An immersive circus so thrilling, it will make you want to get up onto a trapeze.
Article By: ELENA GOUKASSIAN | Photos By: ALEXANDER RIVERO
Tucked into a strip of quiet warehouses bordering the Evergreens Cemetery is circus arts center the Muse, which moved in in 2014 after losing the space they had operated in Williamsburg since 2011. The Muse houses a school and performance space that hosts acrobatics and circus showcases as well as encouraging everyone and anyone to try out the trapeze, juggling, or contortion.
In early October, the Muse held “An A-Muse-Ing Maze,” an interactive performance created as a thank-you to everyone who has supported the organization over the years. Walking into the space, it felt like a very Brooklyn circus venue, with concrete walls, string lights, and a trio of preshow performers, one twirling around hanging from the ceiling, one doing tricks with a hula hoop, and the other contorting her body in almost unimaginable ways.
When it was time for the show to begin, a burlesque dancer/MC announced that the audience would be weaving through the warehouse space and the yard behind it. The show’s title became clear: We’d be taken through a maze of various kinds of performers — jugglers, trapeze artists, aerial silk acrobats, and more. Many of the artists seemed to literally dance through their routines, which makes sense, as many of them came to the circus arts through dance.
The Muse founder Angela Buccinni — who made up half of a fantastic aerial duet during “A-Muse-Ing” — studied ballet and modern dance at the Boston Conservatory. She had been a professional dancer for years before apprenticing with Elizabeth Streb’s company and learning aerial work and the flying trapeze. From there, she was hooked.
“A lot of people I end up casting in our performances have a dance background, although not intentionally,” she says, adding that there’s a certain rhythm and way of working that dancers intuitively understand, so they easily click with one another. Buccinni says that her favorite acts, both to watch and to take part in, are the ones that require partnering: “two people working together to achieve something you can’t do on your own.” In fact, partnering is how Buccinni met her husband and performance partner, Yoni Kallai, who also performs and teaches at the Muse. In a perfect circus-style meet-cute, the two were introduced to each other in Israel at an acrobatics convention.
Buccinni lists a wide variety of different projects the Muse hosts, from events and creative consulting to weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs, and of course myriad circus arts classes. “In terms of performances,” she says, “we’re best known for our orchestrated circus ballets” — a novel and fun take on classical ballet. “They’re a collaboration with an experimental orchestra, and the circus ballet happens all around the audience, so it’s very immersive.”
Immersing the audience into the performances is important to everything the Muse does. At Sunday night’s event, the women in the preshow took audience members by the hand and did tricks with them. During the main event, one performer, extremely skilled with a whip, chose a mustachioed fellow from the crowd and demonstrated her ability to knock the petals off a rose he held in his hand, between his teeth, and even between his legs. It was a thrilling performance — one of many that comprised a thrilling evening.
Walking out of this magical warehouse and back into the dark alley-like street felt like returning to reality after a short vacation into the otherworldly. The goal of “A-Muse-Ing” was to thank everyone for keeping this whole spectacle afloat, but it also inspired those of us who were new to the Muse to get more involved: On my way out the door, I watched many audience members picking up flyers advertising aerial classes, and I couldn’t help but take one too.
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