Hi there! My name is Rena, I am an aerialist, contortionist, and dancer with Cirque Us this summer. If you have already seen our show, StarStruck, you may recognize me as the character Mars. This summer and this production hold a particularly precious place in my heart for a couple reasons- this is not only my first season performing with Cirque Us but it is also my first time on tour, so naturally there are a lot of accompanying feelings. Now that we have been on the road for a few weeks, I have had some time to unpack my thoughts about it all.
In retrospect, perhaps I did not really know what to expect of life on the road and how it would feel, although I knew it would have its share of highs and lows. Much to my surprise, the “work” side of tour (I say work with quotations because, in all honestly, it never feels quite like serious work) was the easiest part to adapt to, primarily because it was familiar territory. From setting up and tearing down the rig to long jump day drives, from rehearsals to shows and the gaps between them, these are all elements of working in circus and dance that I already knew what to expect and how to problem solve in, so in that sense life was not all that different than before. Rather, the part of this journey which has most made me think “Wow, I can’t believe I’m actually on tour!” has been during the quiet moments, the late night conversations, and the breathtaking views of the New England countryside- the “muggle” moments, you could say. More than anything, these moments of pause have made me think a lot about the notion of home, and how that has changed for me since leaving my pedestrian life behind.
What first made me question my concept of home while on tour was when I realized, with great surprise, that I did not miss my physical home in Brattleboro, Vermont one bit. While there are certainly small creature comforts and routines I miss sometimes, I’ve never felt quite as comfortable and at-home in my identity as I do right now while moving around, meeting new people, seeing new places, and performing. The more I thought about this, the more I realized that home, or at least the sort of home I had found, is more abstract than a single, physical place. Rather, it is a collage of people, experiences, and memories, and this summer has gifted me with an abundance of all these.
One source of this sensation has come from our many homestay hosts, who have housed the cast from site to site. With every meal, couch, and conversation, I have been repeatedly both surprised and humbled beyond measure by our hosts’ warmth and generosity with their own homes. Another, related source has come from the many people, both within the company and beyond, who have made this tour so memorable. When I pause to think about my favorite moments of this tour, from backstage antics to family dinners to meet and greets with the audience (hands-down my favorite part, by the way), these memories are as special as they are because of the friends and family that they happened with. Lastly, at a more personal level, a critical source of “home” has come from within myself. Being on tour has shown me, more than any other experience in my life, the importance of striking a balance between social time and personal time. As cheesy as this will sound, this taught me that home, as a place to belong in and take refuge in, starts not with a place but with yourself, and recognizing what you personally need in order to function and feel OK as a person.
As my run with StarStruck comes to a rapid close and I prepare to go back to my apartment-home in Vermont, I cannot stop thinking about how this summer has blessed me with great friends and unforgettable relationships, and this makes me smile. Without a doubt, I could not be more proud to say that my first tour was with Cirque Us.
Photos by Grace Gershenfeld