Monday, December 5th, 2016
Be a Kid at Any Age with Bellingham Circus Guild
Lorraine Wilde
From a choreographed dance at Vaudevillingham, May 2016. Photo by Jorge Lausell.

From a choreographed dance at Vaudevillingham, May 2016. Photo by Jorge Lausell.

I only got to go to the circus a couple of times as a child, but each visit was magical. I remember every minute spent in the warm, glowing lights, the constant wonder and giggling, and each unexpected new experience. Whatcom County is fortunate to have the Bellingham Circus Guild, a small group of tight-knit circus arts performers, who bring the extraordinary talent of jugglers, clowns, acrobats, stilt walkers, aerialists, musicians, and storytellers to the stage every month throughout the year. Through their monthly shows, weekly classes, rentals, and special events, I can share a circus experience with my family any time of the year.

In as early as 2004, a number of performers were holding shows in an outdoor tent that moved around the county. Area performers were working on their own individually, teaching classes, practicing in garages. In 2007, local performers made a decision to band together to share costs of practice and class space and the Bellingham Circus Guild was born. Their goal was to encourage circus artists to practice, develop, and share with the community their unique artform. They used a variety of spaces in Whatcom County, until they settled at their current location at 1401 6th Street, Suite 102 in the Historic Fairhaven neighborhood around 2012.

It takes a team to pull off a show. Photo courtesy of Della Moustachella.

The Bellingham Circus Guild are sort of a big, wacky family. Photo courtesy of Della Moustachella.

About 15 individuals make up the core active membership of The Guild. They share in decision-making and management. A few of them have been involved since the beginning. A larger community of youth and adults from surrounding counties as far north as Vancouver, B.C. and as far south as Seattle currently participate by taking classes and renting the practice space and stage. Like the traveling circuses of my childhood, it takes teamwork to make a show. About 10 to 15 performers, a band, and a crew of about 30 volunteer ‘stage ninjas‘ help pull off the Guild’s monthly Vaudevillingham shows.

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Performers challenge themselves for the enjoyment of their audience. Photo by Jorge Lausell.

Vaudevillingham

Named for the variety shows popular from the 1880s to the 1930s, Vaudevillingham includes some of the same elements that were common in a vaudeville show. First started in 2008, Vaudevillingham performances occur on the 15th of each month, no matter what day of the week the date falls on. The date was originally chosen because it was the day before circus space rent was due and its has remained ever since.

In a single show one might see musicians, singers, dancers, comedians, magicians, acrobats, jugglers, and what the guild calls ‘experimental multi-media theatricalists.’¬†There is only one rule among Vaudevillingham performers: ‘No performer may repeat the same act, ever, at any Vaudevillingham show.’ The upside of that rule is that every show is fresh, new, and different.

Performances are at 7 and 9 PM. Although content is not restricted or censored, there is a general understanding that children and families will attend the earlier show. Although no nudity is permitted, the later show can, at times, be more risque.

A number of aerialists perform both at Vaudevillingham and via special events for the Guild. Photo by Jorge Lausell.

A number of aerialists perform both at Vaudevillingham and via special events for The Guild. Photo by Jorge Lausell.

Classes for Kids & Adults

My sons took classes when they were ten from one of The Guild’s long-time¬†members, Jason Quick. They were not interested in traditional team sports but loved going to Circus Arts Playshop one night a week. They¬†preferred the freedom of the format that was unlike traditional classes. Students would have a short introductory lesson about a specific circus art form like hoola-hooping or stilt-walking and then the remainder of the class could be spent practicing whatever skills interested you most. While they played with juggling, slack lines, and clown bicycles, they improved their¬†balance, strength, patience, and social skills.

The Guild believes that anyone can be a circus artist if they work at it. No prior experience is required. Just curiosity and a willingness to learn while playing.

A variety of classes meet one night each week including Unicycle and Juggle Clubs and Physical Comedy Clowning Class. Private lessons in aerial performance are also ongoing. Experienced aerialists may attend self-guided practice sessions called open aerials. Conditioning classes and a variety of private lessons occur regularly at the space known as the Cirque Lab.

New classes are continually developing based on the interests of guild members and the public. Their web site invites anyone to make requests for new classes that can then be connected with an appropriate instructor.

A performance art piece from Vaudevillingham. Photo by Jorge Lausell.

A performance art piece from Vaudevillingham. Photo by Jorge Lausell.

Performance Comes to You

When it is more appropriate for a performer to come to your home or business, the Guild will connect you. They send jugglers and clowns to birthday and holiday parties and corporate fundraisers. Aerialists have performed at summer outdoor concerts throughout Bellingham including Downtown Sounds. You almost always can find a performer at one of Bellingham’s Farmer’s Markets. Using the form¬†on their web site is the easiest way to bring a performance to your event.

Renting the Space

The Guild rents out the Cirque Lab to the public affordably for weddings, holiday and birthday parties, corporate events and fundraisers, concerts, plays, and whatever you can dream. The Lab is set up for entertainment. It can accomodate a group as large as 299 and the reasonable fee includes lights, seating, and basic audio capabilities.

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Performers invest incredible effort developing their craft. Photo by Jorge Lausell.

Special Events

A number of area performers also rent the space affordably for their special events. Its a place where artists may share their wares without breaking the bank. Area groups like the Provocateurs, aerialists, and local bands schedule special performances throughout the year.

Whatcom County is lucky to be home to the quality circus artists that make up The Bellingham Circus Guild. Their shows, classes, and rental options are a cultural resource for our area. I’m thankful for the priviledge of bringing my family to the circus any¬†month of the year.

Bellingham Circus Guild

1401 6th Street, Suite 102

Bellingham, WA 98225

www.bellinghamcircusguild.com

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About the Author:

Lorraine Wilde has immersed herself in so many of Whatcom County’s vibrant communities over the past 25 years. Owner and Marketing Strategist for Wilde World Communications, Lorraine has connected with locals as a writer, actor, scientist, teacher, filmmaker, singer, and mom. Lorraine has performed improv and staged works in several of Whatcom County’s theatres and she is active in the Bellingham Film community. She is also a big supporter of the local music community. When she has a spare second, its spent with her children outside on a sailboat, a trail, or exploring a new adventure.