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Category Archives: Performance

Workin’ Cheap – How Shortsighted Ninnies Are Killing Our Profession

Buckle up, Dear Danglers – this is gonna be a bumpy ride! Today, we will be talking about the money side of the business, specifically about working cheap. What does it mean to you and your industry? How does it affect your future ability to earn a living? Are YOU one of the performers on my I-Would-Like-To-Slap-You List? Giddyap, cowgirl – I aim to shoot straight from the hip.

How Cheap is Too Cheap?

When deciding how much I will charge for my services (that sounds vaguely naughty somehow), I take a number of things into account.

  • Is someone making money off me? (ex: open to the public shows, night clubs, agents, evil dictators, etc.)
  • How much hoo-hah and shenanigans are involved? (travel, rigging, equipment, the occasional a$$hole producer – we charge a “shenanigans” tax when we have to work with unpleasant people, costuming, custom-created work, cost of meals, scheduling, etc.) The more anticipated drama, the more we charge.
  • Are there any pretty perks? (professional photos or video which will contractually be made available to us, awesome location, swanky catering, free equipment or costumes, male models named Dante, etc.)
  • Where is the event being held? Germany is a very different market than Ecuador.
  • Is this a non-profit, fundraising event, or other event where a budget is so tight it squeaks?


Show Me the Money!

Taking ALL of these things into account, what is a fair and sustainable price for my work? Adequate compensation is the best defense against Bitter Business Syndrome (and oh – Danglers – I know from whence I speak).  I want you to think about the following:

  • Add up the amount you’ve spent on lessons, rehearsal space, equipment, etc. Still feel OK about charging $200 for your performance?
  • Circus is a skill worth paying for. Your abilities are unique, and you’ve worked hard for your skills. Do you see accountants, nurses, plumbers, etc. lining up to work for free? Why do you value your training and skills less? Do you feel that because you love your work it’s not worth much? New flash, sistah – you don’t have to hate your job to be paid fairly for it.
  • Do you “just want to perform”? Love it so much you’ll do it for free? Then by all means – donate your skills to local showcases and shows! Just don’t bill yourself as a professional. As in “I do this as a profession” – because that means it’s how you make a living. No $$? No living. Also? I really hope you love your day job, because you’ll never make enough to leave it.
  • When you work cheap, it gets around. People don’t value what they don’t pay for. When we hear of performers who routinely lower the bar for the rest of us, you can bet they won’t be working in any of our shows or events.

Now, I’m not saying you should never reduce your rates (we do “good karma” gigs when appropriate), or perform gratis at a benefit or local show – these can be  great places to put up new acts and get feedback, give back to your community, etc. But professional shows and events demand professional pay, and if you’re walking in the door as an aerialist for less than $600 (and yes – that’s on the very low end), you are undercutting, my friend. Make no mistake – it will kill our industry. Love and pull-ups, Laura

UPDATE: If you have any questions, may I suggest


For my final thoughts on the matter, click here!


ANOTHER UPDATE: a number of you sent me this – I love it! It’s directed towards musicians, but you get the point. It really highlights the absurdity of constantly being asked to perform for free!


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Phony Tails, Spanx, and Glitter – Essential Pieces for Faux-Fabulous Performing

I write this to you from a gig, Dear Danglers, where I am minutes away from spackling on my makeup, squeezing myself into my Spanx, and gluing my lids together as I apply my lashes. Now, do you NEED all of this? Maybe, maybe not – depends on the show and your personal performing preferences. But, for today’s chat, let’s look at some of the things you may want to have in your bag-o-tricks for your average event.

  • Phony-tail . Does your hair explode into a glorious Brillo pad at the first sign of humidity? Are your locks looking a hair limp (HA!)? Enter the phony-tail! Fake pony tails or hair pieces that fit over your bun & can take you from zero to glam in the time it takes you to stab yourself in the head with a few bobby pins. Worth a look if your hair needs help or if you just don’t want to deal with it. Also? Hairspray – it can double as rosin in a pinch.
  • A wide assortment of flesh-colored seamless undergarments. Thongs, Spanx (body smoothers), over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders, tights, etc.
  • Makeup! We use Ben Nye color wheels a lot, as well as cheap red lipstick (is there any other kind?), false lashes, GLITTER GLITTER GLITTER, black eyeliner, and loose translucent powder to adhere the whole mess to your face. Don’t forget the baby wipes to take it all off.
  • An emergency bag with thread and needles (black & white), bandaids, small scissors, bobby pins, Nu-Skin liquid bandage, safety pins, duct tape, ibuprofen, etc.
  • A good bodice-ripper (trashy novel), magazine, or other reading material that doesn’t require too much concentration.
  • A hoodie and layers of warm up clothes – those ballrooms get CHILLY.
  • Snacks and Red Bull water – you never know what you’ll get at these things.

That’s a good starting place, and you’ll add things to the list as you get a few seasons of performing under your belt. Pros – what have you found to be really helpful in going from zero to drag queen? Is there anything you can’t do a show without? Leave your answers in the comments below! Love and pull-ups, Laura

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Sweet Heavens – What is that SMELL?! Whiffy Silks, Costumes, and Unmentionable Stinky Bits

Airing our pits in El Salvadore.

As a circus performer, I often find myself playing “Name That Stench”, with costumes, fabrics, luggage, etc. Today, it’s straight talk about the (less awesome) smells of circus. Oh yes – we are going there, so grab your Fe-Breeze, Woolite, and deoderant and follow me.

Story Time

A couple of years ago, we had a gig in El Salvadore. The performance was outside in 99% humidity, and it was about 1000 degrees. After the show, I put my costume back in it’s bag, packed it into my suitcase, and completely  forgot about it until we got to our next gig a week later. I pulled the costume from it’s bag in our dressing area and cleared the room. To say that everyone gave me a wide berth is the understatement of the year. Here’s hoping the following tips will help you avoid such an eye-watering moment!

  • Aerial Fabrics – Honestly? Silks (and so many other things) are best when they’re dirty. Clean silks are slick as snot! Yes, fabrics are whiffy when the weather gets warm, but a little dirt, sweat, and tears make ’em a dream to work on. When you can’t stand it anymore, use a gentle detergent like Woolite, cold water wash, hang dry. Never bleach or put them in the dryer – degrades the fibers! Also, use Fe-Breeze sparingly since the jury is still out as to whether or not it shortens the life of your fabrics. Store them in a well-ventilated spot – you’ll regret it if you don’t.
  • Costumes – fancy costumes and frequent washes don’t mix! Rhinestones, sequins, foil fabrics, etc. don’t weather the laundromat well; generally speaking, turn them inside out & hand wash them (cold water, Woolite). You can also spot clean pits and crotches, or areas with makeup stains, dirt, etc.
  • Performance under-clothes – launder frequently! For shows, it’s best to have multiples of whatever you’re using. Hand wash and rotate. FDS can work wonders on thongs and tights that are being put to work in multiple shows.
  • Working with a partner – If you’ve ever worked physically and heavily with another person in circus, you are well-aquainted with the fun places your head unexpectedly winds up. After you’ve laughed it off (and your partner has promised to buy you dinner), consider that you two will be getting veeeeeeery familiar with one another. Get really comfortable with the idea that not everything is going to be fresh as a daisy all the time. Beyond basic hygiene (see below), get over it. Also, some folks hate scented products; if you’re working with a partner, you’ll want to be mindful of that.
  • Basic hygiene – Showering is good. Soap? Shampoo? Toothpaste? All good. There’s a big difference between “a little aromatic” and “knock-you-on-your-ass BO”. Feet smell like feet, pits smell like pits. Ladies, it’s a vagina, not a rose garden. See what I’m getting at? Don’t sweat it (tee hee!) if you realize that your crystal rock deoderant isn’t doin’ it today, and cut others some slack when it happens to them. (Note: if there’s a real issue here, address it sensitively with your partner – perhaps something like this).

At the end of the day, circus is hot, sweaty, dirty, awesome work. We sweat in lots of places, and on lots of apparatus – it ain’t always pretty. Beyond a basic level of hygiene, there has to be a level of acceptance that sometimes you or your partner (or both of you) will be pretty darned stinky – embrace it! Hell, Angela and I have made a contest out of it (for the record, she always wins). 😉 So jump onto your whiffy fabrics in your stinky costume with your aromatic partner and make some eye-watering magic! See (smell?) you in the air! Love and pull-ups, Laura

Do YOU have any tips, tricks, pet peeves, or stories on this one? Leave them in the comments below!

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Super Dynamic Dance Trapeze

Some really nice dance trapeze performed by Kevin Beverly for your viewing pleasure! Thanks to the ever-amazing Amanda Goble for posting this on the F-books – there is some toe-curling (in a good way) stuff in here! Check it out! Love and pull-ups, Laura



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Best Performance Advice I’ve Ever Gotten


Mario Brufau & Me in "Music Box" 1998

I got some sad news this evening. Paul J. Curtis, founder of The American Mime Theater, of which I was a member for several years, died yesterday. I’m truly sad to hear it because, while Paul was the most candid and brutally honest director I have ever had (I cried at least once a rehearsal), he gave me some of the most valueable instruction of my career. Quite a bit isn’t sharable here, just the ins and outs of physical performance in the moment, but here is one thing I can pass on to you, and I hope you find as useful as I have.

Posit – to put something somewhere firmly.

EVERYTHING you do on the stage must be “posited”; you have to look like you meant to do it. Every movement. Every gesture. Everything is deliberate. That means that there is no such thing as a transition – the transition IS the move. Raise an arm to grab the rope? Posited. Wrap the silks around your leg? POSITED. Whack your head on the wheel? Yup – totally meant to do that. There is no movement wasted, no indulgent “noodling” around – you must move like you mean it.

In Paul’s memory, I challenge you to take one phrase of choreography, or an entire piece if you’re feeling ambitious, and make every single solitary moment deliberate and conscious, even if it should look casual. How far can you get? It takes practice, but you’ll know it when you do it, and you’ll recognize it when you see it – it looks like magic. RIP Paul, your work lives on in countless luscious, full, posited moments. Love always, Laura

Mario Brufrau, Paul J. Curtis, Dale Fuller


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Student Spotlight: Miss Azkadelia Rocks Big Sky Works

This is my new student Miss Azkadelia Victorious Hattress. She is awesome. Azkadelia made me so proud I could burst last Sunday when she made her silks debut at Big Sky Works – check it out! Go, girl, go!!!!! Love and pull-ups, Laura




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