Daring and Intimate Brave Space

Brave Space
Photo by Michelle Reid

It’s been a few months since I last wrote on this blog. I’ve been busy with traveling and lots of exciting freelancing opportunities. Today, I’m going to talk about a new circus show Brave Space that I had the pleasure of seeing this past weekend. The show was written and conceived by Shayna Swanson of Aloft Circus.

Simply put, I was impressed with the show. It’s unlike any other circus show I’ve seen (and trust me, I’ve seen a lot) in both is execution and its feeling. Most circus shows are held in auditoriums or tents, or other constructed spaces. This show, however, literally builds the tent around the audience. Regular readers of the blog know my love and interest in performances that play with notions of space. I love shows that have you walk around and interact with the space in new ways. Sometimes those shows are “immersive theater” with stunning plays like Then She Fell or Sleep No More. Others have the audience move around from space to space such as Southern Gothic, A Memory Tour or Since I Suppose. Brave Space follows this new trend in theater. Audience members are asked to stand, sit, lie down, and kneel throughout the performance. The show starts with audience surrounding a giant white piece of cloth on the ground and ends with audience within the tent itself. It’s a stunning device to create a sense of community, a truly shared experience. Circus performers talk about the mystique of tented shows with the audience surrounding the performance. This takes that idea and pushes it to new heights.  My only concern is that people who may be mobility challenged may have some difficulties but that’s true of any of 

In addition to the sense of space and community, I was struck by how intimate and how vulnerable the circus felt. To be clear, there were amazing feats to be seen: a beautiful double trapeze act, a pole stepping act, and more. But there was an openness to the performers that I haven’t experienced before. The atmosphere certainly helped in creating that feeling with the intimacy of the tent, the music and sound, and the lighting but I was struck by how each performance felt very raw and exposed. It’s not something that happens in circus often to have that feeling of vulnerability and intimacy. Most of the time it is: on stage there are humans doing superhuman things, we mere mortals stood aside and watch. That wasn’t this show.

Adding to this feeling was the teamwork demonstrated by the cast. While the performers had their specialties on display (cyr wheel, juggling, tightwire, etc.), no act was independent; the entire cast was engaged throughout each and every performance. Again it contributed to this larger sense of community. At various points, even audience members were brought in to hold props or even hold up a metal pole.

The visuals, unsurprisingly, matched the intimacy and feeling of the show. I think I audibly emitted an “Ah!” when the first cast member emerged from the tent sitting on the shoulders of her cast member. Beautiful, simply beautiful.

All in all, it was a masterful show. The cast of Sarah Tapper, Brian P. Dailey, Zoe Sheppard, Heather Dart, Linnea Ridolfi, Rachel Webberman, and Hayley Larson should be immensely product of a thoughtful, beautiful productions.



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