Four performers wrapped in red satin silk dance as if they were making love to the black chairs in front of them. The vibrant silk slightly slips exposing more and more of their flesh. The enthralled audience stare and sip drinks as the performers slowly strip away the silk. The troupe, Darlinda Just Darlinda, separate from their wooden lovers, and stand in a diamond shape on the stage. They loosely hold the silk in front of their bodies. As the guitar solo plays and the beat intensifies, so do their movements and down goes the silk. The audience cheers as Darlinda Just Darlinda let their bodies move excitedly to the sensual song. They throw their arms in the air and shake their bodies. They fall to their knees and move their hips as they surrender to the music. All eyes are centered on the performers as they stand in their ending poses and the curtain closes. A riotous start to the Dirty Circus.
“Hello, my name is Wilfredo. I’m a lover, I’m a thinker, I’m a poet, and I’m a little bit of a drinker too.” The host for the evening, actor Matt Roper, says excitedly. His light complexion enhances the five o’clock shadow on his face. The spotlight shines down on his disheveled black wig and fake teeth. Wilfredo wears a white button up tucked into too-tight high-water grayish trousers; his white socks lead down into his brown leather shoes as he shifts from side to side. “I’m also an honest man and I have to open my heart and tell you that I’ve had six and a half drinks already… and I’m feeling hashtag-f——ing-fantastic tonight! And I think I’m looking hashtag-f——ing-fantastic too, am I right?” The crowd bursts into a happy mix of cheers and laughter. Our guide for the night is a f——ing mess, and the crowd is loving it.
The Dirty Circus is produced by the Brooklyn-based company the House of YES. They describe an evening at the Dirty Circus as “a variety show dedicated to the raw & the raunchy. Aerial. Circus. Absurdity. Skill. Hilarity. Brilliance.” The House of YES is known for hosting a variety of events: creative culture events, classes of all sorts, aerial theatre shows and circus spectacles. The Dirty Circus is one of many shows that mix burlesque and circus elements, the most famous being Zumanity created by Cirque du Soleil. Wilfredo is also one of the performers. He starts to sing and is admittedly not half bad, other than his sporadic coughing, and before long the crowd of about one hundred fifty claps along. Wilfredo finishes up his song, jokes around, and proceeds to introduce the next act, Nata.
Nata specializes in hooping, otherwise called hoop dance or hula hooping. The deep maroon curtains open; red stage lights shine down onto the small black stage as Nata struts on, a couple of hoops in hand. She wears a spandex fitted one piece, patterned with geometric triangles varying in size and shades of red. She begins to dance—her movements are precise yet fluid—and switches the hoops from side to side, leg to leg. The hoops glide on her arms, legs, hands, and feet. She picks up a stack of six hoops from the back of the stage. Nata puts a hoop around her right leg as she lifts her left leg behind her. As the first hoop spins, she put another hoop on her left foot, then two on each arm. She rotates her body around slowly, as she twirls all six hoops in unison. Nata ends with her hoops in front of her and the stage goes dark.
A barrage of acts follows Wilfredo and Nata. Aerial artists Pixel and Peter Mercury draw the crowd in immediately. Both Pixel and Peter jump off the stage and onto a medium-sized podium dressed in baby blue and purple nightgowns. Their arms reach up simultaneously as an aerial hoop lowers down above their heads. They lift themselves onto the hoop and the trust between them is immediately evident. The audience’s eyes are filled with wonder as Peter and Pixel balance on the hoop and use each other’s weight for poses where hands or legs aren’t used. Next up is the Cyr wheel artist Gabriel. A Cyr wheel is a giant hoop, big enough to hold the performer’s weight. He begins dancing to “Firestone” by Kygo. Immediately, he strips off his tie and white button down with a dramatic flourish. As the crowd’s cocktails get lower and lower Gabriel spins inside his Cyr wheel as it flashes bright colors and patterns. Audience members ranging from twenty-one and up, all cheer excitedly as he finishes his act.
Basam & Mendel, an acrobatic duo, wearing pin-striped red and white shorts and a black V-neck tee walk onto the dark stage. A funky beat drops, and a deep voice tells a story of two men who love to dance and meet by chance. “They turned to face each other. It was just happenstance that these two men would meet that day and do that fateful dance.” Basam & Mendel introduce themselves with an exaggerated shoulder shimmy. They include that shimmy in every pose until the end of the performance. The audience cheers as the duo shakes their shoulders in various acrobatic poses. One of the performers holds the other over his head, while the performer above him sticks his legs out in a toe-touch position. In the middle of the performance, the duo strips each other of their clothing. At the end, they are both only wearing a bright blue thong. They turn their back to the crowd and reveal the word “YAS!” written across their naked cheeks. The audience, now severely under the influence, laugh with glee. They hold their glasses high as the curtain closes.
The curtains part once more and Phoenixa, a petite blonde-haired woman, is revealed in a ruby red belly-dancing inspired outfit carrying a silver Moorish scimitar with a backward curve leading to a pointed tip. She walks across the stage to a woman who reaches up and lights the tip of her blade on fire. She begins to dance, the tassels on her outfit shaking with each hip isolation, body roll, and shimmy. Her eyes shine seductively as she balances the blade on her face, chest, arms, and legs. The audience holds their breath as she balances the sword on her foot while lying on her stomach. She flips over completely; the sword barely shifts. She leaves the stage to a chorus of clapping.
“WTP” by Teyana Taylor blasts from the speakers and out walks Inita D and the dancing duo known as Pain Au Chocolat. The trios’ makeup is vivid, Pain Au Chocolat wears bright blues, dark blacks, and dramatic whites. Inita D wears natural shimmery browns with sharp black eyeliner, creating a subtle cat-eye. Inita D wears a fitted one piece that is also a rainbow of colors in a wavy pattern. Together they perform a vogue hand performance routine and lip sync their way to the end of their act. Inita D pauses with the song and mouths along, “You’re a motherf——ing diva!” as she does her leg lifts high in the air and she drops to the floor dramatically in a dip variation, otherwise known (to some) as a death drop. LGBTQ+ pride bleeds from most of the audience members as Inita D closes the show. Many audience members whoop and cheer as confetti is released from above.
The show ends with Wilfredo back on the microphone singing a remix of “Theme From New York, New York” by Frank Sinatra accompanied by Pixel and Peter Mercury. Pixel and Peter strut towards the aerial cube and lift themselves over the stage as the rest of the cast walks onto the stage and forms a kick line. As Pixel and Peter twirl on the aerial cube above the audience, the rest of the cast do the can-can, “If we can make it there, we’re gonna make it anywhere! Come through ah-New York, ah-New York!” Wilfredo wails as trumpets in the music reach an ending climax. The audience stands and shouts.
Wilfredo, his wig half-cocked, spreads the love. “Let’s hear it for the magnificent cast of the Dirty Circus, 2019! They love you; we love you. Thank you so much!”
Giomar Emmanuelli is a staff writer for Blue Muse Magazine.
Photos Courtesy of House of Yes