May 14, 2009 – Glow-in-the-dark juggling, mesmerizing acrobatics and a ringmaster who will give you a laugh attack — all part of the recession-priced $10 ticket, performed at The Aloft Loft on the first Saturday of each month in West Town.
Shayna Swanson, the artistic director, said that she put El Circo Cheapo Cabaret together because it allows the aerialists learning and performing at The Aloft Loft to showcase their work.
While waiting for the show to start, an accordion player sings, “I don’t know how my butt works.” About 40 feet in front of him is a trapeze BAR where men and women are doing pull-ups to get half off their already-cheap ticket price. The trick is you have to do at least five or more.
Lora Swartz, an attendee, was excited to see what’s next, but is already impressed — especially by the accordion player. Her friend Michael Hogan said he was most excited to see someone fall. At 7 p.m. the performers come on stage, clad in leotards of every color of the rainbow, their glittered bodies enhancing their muscles, some with painted faces.
They start to go into a dance number singing, “Come to El Circo Cheapo, when the economy brings you down.” Most of the audience is smiling, eyes wide open, too.
After the dance number, ringmaster Cameron Esposito, a stand-up comic, takes the stage. She fits the part with her gold leggings, red ringmaster jacket, and a painted on white star around her eye. One thing is for sure: the crowd loves her. She cracks joke after joke and the laughter spreads like wildfire.
“Do you love me, or do you love me,” she asked the audience.
She introduces the show, which is made up of 10 acts, and hypes up the crowd with what’s to come.
The music goes up full blast, the bass is bumping, and heart-pounding music adds to the effect of a woman doing tricks on a rope. She is about 30 feet high, but from the way she is gracefully performing, and has the audience captured, you would think she is on the ground. You can see her arm bleeding at one point, from getting cut on the rope.
The audience loved it when she hung in the air, her body suspended with the rope noose-like around her neck, with her arms raised at her sides and her legs doing the splits, poised. People’s faces were pointed upwards, their jaws dropped.
Aside from training the performers, The Aloft Loft also offers classes for those who want to learn acrobatics or the trapeze. Lisa Brethold takes trapeze classes there, and came out to see the show tonight.
“It’s not ‘Cirque de Soleil’ but it might as well be,” she said.
The show gets recorded, and they use the tape as a source to get other gigs. One of the performers, Sara Blue, said it’s a recession buster and it gives Aloft more exposure.
A female clown resembling Raggedy Anne with ponytails jumps on stage. She balances a broom on her head while doing the invisible limbo. She engages the crowd into laughter when she puts her clown shoes on her hands, and a baseball mit-sized hand prop on her feet. She then does a walking handstand, but ironically the giant hands are now in the air, and she high-fives an audience member.
At one point in the show a collection basket is passed around in the audience like in church but giving money is optional.
The juggler eventually comes on and starts with three balls, two blue one red. But these balls are illuminated. The venue is dark and all you see are the opposite colors balls being juggled. He keeps adding more balls, resembling a solar system at one point.
Then he uses a forearm-length string with one ball tied to each end of it, the colors constantly changing, and helicopters it around his body changing the strokes often. The balls have now transformed into ribbons of light, shadowing the beat of foreign trance music.
“This show is so eclectic. I really like it,” Swartz said.
Soon enough a 5-year-old girl who does trapeze work takes the stage, assisted by her father. She may be the smallest of all the acts, but seemed to get the most applause. All the tricks that she performed like, hanging upside down or doing the splits mid-air, are equally beautiful and perfected like the grown-up aerialists.
The place is crowded. The venue itself is about as big as a gymnasium at a public elementary school, but every seat is taken, and rarely does anyone walk out the door to take a bathroom break or make a call.
“I never expected this to get this big, at first I thought that it would just be our friends coming,” Swanson said.
The final act was a comedic aerialist performance on the rope and trapeze. The woman came out in black squared glasses, a geeky striped outfit and slicked hair. She acted like she didn’t know what to do on the rope, but eventually learns and climbs her way to the trapeze, all while acting clueless and messing up. At one point her skirt falls off revealing pink knee- length underwear adorned with white polka dots.
The show gets a standing ovation, and promptly ends on time.
They only have one hour to prepare for the next show at 10 p.m.
The next El Circo Cheapo Cabaret is June 6 at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. at 2041 W. Carroll #306.