A Thriving Life - June 2024

Performances that make me want to watch more!

6/21/2024 |

Heidi Kirchofer


As we gear up for both summer gig season and the launch of our new adult performance intensive, I’ve been thinking a lot about what is so powerful about performing. One might prepare for months, years or even decades (!) honing in a particular skill or act. Depending on where the act will be shared, it may be geared toward a specific audience (e.g. corporate events, school settings) or artistically driven, without much regard to pleasing an audience. We mostly create works that we like with an audience in mind. But what makes an act great? It is quite a subjective answer of course and one that can be really hard to answer!

For me, I like acts or shows that are unique, quirky and beautiful and that are daring in some way. I don’t need to see performers almost kill themselves with super high risk tricks-though I often joke that teens love the machete juggling in our show for this reason. I enjoy performances that are daring-breaking some rules or a performer sharing something personal, maybe even sacred. It could be witnessing joy that is palpable or a sensuality that is not performative, not even for an audience, but seemingly a glimpse into their private life.  I enjoy watching a performer who can create a true connection with the audience and lead them on their artistic journey. 

One of my favorite moments on stage was with our friend Edwin, a Pilobolus dancer, and a very fit and strong performer. We were performing our fire stilt act, but we had not yet won over our rowdy, dare I say bratty, audience (I know we’re not supposed to say that but it’s the truth!!). During the performance, some of the unruly boys were taunting him. In response, he ripped his shirt off in the middle of the act and threw it at them. It was totally shocking… and hilarious. It rocked the audience. The girls went crazy and the boys got pretty quiet. He took back our power and let them know we were in charge of this journey. After that moment, we had a good show. 

I was also in the audience for an artist showcase where the late Larry Hunt, an amazing physical performer and mask artist, hopped off the stage in his masked animal creature character and CLIMBED all over the middle and high schoolers in the audience. Literally, he climbed on top of them, over the rows of seats and kids. He was breaking so many “rules” and everyone knew it. The kids were beside themselves with laughter. I was in awe.

What I love most about my role in our family circus show is the connection with the audience. I get everyone screaming (literally, kids screaming), we get to act ridiculously and employ some over the top facial expressions. I get the audience to “lead” me in carrying out some pieces of the show, and we present to them some of the circus skills we like best. We simply have a good time and the audience will witness skills and creative work they might not have seen before.

This summer I’ll be leading a group of 5 adult aerialists in a 5 week performance intensive. Taking the stage is an act of daring and the program will guide emerging artists on a journey of self-reflection and bold choices to bring a piece of the self to the stage. During our group rehearsals, we will explore creative exercises, establish at-home practices and routines, tackle choreographic challenges and develop an artistic thought process. We are thrilled to provide more focus and opportunities for Thrive artists to create and hope that you will join Thrive in supporting new artistic pursuits-perhaps as a circus artist looking to develop new creative work or a community member support the work of our budding artists. The performance intensive begins in July and will debut their new pieces in August!

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