[text updated since the original post]
In early 2011, a woman whose partner committed suicide wrote to tell me that watching my act inspired her to get back in touch with the part of herself that laughs and feels joy. A San Francisco dad (primary caretaker for his young son) recently wrote to tell me he had an uplifting break from exhaustion by happening across my street show. The list goes on, and it includes a lot of laughter and personal breakthroughs. It surprises me all the time how profound it is for human beings to wake up in the midst of life stress and simply feel joy. It also surprises me that I have the ability to facilitate that experience for people.
I have almost given up on performing a million times, when I was low on money and even lower on self confidence. Each time I’m at the very edge of myself, however, I’ve received feedback that kept me going, from people who seemed to benefit from what I was doing.
I’ve received heartfelt emails and post-show hugs from people who had been inspired or moved. I’ve had women thank me for helping them believe they could do comedy, in a world where female entertainers can’t unhinge their worth from beauty, and men are the funny ones. I’ve sat with little girls, after shows, as they tell me about how they want to be in the circus. I started to believe it made more difference to the world for me to connect with people, through performance (and sometimes lie awake at night as rent day approached) — than it did for me to have money come out of the ATM machine every time I stuck a card in it.
This curious path unfolding before me has caused me hardship, at times. Performing is worth it for the benefit to other people, which can be a benefit to the performer’s heart. But it’s also a lot of work, for an uncertain financial return. I’ve kept moving forward because there were always people there, at the right moment, to make me understand that they’d received something from what I gave out. So I kept giving it.
After a crisis year of breaking my foot during a rehearsal, then having my car engine explode shortly thereafter, I made this video, asking for help forging ahead — taking what I do to Europe in August, 2011. At the time I made the video, I was treading water financially, and I knew I couldn’t afford to do something so hugely *extra* to my everyday existence without raising funds.
Thank you to all those who contributed to my journey. With around $1,500 of support, I was able to get a round trip ticket and also have a bit left over to travel within Europe. I wrote each person back, individually, to express my uber-gratitude. But I also want to publicly show y’all what you helped me accomplish. Here are some highlights of the trip:
* BRISTOL / SECRET GARDEN PARTY / “POOPING” WITH BAGS
This video gives a pretty good overview of week number one in Europe. I came. I saw. I learned how to “poop” (poi + hoop) with Steve Bags. It was wicked.
* EUROPEAN JUGGLING CONVENTION
Even more so than throwing balls up, I learned the most by going “balls out” (as they say) at EJC this year and challenging myself to a nerve-wracking performance. I never get stage fright anymore. Typically, performing feels like having a nice conversation. I speak with moves, the audiences answers, we have an exchange. Might as well be drinking a cup of tea together; it’s lovely. That changed this year in Munich, when I signed up for the EJC Open Stage and realized I’d be performing for the most critical audience on the planet. Jugglers. Hundreds of them. From all over the world. With opinions about planes and numbers and movement and … ahhhhh!
The Open Stage shows ran each night of the week, leading up to the weekend Gala Show. Open Stages were held in a large tent, with around a 500 person capacity, and the demand to see them was so high that the line of thousands of EJC participants would start forming sometimes hours before the show began, to try to get a seat. Fortunately for me, I signed up on Saturday, the first day of the festival, before I knew what I was getting into, and committed myself to Tuesday evening’s show.
The juggling world can be kind of a sausage fest, so I was the only woman in the lineup that night. (In fact, I was the only woman involved with the show – period – that particular evening, including tech folks, stage hands, everyone.) I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to push myself through the fear of doing it. I didn’t drop anything, but I wasn’t as precise or graceful as I wish, and I think any humor that might have come through in character was diminished by nerves. But it was super-heroic to think, “I flew all the way over here — and went for it!”
Sometimes, I judge decisions by what will make me more proud when I’m 90 years old and looking back on life. From some future rocking chair, I thank all of you for helping me stand on that stage. I don’t have an edited Open Stage video to post, but here’s another performance I did from the European Juggling Fest Fire Renegade Show. The point was to try things that were too hard or to do a *funny* fire act. So I worked up to 6 fire hoops, trying flaming tricks I normally don’t try, along the way. Thank you for everyone who helped me get to the EJC!
After the EJC, I traveled up to Berlin and stayed with the contemporary dance master of the hoop world Rebecca “Beka” Halls. (She also hosted hoopers SaFire and Brecken.) We had a brilliant time, and I got to visit the Jonglier Katakomben, a community juggle/spin space that gave me some insight into how Europe approaches group warehouse-style practice spaces. That’s something on my mind, since I live in a similar space, in Oakland (the Vulcan). Here’s a funny hoop video that SaFire, Beka and I shot in Berlin, as a parody of that great German youtube meme “The Techno Viking“:
* EDINBURGH FRINGE FEST
For the last week of my journey, I traveled to Edinburgh, for the Edinburgh Fringe Fest. Interestingly, although the European Juggling Convention inspired me to hit Europe, and I really just tacked on Edinburgh because someone offered me a cabaret stage and my cousin lives there — it wound up being such a huge highlight of my trip. Edinburgh is fabulously beautiful, and during Fringe Fest, it’s full of the most kooky, skilled, awesome variety acts. I had a blast doing street shows by day and taking to some cabaret stages by night. I’d like to go back next year.
* * *
In summary, I’m grateful for a circle of support that exists in community. At the end of the day, we only have our connection to each other. You gave something critical to me by helping me out on this journey. I learned so much, spinning and juggling with the European artists, and taking in countless street shows. I met so many new people, and I felt newly inspired about movement and performance. In return, I hope to keep giving what I learned right back to those around me. On that path, I appreciate your support more than you know.
ETERNAL GRATITUDE TO THE FOLLOWING DONORS
Jeff and Sue Jones
Bill and Eileen Jones
Brigitte “Hooperella” Ethier
Chris and Deena Jones
HOOP-the-FLOW (Stefana Serafina)
Jana and Bud Chase
Sage L Komisar
Scott and Shannon Jones
Valentina “Unity” Martin