ICircus is not the usual Ithaca College club, and its Planet Earth semester showcase was not the usual end-of-semester show.
While other clubs sit their audience comfortably in Emerson Suites, ICircus’s audience sat on folded chairs on raised platforms in front of an extended gray mat, looking at a mass of rope and fabric suspended from a tiled ceiling. While other club members may display their artwork or dance on a stage, ICircus’s members jump through hoops, stand on their hands, crack whips and toss clubs over their shoulders.
ICircus, the college’s circus club, held its end–of–semester showcase at Circus Culture, a circus school at 7 p.m., on April 28 on The Commons. The showcase consisted of 14 acts performed by 19 students from the college. The showcase began and ended with all 19 students participating in group acrobatics acts, with a smaller, seven-person acrobatics group in the middle. The other acts consisted of two–partner performances and nine solos, including juggling, trapeze and whip acts.
The majority of showcase acts are solos, but all acts were connected by the Planet Earth theme. Junior Benjamin Klopcic, co-president of ICircus, said each act of the showcase wasmeant to represent a different part of nature.
“Some of the things we’re really trying to explore in this show is the idea of chaos and order in planet Earth,” Klopcic said. “Each act in some way speaks toward that — things coming apart and some level of control, some level of organization, things working together.”
Each act had a theme that related to nature, with most performers adopting an animal persona that connected to their props. Nature documentary voice-overs introduced the next animal during transitions from one act to the next, and most acts had a song that related to their animal or nature theme. Rather than elaborate costumes, performers dressed in sweatpants, T-shirts and leggings. Some covered their faces in paint while others had no makeup at all.
Junior Maribel Bermudez was the first soloist, performing as Sloth. She juggled balls, her face painted gray, as she told jokes and stories from the perspective of a sloth. When the jungle-themed acrobats set up their first poses, the audience laughed as the opening synth to “Africa” by Toto began playing over the loudspeaker.
Junior Charles Van Norden performed with the diabolo, a prop similar to a yo-yo. After completing a successful trick, he gestured for applause. The crowd cheered. After several failed attempts at catching the diabolo, Van Norden put down the prop and instead ran around on the mats. The crowd cheered louder.
Freshman Josephine Sepel hung from a purple, flowing piece fabric hanging from the ceiling, performing an aerial silks act as Jellyfish. Later in the show, senior and co-president Emily Brumfield performed a trapeze act as Spider. Klopcic said the showcase’s location at Circus Culture allowed for these aerial acts, which could not be performed on campus due to lack of necessary equipment. He said that in the past, the club has held the showcase in the Wood Floor Gym in the Fitness Center and on stages in Dillingham Center.
“This year, we thought we’d ask them if this space would be available to us,” he said. “It has the added benefit … of room for trapeze act and aerial act, which just wouldn’t be possible if we were performing anywhere else.”
This is ICircus’s first showcase at Circus Culture, though the two organizations have a close relationship. Amy Cohen ’08, founder and current owner of Circus Culture, founded ICircus in 2004 when she was a freshman at the college. She said that since then the circus community has grown in Ithaca, and circus schools have increased in number.
In the months before the final showcase, ICircus met in the Wood Floor Gym in the Fitness Center. Members spent Tuesday and Thursday nights from 8 to 11 p.m. choreographing their acts and practicing with different props.
Though the two weeks of practices before the showcase involved running through group acts, freshman Elizabeth Bierly said, most practice sessions were more individualized. Members come on a flexible schedule, and students in each act separated inside the gym to work independently, choreographing their routines. ICircus also performs a showcase at the Apple Harvest Festival in the fall, but its end–of–year showcase is more rehearsed and cohesive.
“We officially started rehearsing about two weeks ago, but this is something that we’ve been building up to all semester,” Bierly said.
Freshman member Nick Chai said he experimented with multiple props but settled on the rope dart prop for the showcase. Rope dart is a weight on the end of a long rope that can be used in a spinning motion combined with movement from martial arts he said. He said he designed his routine during practices by deciding on tricks he wanted to use and coming up with transitions to make them flow to “Cocoa Soul” by Oka.
Bierly participated in the seven-person acrobatics group. She said the performers designed their routine during the semester by re–creating poses they found online. Though they didn’t have a coach, many of the members drew on their previous acrobatics experience to replicate the poses.
“We had a couple kind of touch–and–go moments where it was like, ‘here, hop on my shoulders,’ ‘somebody else do this,’ and kind of figured those things out,” she said. “In the beginning it was much more loose. … And after that it started to get more structured.”
Bierly said the collaboration between ICircus and Circus Culture exposes the club to the circus community outside of the college.
“There’s a connection with the club, with Circus Culture and the community, which is a great way to tie in what we’re doing up on the hill to what members of the circus club and culture in general are doing in the community and kind of around the world,” she said.