Journeys Through Queer Circus–Politics, Authenticity, Interdisciplinarity

CircusTalk is pleased to present Journeys Through Queer Circus with Charles Batson, a series revolving around the culture and concerns of the LGBTQIA+ community in the circus environment. This series is dedicated to creating a space for queer voices to be heard and for queer art to flourish. Join us for a four-episode deep dive into queer circus as part of our continuing dedication to improving equity and inclusion in the arts, hosted by Dr. Charles Batson. In this episode, Batson showcases and foregrounds a vital element in the crafting of queer circus art: training and pedagogy. He speaks with four trainers / educators from different regions of the globe, and they reveal their experiences, strategies, and recommendations for making an even more queer circus in our present and future.

Known for his writing and directing, Dr. Charles Batson is a circus researcher and professor of French and Francophone studies and past president of the American Council for Québec Studies and also the Florence B. Sherwood professor of history and culture at Union College where he also co-chairs the LGBTQ+ Affairs committee. In the circus world, Charles Batson is best known for his writing (Cirque Global, Quebec’s Expanding Circus Boundaries) and of course for co-directing the academic seminar titled Circus & its Others.

Our queer arts are the means and methods of changing, enhancing, nourishing, and intervening into the very fabric of our world. Such is a lesson from the artists and creatives featured in this fourth and final episode of these Journeys through Queer Circus. Through experiences gained in the circus arts along with other queer-circus-proximate practices as drag, dance, and burlesque – a focus of this installment of our videocast – our artists tell us of the real possibilities of queer-flavored creativity and authenticity.

This journey across these four episodes has been nothing short of extraordinary, marked by conversations with some of the most interesting people on the planet, and illuminated by the spotlight on their amazing art. Each of them has spoken of joys and challenges, with their joined voices offering inspiration and information not only to members of our broad circus community for whom inclusion of the queer arts may be new and provocative, but also to those of us queer artists and creatives who find nourishment in seeing LGBTQ+ work take stage and form.

As these four brightly-shining minds close out our series, we invite you to revisit each of the previous episodes. The interviews can be returned to over and over and over, and there are nuggets of wisdom and glory in each one to be drawn upon at each viewing. Along the way, we have explored some practicalities for queer artists, producers, trainers, and creatives, and we have spent time digging into matters philosophical and existential. What does it mean to be involved with queer circus? There have been as many answers as we have people talking. Listen and watch again and again!

Each contributor to these Journeys has answered some version of this question: how might circus be made yet more queer-friendly, be made truly a circus with which we LGBTQ+ creatives may indeed wish to run away and find a home? Their rich answers, which have elicited some tears and many laughs across the four episodes, can now be seen as calls to action.

Our world needs us – and is even now, according to many of the contributors here, ready for us. We are here, after all. Producers and performers, take heed, and be inspired.

Jennifer Miller

Performer & activist

Jennifer Miller is the director and founder ofCircus Amok – a one ring, no animal, queer as fuck, free circus extravaganza that has been touring the parks of New York annually since 1994. She is the writer and director ofCracked Ice andThe Golden Racket. Besides touring solo shows internationally she works with a myriad of choreographers and performance artists including Jennifer Monson and Vaginal Crème Davis. She is the recipient of an OBIE, a “Bessie”, and an Ethyl Eichelberger Award, along with numerous grants from the NEA, NYSCA, DCA, MAP, NYFA and others. She had a 10 year stint at Coney Island Sideshow by the Seashore. She is a Professor of Performance at Pratt Institute.

Eric J. Miles

Dancer & teacher

Eric J. Miles began his dance career in Ohio at the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company. He then settled in Montreal where he joined bjm_danse (Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal), and went on to tour Canada, the United States, Europe, Asia and South America. He has worked with such eminent choreographers as Crystal Pite of Kidd Pivot, Aszure Barton, Mia Michaels, and Ulysses Dove of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. His choreographic work is integral to the repertoires of several Canadian and American companies, including bjm_danse and Vancouver’s Arts Umbrella. He also has choreographed for two Montreal-area schools, Ballet Divertimento and Artis Magia-College.

As a visiting professor in Canada and abroad, Eric has taught contemporary jazz and modern techniques. The Macau team of Cirque du Soleil and the Domaine Forget international dance academy are among the many institutions for which he has held master classes. He has taught dance at the cole nationale de cirque since 2008.

Louis Guillemette

Retired performer & interdisciplinarian

Louis Guillemette uses the body as a research laboratory for ideas in motion. Contemporary art, expression, and the manifestation of identity are at the heart of his concerns. Since his beginnings in dance, Louis likes to transgress aestheticism, form, and content. Louis has been working in the performing arts, film, and video as a performer, choreographer, improviser, teacher, artistic advisor and designer for over 35 years. His work has been presented around the world and he has collaborated with many international artists. He teaches a personal technical and creative approach in public and private institutions, here and abroad. His singular vision has led him to co-found Montreal’s Tangente, to dance for five years at the origin of LALALA Human Steps and to collaborate with the international star Margie Gillis. He has worked for Cirque du Soleil and Cirque loize, and has been teaching, until his very recent retirement, at the National Circus School, Concordia University, and Studio 303, his personal approach to Dance & Creation.

Billy L’Amour

Performer & goddess

Billy L’Amour is a world-class singing, dancing, and stripping showgirl. She got her start in show business as a young ballerina when she joined the all-male comedy ballet company Les Ballets Grandiva at age 17. She went on to dance with La La La Human Steps and L’Opéra National de Paris. Now an old retired Ballet-Rino, Billy is a wig stylist to drag superstars and she continues to dazzle audiences with her special cocktail of glamour, humor, and high kicks.

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