Every art form struggles with the gap between commercial and fine art. Radio hits versus local indie music. Music video back up dance versus concert dance. Art for wall decor versus the art of museums and galleries. The only form I have found that builds its economic foundation on both commercial and fine art is fashion. A fashion house supports its avant garde masterpieces with the profits from its ready to wear line. And customers pay a premium for ready to wear garments, handbags, and shoes associated with the haute couture of fashion week runways.
Circus occupies a unique place in the world of performing arts. What we do is inherently entertaining because of the risk and precision involved. The setting may change–on a stage with context and a captive audience there is freedom of choice in the music selection and character whereas in a club or party setting, the artist is an accent to the festivities and will have the most success with a familiar song choice and an easily relatable stage presence. The artist may pepper a club act with tricks known to be crowd pleasers, but the skills themselves don’t necessarily change as completely as they do in other art forms.
Before circus found me, I studied modern dance at a university, and I danced in a show at a major theme park that happened to be down the road from my school. Those things would seem to complement each other, right? Not quite. My professors at school didn’t have respect for what they saw as cheap entertainment, and my co-workers at the park didn’t understand or have an interest in my modern dance performances or skills. They were two extremes with minimal cross over. In circus, the majority of artists perform for both art and entertainment, and it isn’t looked down upon because it’s simply a part of our career.
(Aside from pay, I fail to see how being a ridiculous dancing monkey was so different from being a ridiculous dancing sardine.)
I initially formed Aurora Circus Arts as a way to legitimize the booking requests I had for multiple performers. I didn’t quite know what I wanted it to be beyond that, but I did have an idea that if I could create enough income from private bookings, part of that income could fund full stage productions. I thought that circus could create a symbiotic relationship between commercial and fine art, so it would be possible to have a full scale stage show (where the performers are actually making a living wage) without relying solely on crowd funding and ticket sales. Two important things changed in the year and half since I started my company:
* At the moment, I do not want to produce full scale shows in the San Francisco Bay Area.
* It has become important to me to define my creative voice in a clear way. It won’t happen if it doesn’t have a name.
So I formed La Maison Aurora to produce smaller, circus related projects like fine art circus photo shoots, circus-for-camera videos, the commission of custom equipment, the creation of new acts, or donating to and being a voice for the circus projects of others, all while continuing to book entertainment for corporate and private events. There are grand ballrooms and wineries, and there are big tops and not quite so big tops, but the beautiful thing is it’s all circus. We are so lucky, because we get to make art and entertain at the same time.