The word “circus” carries such powerful impact. It immediately conjures images of show stopping performers, fantastic feats of strength and oddities never before seen to the human eye.
Though people’s desire for shock value certainly hasn’t changed, the world surrounding it has. Modern entertainment, controversy and public opinion have all caused the circus arts to take a hit, and now it’s little more than a leftover from a bygone era.
Bayou Cirque is changing that.
Gym Fit BR used to only be a studio, a massive space for anything from aerial gymnastics to American Ninja Warrior style training. It hosted classes and events like any other, and the staff had the opportunity to train and play around with tricks when the gym was open.
One day after a birthday party, co-owner David Gabel sayid he was approached by a parent. She had seen the staff trying out some tricks in the empty studio, and wanted to know if they did any live performances.
Soon after, Bayou Cirque was born.
Now, nearly two years later, the troupe has been seen performing various skills and acrobatics across the state. It is frequently seen in parades and other individual showcases, but now it’s shifting its focus to something on a larger scale.
”Dark Circus” is Bayou Cirque’s first plot-driven show, as well as its first ticketed event. It marks a departure from the variety shows of classic circuses into a more modern era of storytelling, a popular shift in circus arts.
The show follows a ringmaster that has been collecting the souls of performers throughout his travels, forcing them to act under his control. When he enslaves a child to perform, the others become unruly and stage a revolt.
The performers wrote and choreographed the story themselves, improving upon and gradually tweaking the show into what it is now.
“It was a huge learning experience for us,” Gabel said. “We thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun.”
”Dark Circus“ features 25 performers, doing everything from aerial work and trapeze to classic clown skills like the walking ball and juggling. There are also seven people behind the scenes, responsible for rigging up the next act safely and properly.
Though being suspended in the air with nothing but an understanding of physics on your side may sound terrifying to many, it’s an artistic passion to some.
Former LSU student Michelle Landry, a trapeze artist currently filling the role of the ringmaster’s “trinket,” talked about some of the life behind the scenes.
“I got off work at midnight last night,” Landry said after the 7 a.m. rehearsal. “But I have a set time each week I know I’ll be in the studio.”
Most of the performers involved have other jobs and obligations outside of the studio and find time to not only attend large rehearsals, but practice their own acts individually. Each person chose to put in that effort, and it really reflects back in the performance.
“We’re having so much fun,” Gabel said. “I can’t wait to bring this show [to life].”