The future of New Orleans’ circus arts scene is hanging in the balance — or, maybe more accurately, about 20 feet in the air. Dallas Alexander, a petite 23-year-old with a gymnast’s physique, is grappling with a pair of crimson silk ropes hanging from the ceiling of Cafe Istanbul in the monthly Fly Movement Salon.
Working her way up, spinning lazily around, and working her way back down again, Alexander is literally trying to get the hang of this form of circus arts performance, the aerial silks. They’ve become a mainstay of both circus-themed performances around New Orleans as well as in more conventional burlesque shows such as Rick Delaup’s Bustout Burlesque and Trixie Minx’s Fleur de Tease. And it’s starting to catch on with this younger generation of performers.
Including Alexander, a Biloxi, Miss., native who’s spent the past three years dancing on Bourbon Street but has spent the past two years adding the silk ropes to her pole experience . This Tuesday night marks only her second time performing in front of a Fly Movement Salon audience, which gathers monthly to watch newcomers learn the ropes of the circus scene.
“It’s an extremely laid-back environment. The audience (members), even if you mess up, they don’t notice or they don’t care,” she said. “The fact that we’re participating or we’re trying, or starting somewhere, is a good thing to have.”
She said she only messed up once in this performance, “but apparently nobody noticed, so … .”
There was plenty variety on this evening, which doubled as a little fundraiser for fellow performer Clay Mazing and his work with both his own Emergency Circus and Clowns Without Borders in helping entertain Syrian and Afghan refugees in Europe. Coordinator Liza Rose and fellow producer LadyBEAST were even able to hail Clay Mazing in an iPad for a brief Skype chat with the audience at the end of the evening, from an airport in Europe.
Beforehand, the audience got to enjoy a song Sami Smog plucked on her ukulele, juggling by David Chervony, rope work by Penelope Little, Say Rah performing with a hula hoop, and then a closing duet on the ropes by Liza Rose, the seasoned veteran, and Sarah Stardust. It was all emceed by Alison Logan, the self-proclaimed “Original Classy Broad” and a recent transplant from Chicago who filled in the gaps between performances with silly jokes a few songs (including a hilariously dark turn on the Police’s “Every Breath You Take”). Chervony, perhaps playing to the notion of the evening as a workshop, pretended to keep dropping one red pin, followed by a smirk at the audience before flipping it back into his hands with one foot.
Scanning the stage, an older audience member smiled and observed with a thick Irish accent, “It’s the best reason to come out: watching a bunch of clowns pursuing their dreams.”
The show raised nearly $500, according to Rose.
Learn more about the Fly Movement Salon by visiting its Facebook page.