This Week — 15 January 2021

On screen, this weekend looks a little bit overwhelming with how many incredible events are happening — we recommend taking a short walk (or at least gazing out the window and taking a few deep breaths) in between the marvelous performances, panels and workshops at your fingertips!


ATTEND

Tonight (1/15)

  • Rock out with your flow and juggling props during the Sunset & Chill Winter Wonder Jam from 8-10 p.m. DJs Shaft XXL and Luxe’n’Bass will keep you moving, spinning and shaking from home. Visit the Facebook event page for more information.

Tonight – Sunday (1/15-17)

  • Club Congress 2021 will be hosting a stellar virtual line-up of workshops, performances, panels and community enlightenment, including the Battle Night championship. This club-focused online event includes beginner workshops, classes taught in Spanish, a femme-identifying juggler space, a gala show, and a performance by Unicirclo Laguna. Visit this link for the full schedule and Zoom links!

Tomorrow (1/16)

  • Circus and Its Others presents Circus 2021: Adaptations + Possibilities Amid Covid-19, a free online panel/workshop with circus artists and scholars from around the world. This event starts at 10 a.m. on Zoom. Follow this link to get more information and to enter the Zoom room.

WATCH

Tonight (1/15)

  • You don’t want to miss the Battle Night Grand Championship, part of the virtual Club Congress festival and starting at 8:30 p.m. EST. This is the best-of-the-best showdown featuring jugglers from Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, El Salvador and the U.S., and YOU get to be a judge! Tune in by following this Zoom link or check it out on YouTube live.

January 15-31

  • The diverse and family-friendly cast of of Omnium: A Bold New Circus is performing virtually throughout the month. Performers include aerialist Jen Bricker-Bauer, ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson, and animal trainer Jenny Vidbel. Get timed tickets at this link. If you are unable to donate, you can fill out their complimentary ticket request form.

Monday (1/18)

  • Bindlestiff Family Cirkus will present the Best of Ask Hovey: Season 2, a video montage of their circus history series with host Hovey Burgess from the second season of their open stage variety show, at 8 p.m. EST. Want to perform in Season 3, which starts on January 25? Fill out their act submission form at this link.

February 12 and 13

  • Witness an incredible collaboration between two Japanese artists, juggler Teruki Okamoto and dancer Chiharu Kuronuma, in I/O Double Bill: Dance & Juggling. This unique performance incorporates the performers’ expertise in computer programming, calligraphy, choreography and movement. Showtimes are Friday (2/12) at Midnight and Saturday (2/13) at 11 p.m. EST, with a 50-minute runtime. You can purchase the streamed performance as well as an archival recording at this link.

DO BUSINESS

Today (1/15)

  • If you’re an independent contractor (pretty much any circus artist right now), estimated quarterly tax payments are due today (1/15). Need help? Check out Circus Hustle’s Crash Course in Circus Taxes and consider supporting more of Nina’s content, which includes very recent updates about the federal relief package, on Patreon. You can also explore the resources and classes provided by Hannah Cole of Sunlight Tax, which caters to artists and freelancers with approachable tax and financial advice.

Tuesday (11/19)

  • First-time applicants — as well as some returning borrowers — will be able to apply for the federal Paycheck Protection Program next week as the small business relief program restarts. This New York Times article answers your basic questions, including who is eligible, when to apply, and how the loan structure works. And don’t let the word ‘loan’ scare you — if you follow the rules of the program, these loans can be forgiven (or otherwise payable at a low interest rate over the course of five years).

APPLY

  • Apply to circus school using the amazing resources provided by Connecting Circus Students Around the World (CSAW). Visit this link for an application master sheet, as well as information about CSAW’s Ambassador Initiative, which pairs prospective circus students with current student liaisons at circus schools around the world.

SUPPORT

  • Did you miss some folks on your nice list, or simply decide to avoid overtaxing the postal service in 2020? We’ve made it easy to find fabulous books, apparel, photography and more in our Circus Gift Guide, which will remain up throughout the year for birthdays, holidays and self-imposed celebration days. Are we missing your creations on this list? Message us at circusdistrict@gmail.com.

This Week — 8 January 2021

Welcome to 2021! Whether you see this as a fresh new year, or just another day to try your best and make things happen in a crazy world, we’ve got your back with impactful circus events and opportunities.


WATCH

January 8-31

  • The diverse and family-friendly cast of of Omnium: A Bold New Circus is performing virtually throughout the month. Performers include aerialist Jen Bricker-Bauer, ringmaster Jonathan Lee Iverson, and animal trainer Jenny Vidbel. Get timed tickets at this link. If you are unable to donate, you can fill out their complimentary ticket request form.

MONDAY (1/11)

  • Bindlestiff Family Cirkus will present the Best of Season 2, a video montage of their greatest virtual moments from the second season of their open stage variety show, at at 8 p.m. EST. Want to perform in Season 3, which starts on January 25? Fill out their act submission form at this link.

January 15

  • You don’t want to miss the Battle Night Grand Championship, part of the virtual Club Congress festival and starting at 8:30 p.m. EST. This is the best-of-the-best showdown featuring jugglers from Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, El Salvador and the U.S. Tune in by finding the Zoom link on the Battle Night Facebook page, or visit the Unicirclo Laguna YouTube channel.

Anytime

  • Daydream of Circus, a collection of juggling, cyr wheel, waacking and spinning plates, is one of the most cinematic circus productions created to date. Artists include Wes Peden (Sweden/USA), Ricardo S. Mendes (Portugal), Kouta Ohashi (Japan) and Bogie (Taiwan), as well as Hong Kong natives Patrick Pun, Lee Way Ne, Zara Asa and Ng Ping Nam. Watch this jam-packed 55-minute show at this link.

ATTEND

Friday through Sunday (1/8-10)

  • Turbo Fest Online presents the fun and adventure of the annual Quebec juggling festival in virtual form — workshops, contests and a show spectacular on Saturday at 2 p.m. EST. Check out the schedule at the Facebook event page.

Sunday (1/10)

  • Club tech and flow expert Jeremiah Johnston will be teaching a free Sequencing Class, with any donations benefiting Club Congress the following weekend. Start building smooth and dynamic club routines with advice from a master manipulator. Visit the Facebook event page for the Zoom link. This class runs from 10 p.m.-Midnight EST.

January 15

  • Rock out with your flow and juggling props during the Sunset & Chill Winter Wonder Jam from 8-10 p.m. DJs Shaft XXL and Luxe’n’Bass will keep you moving, spinning and shaking from home. Visit the Facebook event page for more information.

January 15-17

  • Club Congress 2021 will be hosting a stellar virtual line-up of workshops, performances, panels and community enlightenment. RSVP at the Facebook event page for tons of free education and entertainment from the California crew.

DO BUSINESS

January 15

  • If you’re in an independent contractor (pretty much any circus artist right now), estimated quarterly tax payments are due next Friday (1/15). Need help? Check out Circus Hustle’s Crash Course in Circus Taxes and consider supporting more of Nina’s content, which includes very recent updates about the federal relief package, on Patreon.

LEARN


APPLY

  • Apply to circus school using the amazing resources provided by Connecting Circus Students Around the World (CSAW). Visit this link for an application master sheet, as well as information about CSAW’s Ambassador Initiative, which pairs prospective circus students with current student liaisons at circus schools around the world.

RECOVER

  • Joe’s Movement Emporium is focusing on health and wellness in their upcoming virtual programming, from tips on plant care to yoga to self-care. Visit their website to see their schedule of events to support your mind and body in trying times.

SUPPORT

  • Did you miss some folks on your nice list, or simply decide to avoid overtaxing the postal service in 2020? We’ve made it easy to find fabulous books, apparel, photography and more in our Circus Gift Guide, which will remain up throughout the year for birthdays, holidays and self-imposed celebration days. Are we missing your creations on this list? Message us at circusdistrict@gmail.com.

This Week — 25 December 2020

We wish you a winter season full of gratitude for the friends, family and circus freaks in your life. If you’ve experienced loss, pain, or ‘failure’ in 2020, our hearts are with you. In the face of incredible hardship, the DMV circus community has shown great resiliency. And even though the path forward is uncertain, we will go forth together, hand in hand (or hand-to-hand if you’re an acrobat). As always, get in touch to let us know how The Circus District can more fully support you!

This year, The Circus District was extremely proud to present:

Remember, the best way to support our future email updates, articles and projects is to sponsor us on Patreon. We are humbled by the love you’ve shown us thus far, and look forward to keeping this online community rolling, flipping, twisting and clowning into the new year!


WATCH

TOMORROW (12/26)

  • Acrobatic Conundrum will present their virtual showcase Volume 7 at 10 p.m. EST. This production is a collection of short films that use circus to convey the humanity behind the super-humanity of the artists involved. Tickets are at a sliding scale, starting at $5, and the show will be available through January 1. Visit this link for tickets.

TUESDAY (12/29)

  • The Circus Up Benefit Show is a virtual production appearing online at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Featuring a combination of live and pre-recorded acts, this show is a fundraiser for Circus Up’s youth circus programs based at Boston’s Commonwealth Circus Center. Buy tickets at this link.

ANYTIME

  • Witness global talent of epic proportions in Daydream of Circus, a collection of juggling, cyr wheel, waacking, spinning plates and more. Artists include Wes Peden (Sweden/USA), Ricardo S. Mendes (Portugal), Kouta Ohashi (Japan) and Bogie (Taiwan), as well as Hong Kong natives Patrick Pun, Lee Way Ne, Zara Asa and Ng Ping Nam. Watch this jam-packed 55-minute show at this link.
  • Fans of music, juggling and film-making will love the latest IJA Tricks of the Month video, starring Chilean juggler Cote Velásquez and musician Macarena Leiva Torres. Watch it now at this link.

GIVE/SUPPORT

  • Any time is a good time to buy handmade gifts, artwork and circus classes from the talented souls in our community. We’ve made it easy to find fabulous books, apparel, photography and more in our Circus Gift Guide, which will remain up throughout the year for birthdays, holidays and self-imposed celebration days. Are we missing your creations on this list? Message us at circusdistrict@gmail.com.
  • Circus artists have long enjoyed classes at Joy of Motion Dance Center during its 44-year history in D.C. and Maryland. In addition to the pandemic forcing Joy of Motion to close its Bethesda and Friendship Heights studios, their last remaining location on H Street recently suffered substantial damage when a car crashed into the building (luckily no one was injured). Please consider donating to Joy of Motion at this link, as well as to next-door Atlas Performing Arts Center (whose lobby also suffered damage) at this link. Donations to the Atlas will be matched up to $20k through December 31. Both of these places are havens for art, learning, performance and community. Let’s help them come back strong in 2021!

DO BUSINESS

  • Federally funded unemployment programs like Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (and state-specific extensions) are set to expire this week. If you have yet to file a claim but have been financially impacted by the pandemic, this is your last chance to throw your name in the hat! Even if you’re unsure of your ability to collect unemployment, it’s important to get your name in the system so you can advocate for yourself and get the benefits you need.

Happy holidays, and three circus cheers for a BETTER new year!

This Week — 18 December 2020

We are so grateful to report that circus continues to provide comfort and joy in difficult times. The Circus District wishes you a safe and happy holidays.


SHOP/GIVE

  • Our circus gift guide is now live at this link! We like to think that 2020 has permanently changed the meaning of ‘procrastination’ to ‘extra thoughtfulness.’ So for all of those ‘right on time’ shoppers looking for great circus books, magazines, crafts, masks and more to ship to their loved ones, look no further. This page will remain up after the holidays (gasp!), so you can support your favorite circus makers year-round. Are we missing your creations on this list? Message us at circusdistrict@gmail.com.
  • As a year with catastrophic impacts on circus artists comes to a close, remember to throw some dough toward your favorite circus organizations, whether you’re looking forward to their next show, or hoping that their talents can reach populations in need of circus inspiration in the coming year.

READ

  • Discover an instant holiday classic on The District Ringer as you read The Legend of the Great Spirits of Jugglingcraft. This ‘very 2020’ tale depicts the mystical delivery of juggling ball kits to Little Free Libraries across D.C., as the spirits of jugglingcraft quell child and parent boredom one household at a time. Special thanks to Thom Wall of Modern Vaudeville Press for the materials and inspiration behind this project.

WATCH

TONIGHT (12/18)

  • Battle Night presents their first-ever hoop battle (U.S. v. Mexico) at 8:30 p.m. EST. Watch hoopers stretch their technique, style and ‘power moves’ to the max in this fun and engaging head-to-head format. Visit the Facebook page for the Zoom link, or watch on the Unicirclo Laguna YouTube channel.

TOMORROW (12/19)

  • ‘But what about diabolo battles?’ you ask. The European Diabolo Association has you covered, but there’s a catch. The (Russian) battle begins at 4 a.m. EST on 12/19, aka noon Russian time. True fans — stay up late (or wake up early) for what promises to be an epic event. Visit the European Diabolo Association’s Facebook page for the Zoom link.

MONDAY (12/21)

  • The Bindlestiff Open Stage Variety Show starts at 8 p.m. EST. This edition is bringing some festive holiday flavor to their weekly ritual. Watch on Facebook or YouTube. You can donate during the show at the links provided, or support their fantastic feats of circus anytime via the donation page on their website.

DECEMBER 26

DECEMBER 29

  • The Circus Up Benefit Show is a virtual production appearing online at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Featuring a combination of live and pre-recorded acts, this show is a fundraiser for Circus Up’s youth circus programs based in the Commonwealth Circus Center in Boston. Buy tickets at this link.

LEARN

  • Janelle Peters of Cirque Psych is running another Mental Health First Aid for Circus workshop on December 21. Register at this link.

SUBMIT

  • Snag a 10- to 15-second video of your latest club or torch juggling/spinning/manipulation and submit it to be included the Club Tech Collab Video 2020. Videos should be filmed horizontally and can include passing. Drop your video in the folder at this link.
  • D.C. art space Rhizome DC has an open call for artists to submit work to reflect our present circumstances, and find creative ways to connect and take (Covid-safe) risks during a pandemic. This work will include exhibitions, residencies and workshops in the first half of 2021. All mediums and performance genres will be considered. Visit this link to apply.

DO BUSINESS

  • Pending further legislation, federally funded unemployment benefit programs like Pandemic Unemployment Assistance are set to expire at the end of next week. If you have not received the benefits that you are owed, or have not filed claims to receive backpay, this is your last chance to throw your name in the hat! It’s important to remember that if you have not filed regular weekly claims, the government may try to deny your PUA benefits — even if you were rejected from traditional unemployment in the first place.
  • If you’re struggling to access benefits, consider applying for (pro bono) legal aid and reaching out to local political officials, who may be able to get your case moving while building a support network of constituents with local issues.
  • Note: This advice is based on hearsay and independent research. The Circus District is not an official source of information on UI benefits. However, we encourage artists of all stripes to seek the benefits they are legally entitled to!

This Week — 4 December 2020

December is rife with opportunities to give and receive circus inspiration. Our key takeaways — party online, shop small and juggle more!


ATTEND

TONIGHT-SUNDAY

  • Prop-aganda: The Circus of No Tomorrow is an online flow festival featuring live DJs, showcases, competitions and workshops organized by EPIC Spin Jams. The latest schedule includes flow battles, prop giveaways, and a full line-up of workshops in flow, juggling and more. Sure to be a salve for any chaos the world throws at you. Check out this event on Twitch and Zoom, with more information at this link or on the Facebook event page.

TOMORROW


WATCH

TONIGHT

  • The first graduating class of Circadium, a school of contemporary circus in Philadelphia, will be performing their year-end thesis presentations (aka circus acts) tonight at 8 p.m. EST on Facebook live. Performers include Delaney Bayles, Luna Deasy, Alexandra Feit, Zak McAllister and Stephen Doutt. RSVP and watch at this link. Speaking of circus school, Circadium applications are now open (through 1/31/21) for future students, with application fees waived for the first 25 applicants.

THROUGH SUNDAY

  • Watch Grand Théâtre de Genève’s rendition of Einstein on the Beach by Philip Glass and Robert Wilson, with circus staging and choreography by Daniele Finzi Pasca. Stream this beautiful work at this link.

MONDAY (12/7)

  • The Bindlestiff Open Stage Variety Show: Quarantine Edition starts at 8 p.m. EST. Watch on Facebook or YouTube. You can donate during the show at the links provided, or support their fantastic feats of circus anytime via the donation page on their website.

DECEMBER 15

  • Cirque Us presents an online screening of One Man’s Trash: A Repurposed Circus from 6:30-9 p.m. EST. Featuring a fabulous junkyard adventure conveyed through aerial, acrobatics, tumbling, juggling and clowning, this show is sure to please all ages. Proceeds go toward a scholarship fund for BIPOC individuals to attend Circus Smirkus camp in 2021. Get tickets at this link.

LEARN

  • American Circus Educators is hosting a training program titled Growing Stronger Communities Through Racial Equity and Liberation Health next Monday (12/7), Wednesday (12/9), 12/14 and 12/16. This program is available to members and non-members at a sliding scale. Register at this link.
  • Modern Vaudeville Press front-man Thom Wall stopped through D.C. recently to deliver the gift of juggling! Find out how Circus District is making and distributing juggling ball kits in Little Free Libraries across the district, with updates appearing on The District Ringer.
  • Janelle Peters of Cirque Psych is running another Mental Health First Aid for Circus workshop on December 21. Register at this link.

SUBMIT

  • D.C. art space Rhizome DC has an open call for artists to submit work to reflect our present circumstances, and find creative ways to connect and take (Covid-safe) risks during a pandemic. This work will include exhibitions, residencies and workshops in the first half of 2021. All mediums and performance genres will be considered. Visit this link to apply.

SHOP

  • As holidays come and go, supporting circus artists should always be in fashion! This year, we’ve seen many industrious circus artists marketing their talents for the giving season, from handmade circus stationery to virtual circus programs. Keep an eye on our website for a ‘gift guide’ page, which will provide a dazzling array of online vendors you can throw your money at with a good conscience this winter. Are you a circus artist interested in being on this list? Email us at circusdistrict@gmail.com. Also, shameless plug if you don’t limit your giving to Tuesdays: did you know we have a Patreon?

STAY IN BUSINESS

  • Are you an artist/independent contractor struggling to access full unemployment and Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits in DC? Local leadership is currently seeking short (30-second) video testimonials about your experiences to build awareness and problem-solving around these issues. You can also file for legal aid to advocate on your behalf. Email ctkloc@gmail.com to find out how to connect with local officials and strengthen the movement to support artists at this critical moment.
  • The Main Street Lending Program recently reduced its loan minimum from $1M to $100,000 in an effort to support small businesses (and hopefully put its remaining $595 billion budget to good use by the December 31st deadline). If your business can benefit from this loan structure, visit this link.

This Week — 20 November 2020

While you may not be spending the holidays with your extended family this Thanksgiving, you can definitely spend the week with your circus family! See below for more wisdom and wonderment than you can shake a drumstick at.


READ

  • Get pro tips for photography and videography from circus photographers Shamal Halmat and Dani Pierce in Tricks of the Light: Park Two, published today on The District Ringer. They also list some of their photographic inspirations, from the sublime acrobatic figures of Acey Harper to the poignant urban shots of the Baltimore-based artist Larry Cohen.

WATCH

TONIGHT (11/20)

  • Cirque du Cambodia is a stunning documentary that follows Cambodian circus artists Sopha and Dina as they go from training at Phare Ponleu Selpak (a social circus in their home country) to the École Nationale de Cirque in Montreal, then fulfill their lifelong dream of touring with Cirque du Soleil. The film is directed and filmed by Joel Gershon, who teaches at American University. Get tickets to stream the film today or tomorrow at this link. Donations benefit the film’s stars, as well as the circus program they grew up in.
  • The Battle Night USA Finals kick off tonight at 8:30 p.m. EST. This event showcases some of the greatest three-club jugglers in the United States as they go head-to-head to determine the grand champion. See what they can do with 30 seconds and three objects in this high-octane and good-hearted competition, judged by Matt Hall (Juggle Sensei) and Michael Karas. Visit the Zoom link or watch on the Unicirclo Laguna YouTube channel.
  • Enjoy a casual demonstration of airborne straddles, whips, gazelles and layouts during the TSNY Staff Flying Trapeze Demo from 7-7:45 p.m. on Facebook live. Visit the event page for more details.
  • Rise: A Virtual Performance will be streaming online starting at 7 p.m. EST tonight. This production comes from the imaginative minds of In the Wings aerial studio in Boulder, Colorado, and features performances that grapple with the hurdles we’ve faced in 2020. Get tickets at this link to view the performance from 11/20-22 or 11/27-29.

TOMORROW (11/21)

  • Marvel at some of Maine’s best performers in The Matt Tardy Benefit Show, a fundraiser for juggler and variety artist Matthew Tardy, who is battling Stage 4 thyroid cancer. The line-up includes Michael Menes, Fritz Grobe, Jason Tardy, Michael Miclon, George Saterial and Showtime Steve, sure to delight audiences of all ages. The show will be livestreamed from Johnson Hall at 7 p.m. Visit this link for tickets.

THROUGH SUNDAY (11/22)

  • See the online premiere of On Beckett/In Screen, an award-winning production conceived and performed by Bill Irwin, whose commanding acting and clowning skills bring playwright Samuel Beckett’s works to life on the digital screen. The show runs through November 22. Reserve your timed viewing spot at this link.

MONDAY (11/23)

  • The Bindlestiff Open Stage Variety Show: Quarantine Edition starts at 8 p.m. EST. Watch on Facebook or YouTube. You can donate during the show at the links provided, or support their fantastic feats of circus anytime via the donation page on their website.

THURSDAY (11/26)

  • On top of unmissable appearances by Dolly Parton and Patti LaBelle, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will feature performances by the Big Apple Circus. Expect jugglers, acrobats and other surprises while you host a virtual watch party with your family (or your chosen family). The parade broadcast begins at 9 a.m. EST. Check out BAC’s Facebook page for any updates.

DECEMBER 1

  • Enjoy hysterical and awe-inspiring antics during the Jonathan Burns Comedy Variety Hour from 7-8:30 p.m. EST. Guests include puppeteers Alex & Olmsted, Shay Horay (The Famous Rubber Band Boy) and Ashley Brooke Roberts from NPR’s Ask Me Another. Magic, variety and laughter await! Get tickets at this link.

ATTEND

DECEMBER 4-6

  • Prop-aganda: The Circus of No Tomorrow is an online flow festival featuring live DJs, showcases, competitions and workshops organized by EPIC Spin Jams. A salve for any chaos the world throws at you. Check out this event on Twitch and Zoom, with more information at this link.

TRICKS OF THE LIGHT: PART TWO

Circus Photographers Keep Art in Focus

The District Ringer recently spoke to Dani Pierce and Shamal Halmat, both of whom excel at keeping circus arts in the frame. Learn about their life experiences with photography in part one of this series.

In part two, we share Pierce and Halmat’s advice on how to raise your photography and videography game, including practical tips, online resources, and artists who have personally inspired their work.

Photo by Shamal Halmat, (c) Shamal Deare Creative, 2019.

Pro Tips from Circus Photographers

SHAMAL HALMAT

  • Think about the story you want to tell. That’s the point of all art, photography and circus — to actually revolve around good storytelling.
  • Fire spinners: Slow down! To get a good photo, you kind of have to spin differently. Usually it’s too fast and chaotic. For ‘super spicy’ fire pictures, slow down as much as you can.
  • Good content is good content. For video, a lot of it comes down to making good, interesting content that people can relate to. It doesn’t really matter if you’re filming on an iPhone or a cinema-grade camera.
  • Master the basics. Learning the basics of photography and video — composition, frame rates, lighting, audio and editing — can go a long way. Try filming at ‘golden hour’ to embrace the power of natural light.
  • Circus artists: Give credit, and give back! Giving credit all the time is pretty important. And when working with a photographer, let them get something that could be for a portfolio — something they could actually use to get more work. Always keep them in mind and give them referrals to other people. If you’re dealing with event coordinators a lot, pass on the information for the photographer to work the same events.

DANI PIERCE

  • Focus on the artist, and how to capture what they’re trying to convey. One of the things that drew me to the circus community is that it was a community of people who had taken seriously things that other people didn’t see as careers — and they really had a focused attention and commitment to their craft. I’ve always appreciated that. What I love about photography is that we’re able to capture other people’s art.
  • Explore ideas beyond the ‘best trick’ or ‘favorite pose.’ I will often see beauty in the form that maybe the artist — that isn’t the most dynamic part of their act, or maybe they didn’t like how their lines looked, but I think it looks beautiful. I think there’s a balance of being aware of what circus artists strive for, and then what they would actually want captured and shared.
  • For live performances, be prepared and stay in the moment! Sometimes there’s only like three chances for the best shot. You really have to be ready to go. There have definitely been so many opportunities where I think, oh man I totally missed that shot, and that was the last performance.
  • Value your time and your work. That idea of exposure and art for art? No! People need to eat and pay their bills. I charge because I know how important it is for other photographers — that I don’t just give away art for free — because unfortunately, the way that the art economy is structured, it just does everyone else harm.
Photo by Dani Pierce for Street Light Circus, (c) 2018.

Further Inspiration & Education

From Dani Pierce:

  • Acey Harper is a fine art photographer based out of Paris. He focuses heavily on the human figure, with many of his shoots involving acrobats and aerialists. See how he set up a stunning portrait of aerialist Morgaine Rosenthal hanging by her teeth from the back of a 1957 Chevy in this video. The portrait appears in the book [private acts] The Acrobat Sublime, photographed by Acey Harper and written by Harriet Heyman. “Both acrobats and photographers are used to working hard and in hardship for our respective art, and for [this book], we shared the difficulties of bringing our visions to life,” Harper said in an interview with Loenke Magazine. Read the full interview here.
  • Gregory Crewsdon is a New York City-based photographer who stages extraordinary suburban scenes that resemble cinema in their exacting consideration of lighting, sets and cast. He cites Diane Arbus and Edward Hopper as inspirations. His work often takes on a surreal quality through the staging of humans, nature and architecture.

From Shamal Halmat:

  • Taylor Jackson is a Canadian photographer who specializes in wedding photography and videography. He maintains a blog with multiple courses for aspiring multimedia creators. Many of the courses focus on weddings, but class titles also include ‘Creating Profitable YouTube Videos’ and ‘Make Money With Your Photos.’ His YouTube channel is full of knowledge about everything from event portraiture to landscape photography, based on his many years of experience shooting photos and film across the globe.
  • Larry Cohen takes poignant urban photos in Baltimore (where he is based) and other cities. His current focus is the social justice movement. He has also worked extensively with burner communities in Richmond, Baltimore, D.C. and Philadelphia. You can see his latest work at I Shot Baltimore, a diary of his photographic interests.
  • Doug Sanford is a studio and event photographer who lives and works in Washington, D.C. He takes lively and colorful portraits of artists and other subjects, including his starkly beautiful series Playing with Fire.
  • Aaron Kirn is a North Carolina-based photographer who takes masterfully lit, charismatic photos of fire artists and other variety performers. Check out his instagram to see his amazing work, and view his online portfolio here.

Special thanks to Dani Pierce and Shamal Halmat, who generously provided many of the photos you see on the header of the Circus District blog.

This Week — 13 November 2020

This month has plenty of scintillating circus surprises in store for you. Scroll now to get your calendar in order (or chaos… whichever you prefer).


READ

  • Today, The District Ringer brings you the final edition of The Covid Chronicles, catching up with TSNY-DC general manager Mandy Keithan, who tells us how the trapeze school in Navy Yard has reopened and rebuilt their class offerings around the challenges of 2020. Read the story here.

WATCH

TOMORROW (11/14)

  • See the next generation of circus artists perform during the Circadium Virtual Gala from 7:30-10 p.m. EST. This live production features current students at the school of contemporary circus in Philadelphia. Tickets benefit Circadium, the only school offering higher education in circus arts in the United States. Buy tickets here and check out the silent auction, with items including aerial silks, moving sculptures, circus face masks and more!

MONDAY (11/16)

  • The Bindlestiff Open Stage Variety Show: Quarantine Edition starts at 8 p.m. EST. Watch on Facebook or YouTube. You can donate during the show at the links provided, or support their fantastic feats of circus anytime via the donation page on their website.

TUESDAY (11/17)

  • See the online premiere of On Beckett/In Screen, an award-winning production conceived and performed by Bill Irwin, whose commanding acting and clowning skills bring playwright Samuel Beckett’s works to life on the digital screen. The show runs through November 22. Reserve your timed viewing spot at this link.

WEDNESDAY (11/18)

  • Meet the Jugglers is a brand new interview series hosted by Pearls of Juggling. The first live chat — with Mexican club and contact juggler Santi Malabari — will take place at 11:30 a.m. EST on the Pearls of Juggling Facebook page.

FRIDAY (11/20)

  • Don’t miss an online screening of Cirque Du Cambodia, available throughout the weekend (11/20-22). This gripping documentary follows circus artists Sopha and Dina on their journey from 2011-2018, attending a social circus program in their home country, then École Nationale de Cirque to achieve their lifelong dream of performing in Cirque du Soleil. Visit this link to purchase a ticket, which supports the stars of the film as well as the circus program they grew up in.
  • The finals of Battle Night USA will start at 8:30 p.m. EST. Watch as some of the best three-club jugglers in the nation throw down their smoothest, spiciest and most technical sequences in this action-packed head-to-head format. Who will be crowned the campeon/campeona de los Estados Unidos? Find out by visiting the Battle Night Facebook page for the Zoom link, or watch on the Unicirclo Laguna YouTube channel.
  • Enjoy a casual demonstration of airborne straddles, whips, gazelles and layouts during the TSNY Staff Flying Trapeze Demo from 7-7:45 p.m. on Facebook live. Visit the event page for more details.
  • Check out Rise: A Virtual Performance, an ensemble aerial dance performance that tackles the challenges of 2020 from In the Wings aerial studio in Boulder, Colorado. The show will be available for online viewing 11/20-22 and 11/27-29. Visit the Facebook event page for tickets.

SATURDAY (11/21)

  • Marvel at some of Maine’s best performers in The Matt Tardy Benefit Show, a fundraiser for juggler and variety artist Matthew Tardy, who is battling Stage 4 thyroid cancer. The line-up includes Michael Menes, Fritz Grobe, Jason Tardy, Michael Miclon, George Saterial and Showtime Steve, sure to delight audiences of all ages. The show will be livestreamed from Johnson Hall at 7 p.m. Visit this link for tickets.

ATTEND

TUESDAY (11/17)

  • The DC Unicycle Meetup group is hosting an all-levels practice session from 5:30-6:30 p.m. EST at Volta Park in Georgetown. Visit their page to reserve a spot, and let them know if you need to borrow a unicycle.

LEARN

  • Dancer, pole artist and burlesque performer Eva Mystique just opened Studio Mystique in Northwest D.C. Visit her website to register for private lessons in pole, burlesque, belly dance, chair and floor work. The studio is also available to artists looking to rent a space for photo shoots, rehearsals and virtual performances.

The Covid Chronicles: Reopening the Circus, Part Four

LOCAL BUSINESSES RETURN TO THE RING IN THE COVID ERA

Note: This is the final installment of a four-part series highlighting the gradual reopening of DMV businesses. Part one profiles Emilia’s Acrobatics and Gymnastics, part two catches up with Pole Pressure DC, and part three visits Monarca in Flight.

From the collective shutdown to the current state of affairs, representatives of four companies specializing in recreational, artistic and competitive circus skills talked to The District Ringer about how the global pandemic has reframed their industry.


Before 2020, D.C.’s Navy Yard neighborhood attracted more than 2.2 million visitors in a six-month period. Fans of the Washington Nationals baseball team flocked there in 2019, crowding the streets and clamoring for pricey parking spaces.

As fans made their way to and from the stadium, many were probably surprised to discover another D.C. landmark — the local outpost of the Trapeze School of New York (TSNY).

The school’s blue-and-white building, with an indoor and outdoor flying trapeze rig, frequently caught the attention of passersby, and signaled that circus arts deserve a prominent home in Washington.

Due to a planned redevelopment at the end of summer 2019, the school set up shop a few blocks east of its former home. While relocating was at times stressful and unpredictable, the biggest challenge came in mid-March as Covid forced the the business to shut down completely.

“I certainly have moments where I’ve been thankful for my lines-puller training and my meditation practice — for that ability to take a breath and respond rather than react.”

TSNY-DC general manager Mandy Keithan said that when facing the incredible impacts of a global pandemic, her experience practicing and coaching flying trapeze has truly paid off.

“I certainly have moments where I’ve been thankful for my lines-puller training and my meditation practice — for that ability to take a breath and respond rather than react — because there is a lot of fear and urgency around many of the decisions that we make,” she said.

While the early stages of the pandemic were spent applying for federal paycheck assistance, keeping an eye on case numbers, researching best practices, and helping staff with unemployment claims, the school was able to resume classes in late June.

One key to their successful return was (initially) limiting enrollment to students who had taken classes at TSNY previously.

With so many new safety protocols in place — from health questionnaires to mask wearing to sanitizing to physical distancing — the management team felt most comfortable working with a familiar student base.

Before accepting new students, Keithan said, “We wanted to make sure that we were ready to give them the same level of hospitality, warmth and security — that sense of security that comes from building a trusting relationship with someone you’ve just met, when they’re about to help you jump off a platform 23 feet in the air.”

“When that’s the community expectation, and everybody’s doing it, it feels like a little microcosm of what we wish we were all experiencing.”

Keithan said that while the D.C. government has made many good choices regarding the public health emergency so far, there is room for improvement.

“A big part of it would be clarity from the government about the stages that we’re in, how their rulings are meant to be applied/interpreted to different facilities, and what their path is moving forward,” she said.

Fortunately, the school’s classes in flying trapeze, aerial and trampoline have run smoothly thus far.

“It has felt surprisingly positive and easy to set and hold a really high mask and distancing expectation,” Keithan said. “When that’s the community expectation, and everybody’s doing it, it feels like a little microcosm of what we wish we were all experiencing” in the world at large, she added.

Like other circus businesses in the area, Keithan said that TSNY-DC has occasionally had to educate the public about myth vs. reality.

“There is a lot of misinformation out there, some it being spread very widely,” she said.

During the summer, she noticed an unsubstantiated rumor circulating online that the District of Columbia was shutting down all kids’ camps. At the time, TSNY-DC was operating a children’s program in strict accordance with D.C. health and safety regulations.

Keithan said a strong team of staff incorporating a variety of perspectives is crucial to keeping everyone safe and supported.

“We feel very safe and confident in increasing what we do and still making sure we’re managing the flow of people and the level of protection,” she said, adding that it’s important to empower staff to firmly apply the established protocols.

“You can have the very best, most thought-out policies, and still have to — in every situation — make difficult judgment calls,” she said.

Part of TSNY-DC’s reopening strategy was to temporarily scrap drop-in classes in favor of workshops that keep student and staff cohorts consistent for weeks at a time.

They have since resumed a limited number of drop-in classes, and have gradually expanded their roster as the community acclimates to the new guidelines.

In 2021, the school will transition to a tiered monthly membership model, adding more drop-in classes that can be combined with workshops to suit students’ individual learning goals.

Keithan, who loves teaching and performing partner acrobatics as well as flying trapeze, said she hopes that 2021 brings improved circumstances for circus arts that rely heavily on physical touch and spotting.

“I hope that we’ll be able to keep the counts down and get to the point where things like touching and acrobatics can happen again,” she said. “Those are some really concrete things that we miss that we’d like to bring back.”

Next Friday (11/20), find out what trapeze fundamentals and new tricks TSNY-DC staff are working on during the TSNY Staff Flying Trapeze Demo from 7-7:45 p.m.

This event is free to view on Facebook live, and gives new and experienced students alike great insight into the learning process from those who’ve ‘been there.’

To view TSNY-DC’s upcoming classes and workshops, visit their website or Facebook page.

TRICKS OF THE LIGHT: PART ONE

Circus Photographers Keep Art in Focus

Note: This is part one of a two-part series. Look for part two on Nov. 20th.

Circus artists rarely stay still.

Our earthly limitations of gravity, strength and flexibility demand constant motion to maintain balance and control. Capturing the resulting whirlwind of kinetic energy in a single frame is a true feat.

Fortunately, DMV photographers are up to the task.

The District Ringer spoke to Dani Pierce and Shamal Halmat, both of whom excel at keeping circus arts in the frame. We learned what makes a good image, how the circus community can support their work, and what projects they’ve been dreaming up lately.

Dani Pierce for Street Light Circus (c) 2016

For Dani Pierce, photography began as a way to indulge her creativity without feeling the pressure of a live performance.

“I always had a camera in my hand, even when I was a little kid,” Pierce said. “I discovered at an early age that if I took a picture or made a video that was interesting, it was a way of passively getting attention without having to be a performer.”

She said the photography classes she took at the University of Akron offered a needed break from the law and business courses her family pushed her to study.

“I kind of wish that someone would have told me that there are people who actually make their careers out of photography, because I might have focused on it more in college,” she said.

Pierce said she felt lucky to be one of the last cohorts at the university to work with film.

Developing and printing photos in the darkroom gave her a tactile understanding of how to capture and edit an image, tools that digital photographers now manipulate with the click of a mouse. The darkroom also provided a comforting artistic space to glean inspiration from fellow creatives.

“The characters in that class were just all really unique, creative and welcoming,” Pierce said.

“I remember eating skittles while I was developing, which was probably so bad for my health,” she added, laughing.

From 2015-2017, Pierce took photos for the visual art/performance collaborative Street Light Circus, with exhibitions of her work appearing at American University’s Katzen Gallery, The Fridge (Capitol Hill), and The GallAerie (Mount Pleasant).

“It was a really lovely way to connect with other creatives,” Pierce said. “I think that was the first time I really felt like a part of the scene in D.C., doing something that people found interesting.”

Pierce said her ideal photo shoot would focus on the process of developing a circus act from concept to execution, showing the unpolished moments of creation that go into the final product.

“It would just be about capturing the artist and their emotions through really simple portraiture,” she said.

As for supporting photographers in the community, Pierce said acknowledgment and engagement are key.

“Make sure that if someone has offered you something, that you are giving them credit,” she said. “And I think the best thing you can do for other artists is to remember them and continue to involve them.”

Shamal Halmat, Shamal Deare Creative (c) 2019

Shamal Halmat started pursuing photography seriously about three years ago. Before that, he often found himself on the other side of the lens.

As a juggler, Halmat said he was “always seeing people taking videos and pictures, then never ever seeing the footage,” echoing a common frustration for circus artists in a world saturated by smartphones. “So I decided to get a camera,” he said.

Halmat’s father ran an audio visual company when he was a kid, and Halmat later studied mass communications, public relations and advertising in college. So while he had a firm grasp of the marketing aspect, he craved a deeper understanding of photographic technique.

Much of his education came from ‘YouTube University,’ which he described as “watching hours and hours of videos, going out and actually practicing, and talking with friends who were already established photographers.”

Soon enough, he was attending events like Sunset & Chill to snap photos and video of one of his favorite subjects — fire spinning. But getting the right shot wasn’t always easy.

“The fire will start out really bright, but then it gets dimmer, so you have to adjust your settings to keep up with it,” he said. “The lighting conditions are very tricky.”

Now armed with a portfolio of work, Halmat said he is interested in helping circus performers strengthen their branding through marketing and press packages, and would also love to create a documentary about organizations bringing circus arts to refugee camps and crisis areas worldwide.

This summer, Halmat served as an assistant filmmaker for Resist, a music video produced by Sunset & Chill supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. This mesmerizing short film highlights local flow artists backed by the tunes of Mustafa Akbar and Fort Knox Five Recordings.

“That was just great — being able to work with my friends, work with flow, and use a really nice RED cinema camera,” he said. “I’ve been really appreciative and grateful for all the things that Sunset & Chill has been doing for myself and the community.”

Credits: Directed By: Spencer Grundler Producers: Sunset & Chill (Max Labasbas, Sam Stevens, Wade Hammes) Edited By: Daniel Bowie Music Contributed by: Mustafa Akbar, Fort Knox Five Recordings 1st AC: Shamal Halmat Equipment Rental Courtesy of: Capital Camera Rentals Performers: Rae Hopkins Willow Snow Coffin Nachtmar AArrow Sign Spinners (https://aarrowsignspinners.com/tag/wa…) Sonny Tran Iman Bowman https://sunsetandchill.com

Further reading: How a diverse community harnesses its skills to support Black Lives Matter The Uncommon District, Aug. 21, 2020.


NEXT UP

Join us next week for Part Four of The Covid Chronicles, profiling TSNY-DC (Navy Yard) in its quest to resume classes and maintain community (safely) in unprecedented times.

And come back on Nov. 20th for TRICKS OF THE LIGHT: PART TWO, including pro photo/video tips from our featured photographers and some insight into the artists who have inspired their work.