"We are poised to bring our aerial cube, stilt walking, juggling, contortion and hand balancing and possibly some other “hot” things not normally seen!" — Abbie Springer
As part of the 4th Annual art[squared] Sale Launch Event on April 7, CirqueLouis will be performing before the sale begins, and will present ongoing performance entertainment throughout the evening. To shed some light on this type of circus/theatre format, we asked some questions of Abbie Springer, one of the founders of CirqueLouis and currently Director of Monies & Donations.
Springer has performed in CirqueLouis’ productions, Bootleg “Untapped” (2015) and A Midsummer Night’s Circus (2016). Springer is also a part of the company’s event performance troupe appearing at prestigious venues all over the city.
At what age did you know you wanted to be a circus performer?
It wasn’t until I was in my mid 30’s that becoming a circus performer ever occurred to me☺. I was pulled into it by my friend (and CirqueLouis co-founder), Lynley Elliott, who had been studying and performing the circus arts her entire life. She and I had cheered together, winning national championships in cheerleading, at the University of Louisville many years before that. We began partner stunts and she excelled at being one of the first women in the country to be able to “lift” females in the cheerleading world. Our natural partner stunt skills and rhythm has aided us in many circus arts like adagio, acro-balancing, duo trapeze and other partner acts.
How did you begin your training?
Almost 8 years ago at Turners Circus with Lynley on Swinging Ladders – considered one of the easiest, yet most terrifying of the aerial apparatus. I also trained and performed on Spanish Webs during my first year and began training on Silks soon after that. Aerial arts really spoke to me on many levels – I was used to flying but usually by being thrown in the air. With aerial arts I became the one in control of every aspect of my flying, and I think I took to it so quickly because of this.
A lot of other skills have also transitioned well from competitive cheerleading, but I also study with a number of women, and men, with completely different backgrounds than cheering. Some have been athletes, gymnasts, dancers, or began circus arts training with no related background at all.
What was your first circus job?
As a performer, in 2010 in the annual Turners Circus spring production (a 67 year old tradition located off of River Road). My first professional job as a performer was as an aerialist at a Black and Diamond event and an event for Zappos.
How did CirqueLouis begin?
With the lifelong circus arts knowledge and performance history of Lynley, the artistic visionary brilliance of Christine Moondancer, and my ever-lasting energy for getting things done, CirqueLouis was created as a way to get the circus arts out of the gym and into the community.
Its official conception was in May 2015, but this group of circus freaks has been performing together for more than 5 years now. CirqueLouis was born out of a love of performance art and a strong drive for giving back to our community. We work and train hard, and want to give our city experiential “cirquetheatre” productions, entertaining events, unique and intensive instruction, and social outreach activities that filter circus “love” back into our city.
What separates your company from a traditional circus?
For much of its history, traditional circus companies traveled from place to place, putting spectacle, humans and animals on display. Eventually many of the traditional circuses left their tents behind for arenas, but the content remained virtually the same. Contemporary circus companies (which began emerging in the 1970’s) rely on a storyline or theme rather than on 3 rings and animals. CirqueLouis is essentially a blend of both, utilizing traditional circus arts within a contemporary circus setting. With our form of cirquetheater, we strive for originality in show concepts, dramatic costuming and unique presentation at events that is unlike anything else happening in this area.
We also launched ourselves as a non-profit in Louisville to stay true to our belief system and honor our compassion charter (effective January of 2016). The heart of our company beats for social outreach and very quickly established the city’s first social circus program, CirqueCompassion, which has been operating in the Portland area since May 2015. This is the program we are now running out of our new home at Louisville Visual Arts and our hope is to maintain a consistent presence there to help foster self-esteem, confidence, teamwork, trust, discipline and opportunities through circus arts for people seeking meaningful connections and growth.
Traditional circus has been the focus of a lot of criticism from animal rights groups, and Ringling Bros. announced in January that they will be shutting down for good after May. How does CirqueLouis fit into what seems like a turning point for this form?
There has actually been a ton of press about this lately with the closing of Ringling Brothers, the selling of Cirque du Soleil and the demise of many “tent” traveling circus troupes. Whether you are delighted or saddened by this change, it is evolving and we hope to be part of the evolution of what circus can do for a community.
The future looks to include even more performance art coupled with fantastic storylines, costuming and music. We are working hard to pioneer this in our city!
Tell us about the company’s education initiatives?
While we provide upper level training in the form of workshops and intensives for those already on the performance path and eventually have plans to open the area’s first comprehensive circus arts academy, our current education initiatives operate without walls. We are bringing circus arts education into schools and centers around the city. Our teaching artists use a variety of measurable skills such as juggling, stilt walking, plate spinning, rolo-bolo, diabolo, and basic acro-balancing during 6-8 week sessions.
Obviously you have to be in great shape to do this type of performance, but how have you made fitness a specific part of the company mission?
For performance, yes. Training our skills (for performance or instruction) actually does keep us in the best shape we can be. But circus arts can also be used as a fun and exciting way to get fit.
We will also be launching our fitness program, CirqueIt, in the next few months as a way for anyone who wants a great workout to be able to do so utilizing modified circus arts.
What can we expect to see during LVA’s art[squared] event on April 7?
What do you want? No, seriously – we are poised to bring our aerial cube, stilt walking, juggling, contortion and hand balancing and possibly some other “hot” things not normally seen! We are getting so comfortable in that space and that comfort allows us to present our best versions of our performance art, so we can’t wait to join you!
Entire contents copyright © 2017 Louisville Visual Art. All rights reserved.