The countdown to our second Maker Faire New York is in full swing, with less than five days until showtime! The Faire is taking place this upcoming weekend, September 17 and 18, at the New York Hall of Science in Queens. This is the first in a series of interviews intended to give you an inside look at some of the amazing makers who will be there. Today we chat with Suzi Winson of New York’s own Circus Warehouse.
1. Tell us about Circus Warehouse. How did it get started and what is its mission?
Circus Warehouse is the sole professional training center for aspiring circus professionals in New York City. It’s a high-powered environment, filled with circus luminaries who teach and also train there. We have a pro program with about 30 students, and lots of classes and workout space for serious practitioners of circus arts.
2. How did you hear about Maker Faire and why did you decide to participate? How will Circus Warehouse be represented at the Faire?
We had performed at the Great Hall this summer in conjunction with NYSCI’s “Circus! Science Under the Big Top” exhibit. I grew up in Queens, went to the 1964-5 World’s Fair, and used to play in Flushing Meadow Park with my grandfather, a self-stylized naturalist. Maker Faire is the “alternative World’s Fair” in a sense. It’s what the World’s Fair could look like today, with the same spirit of creativity, a nod to the generation who grew up cutting and pasting their way to happiness! The Warehouse will be putting up a 25-foot outdoor rig and will be performing aerial acts throughout the weekend, by professional program students and a few friends of the Warehouse who train with us every day.
3. What is Nouveau Cirque?
Nouveau Cirque (New Circus) is what contemporary circus has morphed into over the years. It’s narrative-driven and involves newer forms of circus arts such as aerial silks, and omits some old forms such as animal acts. The need for Nouveau Cirque came about as conservatory-trained performers came of age in the last two decades or so, producing well-rounded performers with a range of new circus skills. (Les 7 Doigts’ show “Traces,” currently in NY, is a good example of what this sort of training produces.) Classical circus is largely made up of generations of circus families, where traditions and training are passed down. At Circus Warehouse, we are a blend of classical and contemporary circus as both genres exist today. We have instructors who are 7th generation performers and some who were trained at modern circus schools.
4. Tell us about yourself. What is your role at Circus Warehouse? How did you get started and who are your inspirations?
I am the director of the school. But primarily, I am a dancer. My entire life has been informed by the discipline of having been a classically trained ballet dancer. I have also performed as an aerialist, clown, have sung on Broadway, run a few businesses and a small press literary magazine, and have worn a few other exotic hats.
Somewhere along the line I realized that I loved teaching more than anything and got a little carried away and wound up hooking up with a brainy aerialist (Michelle Arvin) and a record-breaking flying trapeze artist (Gino Farfan), and with some magic and mirrors and a huge amount of hard work we made a school. My students inspire me every day.
5. What new idea has inspired you most recently?
I am working on a project called Aerial Text Experiments, which is for a worldwide movement called 100K Poets for Change. Poetic happenings all over the world on Sept 24th. I thought, as long as we’re initiating change, why not change poetry readings? So the talented Warehouse crowd and a pile of amazing artist friends are staging an aerial poetry reading, with movement and text and a few other items to be determined. I like the idea that I have no clue how this will go. I just want to change the formula of “reader-at-the-podium+captive-audience=poetry reading.” Why not change the dimension?
6. What is your motto?
Movement without meaning is a complete waste of time. Don’t exercise — do something interesting with your body. You’ll still look great, but you’ll also find your soul.
7. What advice would you give to the young folks interested in circus arts?
Practice. Practice. And, did I mention PRACTICE? And get authentic training.
8. What do you love most about NYC?
Everything is possible here. It’s the most exciting city in the world.
Photography Credits: Top image by Igor Bass. Middle and bottom images by Laura Sage.
Thanks so much, Suzi! We’ll certainly be looking forward to Circus Warehouse performances at the Faire!
For all the information you need to attend, head over to the Maker Faire New York site.