Over Halloween weekend, Clan Destiny Circus put on its show, MAYA: Illusion of Experience, at the Asheville Masonic Temple. Event promotion promised the program would “redefine what you think of when you hear the word ‘Circus.'” Big tent flamboyance was traded for the organic creativity of local theater. Stunts were focused on floor acrobatics. Minimalist props, like guitars and hula hoops, could be carried onstage easily. The relaxed attitude of the performers created a sense of play.
The troupe feels a deep philosophical connection to the idea of the circus. This was highlighted best by the opening lines written in the program, and spoken at the beginning of the performance, by troupe director and author Jeff Anderson: “It is a sincerely held belief of Clan Destiny Circus that all of us, no matter how disfigured or deformed we think we are, […] have a moment when we are beautiful. It is in that moment that you discover what circus is for you, and everything else becomes just an illusion of experience.”
The show balanced elements of dance, theater, music and gymnastics in a series of vignettes distributed over two acts. Gillian Mauer, the troupe’s principal flyer, used her contemporary and classical dance background beautifully in the opening piece, “Introduction.” Director Evan Westbrook performed a silly skit for “Tape Measure,” in which he raised a household tape measure as high as he could.
The troupe seemed most comfortable and creative with the floor acrobatics, which made appearances in multiple pieces. Blending strength and flexibility, the performers vaulted one another up onto backs, shoulders and hands.
The show was absolutely stolen by Einstein, listed in the program as “Acrobat, Clown, Good Dog.” After making a few walk-through teases, Einstein took the stage for “Einstein Acro.” With elegant poise, this young, promising terrier mix employed balance and charisma through a series of floor acrobatics. Accompanied by his trainer, Amanda Phelan, Einstein was somersaulted through the air, balanced on the feet of his fellow performers and performed magic. Throughout it all, he seemed calm and unmoved.
Rob Lenfestey provided a live piano accompaniment, performing an original score for many of the pieces as well as some live improvisation. His music complemented the striking architecture and stage design of the Asheville Masonic Temple’s auditorium.
Maya is a new show for the troupe and will continue to develop and grow. The enjoyment they take in that performance, as well as the deeper implications they believe it has on the culture, will continue to fuel them.