout the world including Cirque du Soleil’s North American tour for Dralion, Friedrichsbau Varieté’s Bitter Sweet in Germany, and Wuqiao Circus’s Festival Winner’s Show in China as well as a street performer. Not to mention, he’s also won many awards over the years for his work. He has taught all over Europe, Canada, and the US. And lucky for Chicago, he’s been bringing …

The Flying Trapeze: The Drifter’s Collective

Circus has been making a comeback across the country for the past few decades. Chicago has seen the rise of circus schools, companies, and shows all across the city. Performers train and present their work to audiences while amateurs can learn new circus skills for health and self-expression. Any given month, you can see at least two homegrown shows, not including shows by smaller companies and the occasional visiting circus. The Flying Trapeze is a column that will bring you the best and brightest of Chicago’s vibrant circus scene. Chantal Bustamante started Drifter’s Collective, a small circus company, in 2018 because she wanted to do more acrobatics as well as create more opportunities to perform. Since 2018, Bustamante says that the Drifter’s Collective has “slowly evolved into a multi-cultural circus company.”  For Bustamante, diversity is key. “We have different ethnicities, orientations… men, women, and people who do not identify working side by side together,” she says. Starting with four performers, the group has grown to seven and one apprentice with two shows—Stone Soup and in the …

Theater Groups Get Creative with Delivering Content During the Quarantine

While entertainment venues across the world have gone dark due to the coronavirus, theaters and artistic groups have been finding ways to raise the spirits of people. The NY Metropolitan Opera, Melbourne Symphony, and many other major venues are streaming concerts and recordings.  Some groups, notably groups here in Chicago, have taken digital content to another level: artists are creating new content to live stream to viewers. We talked to three theatrical groups that have been filling our screens during this crisis: Aloft Circus Arts,  Nasty Brutish and Short, and Mr. and Mrs. Wednesday-Night. Aloft is a Chicago circus school and performance space in a former church in Logan Square. Students, both professionals and amateurs, have the opportunity to take classes on a variety of apparatuses including trapeze, silks, trampoline wall, juggling, acrobatics and much more. With the recent closure of bars and restaurants, Aloft decided to move to streaming circus classes for its students. At set times during the week, students can take live virtual classes with their teachers on topics such as foolery, …