‘Brave Space’, a contemporary circus experience from Troy uses audience participation – troyrecord
“Brave Space,” an immersive contemporary circus piece that premieres at 7pm Saturday at the YWCA on 1st Street in Troy changes that dynamic. It is a co-presentation with the Contemporary Circus and the Immersive Center of Troy and the YWCA of the Greater Capital Region, which places the audience in the presentation. Throughout the show, the all-female 7-member troupe ask the audience to join in on the action. Don’t worry, no one will be asked to swing on a trapeze or walk on a large rope. But some will be asked to hold the guidelines that keep the trapeze artist in the air or to help keep a rope taut that the acrobats can walk on. Others might be asked to pitch a tent or perform other important functions.
These are not dangerous missions for the assistant civilian, but most contribute to the safety of the performing artist. All help is voluntary. No one has to help. There are also built-in protections, so it’s a safe environment for everyone. It is his conviction that such experiences are reflected in society outside the space of representation. “The idea of helping a stranger and contributing to something successful is inspiring,” she says. She adds, “It is a critical way of thinking during the times of great division in which we live. Our audiences love to share a common experience that shows trust and respect towards other human beings. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that being nice is always OK.
She adds that this immersive element of the experiences is critically important to a person’s satisfaction with being at the show. “Even those who are not actively involved have a sense of community. People leave this show understanding that each individual can make a contribution to the whole. Swanson understands that the subliminal benefits of an immersive experience are distinct from the joy of seeing talented people perform rare acts of grace and beauty. She insists that by using any standard of measurement, “Brave Space” is an entertaining and exciting circus experience. For this, she credits her performers. “It is their skill and ingenuity that not only allows ‘Brave Space’ to perform, but to perform in a variety of spaces on tour.”
“It’s about empowerment through trust,” she says. “The artists trust the public and the volunteers trust their team. If five people are holding a rope and four are strong and one weak, you will be fine. In addition, if during the execution of a task, one person does not feel up to the requirements, another person can intervene. The lesson is about community cooperation and understanding that there is security in numbers. In a recent phone interview, Shayna Swanson, Artistic Director of Aloft Circus Arts, said, “Without the public’s help, there are things we couldn’t do. But more than serving as a team, she insists that the process of participation is what elevates the experience for the entire audience.
She says that “Brave Space”, like so many contemporary circuses, has no defining history. Mood is an essential part of the experience. It starts with 250 yards of fabric on the mist-covered ground. Lit with a strange glow, it grows and develops into a huge structure similar to a fort. This is where the performances take place. There are aerial acts, acrobatics, juggling and balancing. She proudly describes an act of walking on wire taking place without wire. Indeed, this show takes place in the gymnasium of the YWCA.
This is their first tour in the COVID era and is taking special precautions. To avoid crowds, attendance is limited to 75 people. Proof of vaccination or a recent negative COVID test is required and face masks must be worn at all times. As is necessary in all circus shows, there is a clown. Although retired from her own aerial and gymnastic performances, Swanson can’t resist the urge to perform and provides the clown for relief from the comedy of the show. Aloft Circus Arts is based in Chicago where they perform regularly and have one of the largest circus schools in the United States. Most of the artists in “Brave Space” were trained by Swanson and she estimates that they all have between 2 and 8 years of experience in the circus arts.
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