ITHACA, N.Y. – A unique traveling circus will soon be bringing their act to Ithaca this weekend during a tour that will take them across seven states.
Cirque Us! – a traveling circus troupe based out of New England – is making a stop in Ithaca on July 15 and 16 during their dream-themed summer tour, Dreamcycle.
Doug Stewart, the founder and director of Cirque Us, said that the organization began as a continuation of his experiences in the circus throughout his youth. This summer’s Dreamcycle tour will be the second annual summer Cirque Us tour.
“We had the time of our lives last summer and we wanted to keep doing that,” Stewart said. “We created the show in a 3-week period of time.”
Stewart said the Cirque Us troupe was especially unique because, unlike many circus acts, the performers are their own directors. This year, the performers worked separately on their own acts and went to training with the acts nearly completed.
“We direct ourselves and we write collectively, which is something not that many companies have,” Stewart said. “It’s a mix between traditional and contemporary circus in the sense that we tell a story and there are ups and downs throughout the show.”
This year, each act will represent a different style of a dream. The show will be based around the main character who goes to sleep and awakes in the midst of a dream, bringing her through the journey of the show. Stewart said the show will elaborate on different styles of dreams and nightmares that many people share, such as the ‘flying’ dream, or waking up in front of a crowd feeling exposed.
Sarah Tiffin, 20, said that the idea to go forward with the dream theme was a collaboration of ideas from the performers.
“It was really great theme to work with because its such a normal thing and a lot of dreams are relatable,” Tiffin said. “So we were coming up with ideas that were close to the heart – dreams can be very personal, and that’s what we used to help shape and structure the show.”
Tiffin, who has been performing in the circus since she was 12 years old, said Cirque Us acted as a middle ground while she was still in school. As a rising junior at Bennington College in Vermont, Tiffin said spending the summers with Cirque Us was a way to continue performing while also focusing on her education.
“It’s a great thing because I wanted to go to school and its hard to continue circus,” Tiffin said. ” It will be my 7th year in a row doing circus over the summer, and its really hard work, but I always know that I have circus with me – if I’m not doing it for awhile, I have this empty feeling.”
Tiffin said that as the performers, Cirque Us members have more responsibility beyond the entertainment. Besides performing, members are also responsible for sets, costumes, setting everything up and taking it all down, cooking for themselves, along with various other jobs. Stewart added that all of the ten performers were under 24 years old.
“It’s a lot harder because we are doing everything – there’s a lot of things we’re doing on our own,” Tiffin said. “We didn’t have a set budget or a costume budget, so we all went to thrift stores, and it’s all about how much we can do with what we have, which is so beautiful, and that’s really how circus began.”
Stewart said attendees of the show can look forward to the level talent showcased in this summer’s tour, including exceptional clowning, tightrope walking, a unique aerial swinging apparatus system, in addition to the high energy of the performers.
“It doesn’t have to be an extravagant giant show all about the costumes and props and the lights,” Tiffin said. “We’re just 10 adults that we’re doing that what we love and we hope people can leave the show with that same feeling.”
Cirque Us performances will be taking place at Circus Culture on July 15 and 16 with shows at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. on both days. Tickets are available for the show on Cirque Us!’s website. Check out a trailer for the show here.
Featured image courtesy of Cirque Us!
CORRECTION – An earlier version of this story incorrectly spelled Sarah Tiffin’s last name.