Marina: “Big Top”

20 04 2008

BIG TOP
(Boston – Philadelphia, April 2008)

From the very first show that I produced in San Francisco in 2001, Big Moves never set out to be for mature audiences, like, deliberately. But somehow, that’s what ended up coming out. In my first few years of Big Moves, I found my natural allies amongst the fat burlesque queens (the late Heather Macallister/Reva Lucian and her Original Fat-Bottom Revue) and the naked queer modern dancers of Dandelion Dancetheater, and so our shows just kinda… made room for that sensibility. We were all about the sleazy Broadway and bootylicious hip hop, and while the modern pieces that San Francisco produced were Classy and Cerebral, just about everything else I touched had smut marks all over it.

After all those years, Big Top, our spring 2008 production, was Big Moves’ first foray into deliberately family-friendly programming. Set in the 1920s, Big Top had loads of bright colors and bombast, plenty of broad-brush pantomime and clowning, and costumes that were positively demure (there were, for example, no fishnets represented at all). There was one fake cigarette, one fake flask o’ gin, and an opening number in which the country girl was menaced by three urban predators.

I knew our regular adult audiences would love it, in spite of it totally lacking in our normal levels of titillation. But I wasn’t sure whether we achieved my artistic goal–fun, all-ages, size-diverse show–until our first performance in Philadelphia, at the Rotunda. (I know, right? There’s a venue called the Rotunda. Big Moves _had_ to perform there!) Right there, in the front row, sat a row of children, from two different families. They laughed at the pratfalls, went “ooh” at the golden wings of the bellydancer, bounced in their seats to the hip hop numbers, and one of them let out a little shriek when our big cat dancers clawed at the damsel in distress.

Adults applauded and hollered and complimented us, but for the Big Top, a transfixed child was our best testimony of success. And if those moments last in their impressionable little memories as images of fat performers… juggling, airborne, twirling, laughing, kicking high, arching back, spinning, singing loud, making magic… then that’s some of the best work Big Moves can do.

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