|Las Penitas Beach...it's a tough life!|
We have now been in Nicaragua for one month. On New Years Day at 6am, five of us got on a plane to Central America from London. It has been an amazing experience – one that I am already grateful I have decided to embark on, and we're only 1/3 of the way through it!
The amount I have learned in the last month should be illegal. Not only have I learned all kinds of new circus skills, I have also continued to grow my Spanish speaking ability and team living/working skills. I've never worked, lived, traveled, taught, cooked, eaten and performed with the same small group of people in a foreign country before this. Whoa! The whole thing is intense and beautiful for both its successes and challenges.
The first ten days we were at Las Penitas beach which is about a 30 min bus journey outside of León, the city we are living in now. We stayed in a house on the beach with hammocks and a beautiful yoga deck, right on the sand. The beach was pretty much deserted the whole time we were there. It's definitely an undiscovered paradise. Or maybe just not tourist season? The water was warm, the sun bright, the beach empty and the waves quite intense. One of my favorite memories from swimming in that sea was our last day there before we left for Granada. The whole team was in the water for one last family swim. Jake had the idea that we do our group dance routine from our show. We did it, stage placement changes and everything, while the crazy waves crashed on us, giggling all the while.
|7 person - 2.5high!|
We also came up with our show in those 10 days. I am extremely impressed with what we came up with. It is a 10 act show with 7 performers, some of which had never performed together before. It's about 40 minutes long and includes a group ball juggling/clowning act, a group dance routine, a staff trio, a 4 person poi routine, a diablo trio, a Magical Realism act (in which I belly dance, there is an Isis wing dance, contact ball juggling and floating wand), body percussion, rope walking, a club juggling trio, a hoop trio (Bags, Tilly & I – hoop juggling and multi hoop tricks!) and finally a group acrobatics routine to finish the show.
The dance routine was a concept that I came up with at bootcamp. We were brainstorming
about the show and trying to see if we wanted a narrative or theme
for it. It came time for Aileen, Penny and I to create the dance
routine before we had decided on a story. I was confused to as to how we could choreograph a dance
without an obvious concept to work from. I was talking to Bags about
it and he said something along the lines of, “Can't it just be for
the purpose of fun?” That got me thinking. What about a dance
routine in which the theme is in itself dance. An homage to popular
culture dance crazes! So I proposed the idea to the team and everyone
seemed quite keen. It ended up with Jai Ho (Bollywood thanks to
Penny), Madonna's Vogue, a cheesy/clowning ballet to the Sugar Plum
Fairy (I made tutus for the boys to wear and us ladies lift them up
for a leap :) then it goes into 80s hip hop choreographed by
Aileen to MC Hammer's 2legit 2Quit, after is the beloved Gangnam
Style which was a big hit EVERYWHERE in the world apparently,
Thriller by Michael Jackson, the Macarena and finally the Harlem
Shake – the Harlem Shake is an opportunity for us to
freak out crazily with no real choreography - organized flailing. In between each song is a robot-battery-dying
moment where we all loose energy and regain it before the next part.
|Performing our dance routine|
|Dancing w/ the kids at El Berrilete|
Before coming to León, we spent a week in Granada at the El Berrinche Ambiental Festival. It was held at the beautiful Casa de las Botellitas (House of the Little Bottles) – and it's just that. A house painted in multiple bright colors, lots of beautiful graffiti, glass bottles in the walls and a wonderful training space. This organization, The Escuela de la Comedia y el Mimo, teaches local children from the barrios performance skills and they are serious little circus badasses! We got to see them perform their show which included fearless group acrobatics, juggling, poi, clowning and even a story!
|Hooping w/ the kids in Granada|
|Performing w/ Bags & Tilly Twist|
A highlight from León are the museums Bags and I visited. One, a Contemporary Art Museum called Foundatión Ortiz Gurdián showcasing Central American artists. I really enjoyed the interactive pieces. We made a spyrograph drawing from an installation of perfectly balanced objects. We also went to a museum of Nicaraguan Legends and Myths. We had a one-on-one tour in Spanish and a translator who told us all about these myths we have encountered here but didn't understand yet. It was fascinating and I am intrigued to learn more about them. Lots of stories come from Spanish colonization and interaction with the native people. Some highlight issues in the culture – a woman who turns into a pig to follow her cheating husband around and catch him in the act, a dwarf that steals children from the rivers if their parents leave them there alone, a Day of the Dead carriage of skeletal horses and people representing how the Spanish settlers would cart around dead bodies of the indigenous people.
|Bags & I Juggling|
at a bus terminal in a half built concrete box with columns in the center, sharp pointy pieces of metal jutting out of the top, trees overhanging and a corner that had definitely been used as a bathroom once or twice. When we showed up I was skeptical to say the least. Picturing myself doing group acrobatics, standing on Bags' shoulders in a twohigh, juggling and dancing in that space seemed impossible. It was the most challenging space I have ever performed in. But we figured it out. Adapted our show, bent back the pieces of sharp metal and absolutely rocked it. There was one kid in the audience who had clearly been sniffing glue. This is a common problem in Nicaragua. The glue makes them high and takes away their hunger, making it easier to survive starvation. It was quite sad to see. Lots of organizations that we're working with here, like Las Chavaladas, take in children with glue addictions and help them get back to a healthy, happy life. We work with these organizations to teach kids like this circus skills - giving them confidence, fun playtime, a hobby to be passionate about, a way to connect with others, maybe a calling in life.
Another memorable show was a street show set up by Las Chavaladas. It was literally in the middle of the street, blocked off by trucks parked in the road. A massive sound system was set up and hundreds of people in the audience. We collaborated with a group of Salsa Stilt Walkers, called the Zanqueros who we met at the festival in Granada. Since we met them, we have been participating in skill exchanges. They teach us salsa and we have taught them circus skills and belly dancing. It is an amazing link to have made since they want to set up a permanent social circus program here in León. They are such a nice group of people. It really helps our Spanish and makes me feel like I'm a true resident of this country, being friends with the locals! For this show, the Zanqueros did their salsa stilting act at the end of our regular show and then we all rocked out a fire set. It was amazing how our tiredness before the show was turned around by an exhilarating performance into excitement and energy.
|Group Acro Pyramid!|
I am so grateful that I have decided to do this project and I can't wait to see what else is in store for me during the next 2 months. I want to thank everyone who has donated to help me do such important work. I also want to let everyone know that I am still fundraising the rest of the money needed to do this project. You can read about my fundraising campaign here. Thank you!