When you think of circus do you picture the Ringling Bros.? Or maybe Cirque du Soleil?
Whatever you have in mind, Aaron Marquise is trying to expand on that vision.
“I think people would be surprised if they really took the time to look into the circus world and see what’s out there. There [are] tons of different styles of contemporary circus,” Marquise said.
As the executive director of the non-profit Contemporary Circus and Immersive Arts Center (CCIAC), he hopes to promote, produce and present circus works around the Capital Region.
“Our vision is really to bring that art form and those artists to the region to get people excited about it. Then maybe younger students get inspired by it, decide to go off and train somewhere and bring their work back,” Marquise said.
CCIAC’s first work, called “Roadkill,” will be performed at Prospect Park in Troy on Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. Presented by Cooper Stanton, it tells the story of a wild fox through acrobatics, juggling, swinging trapeze and a brief moment of unicycling.
“The show is a lot of physical movement, dance and storytelling. Cooper and I, as we were creating the show, felt that in order for the audience to have empathy with this story and the character we really needed to get them to like the character and I think the best way to do that is through storytelling,” Marquise said.
The show marks not only the debut performance by CCIAC but the first under its Artists First Program.
“We put the artists at the center of the creative process and to [help them] understand how to produce the show and bring it to life and also how to present it. That’s one of the major things that’s lacking for circus artists is the support of an organization,” Marquise said.
Finding a place and the financial resources to present new work tends to be one of the biggest obstacles for circus artists, as Marquise well knows.
The Round Lake native and Shenendehowa High School graduate has been involved in the circus arts for years. In 2011, he began training at the esteemed National Circus School in Montreal (located right across the street from Cirque du Soleil’s headquarters). His discipline or major was in clowning, though he also trained in dance, acrobatics, acting, etc.
After graduating in 2015, he performed in shows in Europe and produced his own works as well.
In 2016, he moved to Troy and produced several shows locally at the historic Gasholder House in Troy, under the company name Marquise Productions.
“But one of the things I quickly started to learn was the vision that I had was too big for one person to undertake by themselves,” Marquise said.
Thus, he came together with a dozen other community members (who now form CCIAC’s board) and created the non-profit. Together they’ve been fundraising and writing grants and trying to bring the circus arts more into focus in this area.
“We have many programs that we want to start up. We’re really standing on the three legs that are in our mission statement: promote, produce and present. We want to produce new work, like Cooper’s show, present work that already exists and promote contemporary circus as an art form,” Marquise said.
“Roadkill” started out as simply an idea, which Stanton and Marquise were awarded several grants for; these performances aren’t cheap, it can cost thousands for the equipment alone. Thus, they were funded by the New York State Council on the Arts, Upstate Coalition for a Fairgame, the Arts Center of the Capital Region, The Friends of Prospect Park and others.
Over the last few months, Stanton and Marquise have been creating the 45-minute show and rehearsing it in the Gasholder Building, which is an ideal space for the circus arts, said Marquise.
“The Artist First Program has given me an amazing view into show creation,” said Stanton in a statement. “My passion in the circus arts has always been in the development and presentation of a piece program has supported the creative side of who I am while provided a masterclass in production coordination and working on a budget.”
Just as they worked together to come up with the show, they also worked together on finalizing the show’s oddball name: “Roadkill.”
“People tried to dissuade me from using the name ‘Roadkill,’ but I love it. I think there’s an interesting dichotomy that will emerge when we perform in the middle of a park, a plot of land that has been designed and manicured by people, but where wildlife are free to roam. Roadkill, after all, is also the result of humans encroaching on what was previously primarily an ‘animal space,’” Marquise said in a statement.
Prospect Park, which Marquise sees as an underutilized space in Troy, is an ideal location for the production not only because of the natural elements but because it’s a public space.
“I [think there’s] a lot of power in presenting art in public spaces that [are] available for the community to enjoy regardless of their financial standings,” Marquise said.
"Roadkill," presented by the Contemporary Circus and Immersive Arts Center
WHEN: 7 p.m. Fri. and Sat.
WHERE: Prospect Park, Troy
TICKETS: Free with a $15 suggested donation
MORE INFO: cciac.us
NOTE: Attendees should plan to bring their own lawn chairs and blanketsLi