Blog

Neighborhood Circus

Published by the Ingleside-Excelsior Light

Story by Emma Chiang

September 2016

 Circus Automatic contortionist Katie Scarlett (left) and Inka Siefker (right) perform an act together as part of Into the Mouth of the Wolf teaser show at 915 Cayuga Ave. San Francisco, Calif. Saturday August 20, 2016. Photo by Emma Chiang

Circus Automatic contortionist Katie Scarlett (left) and Inka Siefker (right) perform an act together as part of Into the Mouth of the Wolf teaser show at 915 Cayuga Ave. San Francisco, Calif. Saturday August 20, 2016. Photo by Emma Chiang

Hidden off the main road of Cayuga Avenue sits a large building with a red painted door and gold numbers, 916 Cayuga Avenue. It’s a circus gym known as “Cayuga,” or, “The Royal Russian Kung Fu Circus Training Academy of Heavenly Mountain Sacred Lake.”

 

Cayuga is a training ground for circus performers, martial artists, aerialists, contortionists, burlesque dancers and other art forms. It is also home to the circus community of San Francisco, where artists take classes and train professionally for festivals and Bay Area shows.

 

On Saturday August 20, Circus Automatic, a group of circus performers trained in Asia, Spain and Canada hosted a teaser show called Into the Mouth of the Wolf. It was in collaboration with slam poets Joyce Lee and Jamie DeWolf.

The teaser

Into the Mouth of the Wolf is a continuation of the group’s show in October last year, Raised by Wolves. As the storytellers share their life events, circus performers interpret and visualize the narrative through contortions, hand balancing, barrel rolls, dance and movement. A lively audience of about 80 applauded after each act.

 

“It’s a work in progress,” Morgan Wilson, a fellow circus performer and guest in the audience said. “I loved the storytelling aspect because in circus there is no narrative.”

Circus in San Francisco

The circus became popular to San Francisco in 1974 when Peggy Snider and Larry Pisoni founded The Pickle Family Circus, which lead to the US’ circus renaissance movement. Ten years later, Pickle Family members Wendy Parkman and Judy Finelli (an accomplished juggler from the 60's), opened the San Francisco School for Circus Arts to train young aspiring performers, according to the Circus Center website.

 

At the end of the teaser show Saturday night, Circus Automatic performer Guji gave a toast to honor Judy Finelli for attending the show and for her dedication to the circus community in San Francisco.

 

“Without the circus school, they would have had a hard time learning what they needed,” Finelli said. “Circus Automatic is trying to make a statement in pairing both stories with circus acts. This is a breeding ground for experimental circus; they are pushing beyond what circus has been traditionally.”

 

Into the Mouth of the Wolf debuts October 13-November 13 at the Great Star Theater in San Francisco’s Chinatown, located at 636 Jackson St.