Uncle Junior Benefit, Tourettes without Regrets, and SempreVerde

Collaboration pushes us outside of our comfort zone.  Here are some highlights from some 2015 projects so far.

In late April, Angela Chu and I premiered our Aerial Globe Duet at Beyond, a benefit for the Uncle Junior Project.  This act is 2 years in the making!

Aerial Globe
Angela Chu and Nina Sawant on the Aerial Globe.  Photo by Shoot That Klown Photography.

We first began designing the apparatus with our friend Cindy 2 years ago.  It started out with a mild interest in aerial cubes (there may have been a tempting sale that sparked the conversation), but we already knew a few people with cubes in the Bay Area, and if we were going to invest in a unique apparatus, we wanted it to be just that.  So we brainstormed…pyramid, umbrella, spiral, swing.  We landed on globe, then we got some quotes, had some hilarious discussions regarding girth and size, re-designed a little, saved up money, and then our fabricator went on tour and couldn’t make it for us.  So I asked around, and other fabricators said, “No, I will not make you a 5′ diameter globe that breaks down for transport.”  I finally found a fabricator who could make it, and we finalized the design and the globe was born in September of 2014.  And in the span of time from the initial idea to physically putting the globe together, all three of us have been through a myriad of life changes in career, home, relationship, and priorities.  And it’s now incredibly difficult for us to find rehearsal times with all three of us.  It is also a challenge to suspend an 85lb piece of steel with 3 bodies on it.  So for now it is a duo, and I’m sure it will grow from there.

The Uncle Junior Project is a documentary about African Americans in circus, a topic about which there has never been much research.  Each year Veronica Blair, the project’s founder, hosts a benefit dedicated to an important black musical artist.  This year was Beyonce!  We had so much fun, and the show was perfectly curated with all manner of apparatus and acts, artists flown in from around the country, and a couple of acts with a refreshing gender juxtaposition from the norm, with Thai Lam on aerial silks and Susan Voyticky on cyr wheel.  Bittersweet, this was the last benefit held for the documentary, because they are getting close to post production.

Me, making out with a picture frame.  For art.  Photo by Light Illusions Photography.
Me, making out with a picture frame. For art. Photo by Light Illusions Photography.

Earlier in April, I performed a solo aerial fabric act at Tourettes Without Regrets, a local poetry slam cabaret that is not for the faint of heart.  There’s something comforting about the Bay Area, in that you always know you’re never going to be the weirdest one.  On stage, dressed to go out, or where ever–there will always be someone to out weird you.  Even if you spend the first half of your act making out with a picture frame.

This act was a collaboration with Angela Mazziotta from our Yea Big Dance days.  Once upon a time, we made a show about packages.  As innuendo, as packaging, as a metaphor for self worth.  It was our biggest project, a full hour long show of Angela, Whitney, and I being real weird.  Angela performed some intense face smoosh-ography, where she made out with a picture frame for a full 5 minute song.  It was fantastic.  I took her concept and used it as an intro to a dramatic tissu act about letting go of self, set to Phil Collin’s “In the Air Tonight.”

I have been looking forward to performing on the Tourette’s stage since I heard about the show a couple years ago.  The host, Jamie DeWolf, has this uncanny control over his raucous audience.  The audience at his shows is just as respectful and open to being moved by a heartfelt spoken word piece as they are rowdy and rambunctious about a game of dildo freeze tag.  It is a stage where the only requisite is authenticity, and as an artist, that is an amazing and rare opportunity.

In March, I traveled to NYC to rehearse and perform in SempreVerde with Incanto Productions.  We performed for local schools and families, educating children about the importance of recycling and preserving our environment.  I had a blast performing with the international cast and working with props made from recycled materials by a high school art students.


This summer has been an incubator for refining old acts and creating new ones, with plenty of inspiration at the Chicago Contemporary Circus Festival!  More on that in a future post…