Savannah’s earliest experience with a live circus was in 1801.
Back then, the circus came to town via a riverboat. Tightrope walkers, fire breathers and clowns would bring the show to the “urban” area of Savannah. Since then the circus has gone through many changes. Long gone are the days of parading exotic animals through the streets for publicity — most of the larger circuses have eliminated animal acts altogether.
Cirque du Soleil has spearheaded the modern face of the circus. This new, physically demanding style inspired Savannah performing artist Jamie Lynn Failing to create her own local brand of circus entertainment. Her troupe's "Stardusted Circus" will be on display June 22 at the Tybee Post Theater.
“The journey has been long and arduous, but oh, so rewarding," Failing said. "I began with the idea to create a dance troupe. We called it The Stardust Pixxies. All we did was floor dance back then, but with the new members came new techniques and talents. These members came in with knowledge and talents that we all began to explore.
"We started fire dancing and learning how to play with fire. Later, members joined that were apt with hooping, stilts and juggling, and from there it has taken off. We are now a circus troupe and it was a magical moment for us when the purpose of the group became clear. We became a circus when we added members. The more people we add, the further our reach goes.”
Creating a new performance troupe can be a daunting experience, especially when you want the journey to be a profitable one.
“By now we are all adept at sewing and designing costumes," Failing said. "We also create some of our fire tools ourselves and we are constantly helping each other develop the acts further for future performances. We have found a rhythm; where I have enough help from other members and we can focus on performing and bookings gigs all over. We are doing many corporate gigs, traveling out of state for shows and festivals. I feel like we have finally arrived.
“Our last show was our best show to date," Failing continued. "Two hundred people attended The Stage on Bay performance, our largest audience yet. At first, we were trying so hard to be something that we were not. We stripped ourselves from the preconceived ideas of being too avant-garde or technical."
Failing adds that the Tybee event will also showcase a new generation of performers.
"We dug deep and decided to make a few changes by adding a community outreach program that has been quite successful," she said. "We are now training kids in different areas, like aerial silks and stilts, and it has been so satisfying and successful. For the upcoming performance at the Tybee theater, we have five girls who we call our Pixxies Proteges. They will be showing off their skills and what they have learned during the 'Stardusted Circus.'”
Like the many colors of the rainbow, each circus has its own unique style.
“We are a full-blown production," Failing said. "We have group choreography, special lighting and the way we tell our story, I think, is quite special ... We are not like a traveling circus troupe. We are performance artists that perform circus-like acts. To me, it is a bit more like a play.
"For the last eight months we have been training so hard, and this upcoming performance, we are showing everyone what we have been working on ... Expect the most extravagant aerial costumes with a very vintage circus vibe and all the flair. We are pulling out all the stops for this one.”