Liza Rose’s final thoughts on U.S. Aerial Championships (Field Trip)

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Liza Rose offers some final observations from her trip to the U.S. Aerial Championships this past weekend (May 13-15) in New York City as part of our continuing “Field Trip” series.

What a wonderful week in New York! I’ll tell you all a secret: I did not expect to win this competition. I’ve been at this awhile, and I know how these things go down. When they named Mathieu Bolillo the champion in my division, I was like, “Yeah, duh.” Know how I knew? His act had backflips. I had scoped out the competition back in January, and I called it then.

There’s a heated debate happening in the circus world right now regarding contemporary circus and traditional circus. I do the former. Mathieu does the latter. Traditional acrobatic acts in the circus are solely about presenting dynamic tricks (gymnastics) and feats of strength or flexibility. Contemporary circus concerns itself with things like design and narrative. It seeks to use the vocabulary of acrobatic movement combined with dance to tell a story or invoke an emotion in its audience. Lots of us can do backflips. But when is it appropriate to use that movement in your show? That’s one question. Should we even bother considering the appropriateness of flashy tricks when it comes to the narrative of the piece, or rather, should we even bother with the narrative; because people like backflips a lot?

That’s the other question. Mathieu has very, very strong skills. There’s no question about that. But I have to say that I feel like there is no comparison between my piece and his. They could not be further apart on the circus spectrum. To say one is better than the other is comparing apples and … chickpeas. Which are you in the mood for?

I have made great connections here with other performers and circus makers this week. I’ve had one offer of work in the U.K., I’ll be back in New York again in the fall, and, most exciting: I’ve had two offers from artists interested in collaborating in New Orleans. I’ll tell you another secret: That’s why I actually came. (Win!) Be home soon, y’all.

See my performance and Mathieu Bolillo’s performance at live.upa.tv.

Day 1 — See me starting at 52 minutes into the video.

Day 3 — See Mathieu starting at 2 hours, 46 mins into the video.

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Liza Rose at U.S. Aerial Championships: Done! (Field Trip)

IMG_9229Liza Rose continues her “Field Trip” journey to the U.S. Aerial Championships with a recap of Friday night’s competition.

I’m on the train back to Manhattan after teaching a workshop at the Muse in Brooklyn this morning, because I am a genius and figured it would be totally fine to teach this morning after doing the competition last night. I’m … awfully tired.

Last night’s competition went well, I felt. There were minor technical difficulties, which cannot be avoided in those kind of “one-off” show scenarios, but I felt like overall, I made a good impression. I performed in the New and Innovative Apparatus division. The act that I presented is “Parapluie,” on my aerial umbrella. I made the act in 2010, and have left it largely untouched for the last three years or so. I submitted a video of me performing it six years ago to U.S. Aerial in a whim.

I love creating circus acts that transform the mundane into something magical. “Parapluie” was inspired by a simple mental image of a girl standing under her umbrella. She became, in my mind, a Parisienne showgirl after a show, waiting in front of the theatre in the rain, an aesthetic informed by the music I’d chosen, Erik Satie’s Gnosienne No. 1. The act is the reverie she experiences while waiting.

The winners were announced in the women’s lyra and men’s silk divisions. Darya Vintilova (@charu_lova), the winner of the women’s lyra title, did a gorgeous, nuanced performance as a broken doll character to some great, spazzy breakbeats. Very mod. Very contemporary. I pinned her as the winner before I’d even seen the rest of the girls compete. Darya is from a circus family, and began performing contortion with her parents in Cirque du Soliel’s show Saltimbanco when she was just 4 years old. She also toured with Cirque in Kooza, and has already won a gold medal at Cirque de Demain, the world’s most prestigious circus competition. She is polished and perfect.

Brandon Hansen (@brandonscottacrobat) won the men’s silk title. Brandon is an incredibly strong performer. His physical strength and control are near perfect. He is very young, and his relative naïveté works in his favor. His face conveys everything. He is open to the audience when he is performing in a way that is not easy to fake. His authenticity shines onstage. He connects. It’s delicate and lovely to watch.

I also very much enjoyed Troy (@troydaboy1) Lingelbach’s silks piece as Hedwig to “Origin of Love.” His skills are over the top crazy difficult. His contortion is on point, and he’s just, for lack of a better term, a fucking baller. His character choices, his tricks, all of it was top notch. I loved it. There are two more nights of competition.

The awards in my division won’t be announced until Sunday. So now, I wait. This championship is fierce. I am energized and inspired by what I’m seeing here, and by the fantastic artists around me. I hope to make good connections and bring some of them to New Orleans in the future.

Liza Rose at U.S. Aerial Championships: Ready for take-off (Field Trip)

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New Orleans circus-arts performer Liza Rose continues her journey through the U.S. Aerial Championships as part of our “Field Trip” series. Today (Friday, May 13) might be a two-parter. Here’s today’s first installment:

Max and I are sitting in a coffee shop in The West Village, waiting out a spring rain shower. I’m sitting in a window seat, watching the people pass with all their different umbrellas, and totally not feeling antsy. T-Minus 2.5 hours to call time.

I had my one rehearsal in the theater today. It was not without hiccups. The way this act is constructed, it relies on a pulley system to hoist me and the apparatus up and down to different heights throughout the performance. The system is operated by a team of four crew people who literally pull or let out a rope, and who must anchor the rope at all times, or the whole thing will crash to the floor. My life is literally in the hands of a couple of strangers.

Max knows the act and when to pull. He stands in the wings, watching and cueing the crew members, who are standing in a line down the hallway backstage, unable to see a single bit of what is happening onstage. The timing, the communication, must be precise. And I had one 30-minute rehearsal with them this morning.

Circus. It takes a village. A really smart, competent, highly focused village. I hope …

Video clip of my rehearsal here.

Liza Rose discusses life in the balance at the U.S. Aerial Championships (Field Trip)

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Liza Rose, along with collaborator and fellow producer-performer LadyBEAST, has been at the forefront of a fast-growing circus-arts scene in New Orleans. That’s one of the many reasons that makes her competition in the U.S. Aerial Championships May 13-15 in New York City — which was chronicled earlier this spring — so exciting. She will be competing among some of the very best in the form, representing New Orleans as well as herself. As part of a continuing series, “Field Trip,” Liza Rose shares her thoughts and experiences at the championships …

It’s the night before I will compete in the U.S. Aerial Championships. I’m sitting in my friend Cindy’s apartment in Chelsea, working on the website for the new Fly Circus Space because I suppose it’s true — when it rains, it pours. I arrived in New York on Tuesday morning, with my gorgeous valet/life partner, Max, and my aerial gear in tow. I used to live in NYC, and every time I visit, it’s a bit of a homecoming. I kept thinking how beautiful it was as the Uber crawled through Queens in traffic on its way in to Manhattan. If you’ve ever been to Queens, you’ll know how funny that last sentence is.

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Liza Rose with New York Fox5 news anchor Simone Boyce.

It’s been a funny ride. I have never participated in an aerial competition before. I am not in the habit of making work to be judged. I make work to be enjoyed. I am a circus artist. My whole job is to remind people how to have fun, how to be inspired, and how to imagine the extraordinary. My job is not not to make sure I can do the most dangerous skill with the most panache in front of someone who will then later declare one person a “winner” and someone else a “loser” based on said levels of danger and panache. Where’s the joy in that?

I know that artists compete every day — for sales or audience, for grant money or Kickstarter dollars, but I haven’t ever stepped over the line and offered up a piece of my work purely and blatantly for competition. It’s well outside my comfort zone, and has not been an entirely healthy process. It has been important for me, in that it has made me look at why I do what I do, and reassess how I spend my time in the studio, and for what. My most fervent hope is that my participation in this competition will draw attention to the growing circus scene in New Orleans, and help audiences to realize that they have world-class circus artists in their midst. I don’t know if I’ll win, but it is an honor to be here in New York, and in such good company.

(Check out Liza Rose’s appearance on New York’s Fox 5 here.)

I would hate to be the judge that had to declare just one of us a winner. Perhaps they have the more difficult role here. Yesterday I traveled out to the Muse, a circus training space in Brooklyn where I’ll be teaching workshops later this weekend. I met and trained with a handful of other competitors. One is from Slovakia, one from Hong Kong, one from Australia, one from Las Vegas. We chatted openly about the nature of competition. We are all very different performers, and our work is difficult to compare. We all acknowledge that in the end, all we can do when we get onstage is try to let the artistry shine through and connect with our audience.

Meeting them made me feel better about putting my work on the chopping block. We all train endlessly. We all fret about details. We all strive for that one skill that eludes us. Why in the world would we ask someone else to join in the critique? We do it to ourselves constantly! I think we do it because as artists, we all just want exactly the same thing: connection. We dream of circus as a common language, and this is a way to know how articulate we have become.

More later…