Dancing on Air
Joining the circus was the last thing Sara Greene ever thought she’d do. She didn’t even go to the circus as a child and had little idea what it was all about. Then she went to Europe to travel and work for five years, and found herself drawn to the ubiquitous street performers — many doing what you might see at a circus, including acrobatics.Smitten, she came back to the U.S. and got a job tending horses at the Big Apple Circus in Boston. Soon she was learning to rig the big tents and her love of the circus became deeper yet. “It’s like being in a cathedral,” she says. Today the Concord resident is working on creating her own small performing company called ciel rouge moving co. — she trained herself to be an aerialist and hopes to add other performers to make a tiny troupe. Whether with others or by herself, she’s taking to the streets to provide passersby with a unique and enjoyable experience.
How long have you been traveling with the circus?
For 15 years. I was first hired by the Big Apple Circus in Boston to work with the horses. I also did props, costumes and tent work. I never performed for them.
What aspect of the work did you like best?
Rigging the tents. In the first summer I learned the essentials about how to do it. I’d help rig the mast and put up the tent. I knew then that this would be a huge passion.
A huge passion? What’s to love about tents?
It’s part of the magic of a touring show. You pull up in an empty field and you create a magical performance space with the tent. It’s like being in a cathedral. Plus, I love the mechanics of it. For someone who was never interested in math and science, it opened my eyes to the application of it. There aren’t many tent people around. Either you love it or you don’t.
Is there much call for tent people?
Yes, actually, there is. I was assistant tentmaster for the Big Apple, and a fly-in tent specialist for Cirque du Soleil.
Wow, Cirque du Soleil …
It’s definitely a good company, but it also limits people’s ideas of what this kind of performance can or should be. It creates an expectation of elaborate hydraulics and lighting, which you can do if you have billions of dollars. I’d rather see people take what they pay for a ticket to Cirque to go see five local shows.
You’d like to create the kind of small-scale circus show, the street performers, you saw in Europe?
I would. I’m not sure what prevents people from doing it. There are lots of performers here, too, but I think it might be the bureaucracy, all the red tape. You know, it’s not easy getting permits for a circus street performance.
Do you work with a net?
No. They’re only used for the flying trapeze. As a self-taught aerialist, I’m not doing the most dangerous tricks. I don’t want a big thrill act; I want to do something creative with it. Plus, rigging a tent is a lot more scary. I’ve done some crazy stuff with rigging, like climbing up 50 feet of steel that’s covered in ice. If OSHA had known what I was doing …