This aint your mama’s circus.
What do beautifully sculpted legs, death-defying stunts, live music, and a tight-knit debauchery loving community have in common? Circus.
San Diego’s rowdy little underground circus, to be exact.
This city has amazingly beautiful weather, sprawling space, pleasant people and plentiful beaches. It boasts destinations and events like the Zoo, Seaworld, Comicon, the OB Pier, Sunset Cliffs, and Old Towne. These places are great for when your parents are in town or on a day off, but what about the weekend? Where’s the nightlife can you sink into, something that’s truly unique?
How about watching a little of this?
This isn’t your typical elephants, clowns, and screaming kids kind of circus– this is underground circus.
Otherwise Entertainment is the only circus troupe of its kind in San Diego. Started by previous Portland based acrobat and Wanderlust member Alexander Dial, Otherwise Entertainment features non-affiliated, underground circus acrobats. Dial and co-director Elyse Raggio are the organizers of many of the shows put on across the city. They bring the acts together. They make the family, to put on a show that is truly one-of-a-kind.
Otherwise Entertainment has been an official troupe for over two years. Upon returning to Southern California from Portland, Dial quickly realized there lacked a great, grassroots circus where there was none. While others groups are trying their hand at being the local circus, nothing is quite like Otherwise Entertainment.
How does Otherwise Entertainment work and why is it so successful?
-Having a love child called Circus. Dial and Raggio are fully employed outside of circus, living lives full of other hobbies and interest. Circus is on a different level. Circus runs through their blood. Or rather, it tumbles through their veins. Attend one of their shows, and the passion floods from the stage during each stunt. Being in the troupe takes dedication, time, commitment, humor, mental and physical strength, practice, and a whole lot of sweat.
Practice is held twice a week. Outside conditioning is common, especially for Dial, who needs to stay strong enough to lift and throw others safely. These kids are strong. Don’t be fooled by any little frames.
-Honest motivation powered by passion. Money is never a motivator when there is such an honest love for doing, and that’s what makes it so successful. Being a member of the troupe is hard, hard work. Members who join for the image or thoughts of fame do not last. Those who consider it a hobby quickly learn that Otherwise has gone beyond hobby status. If monetary gain was a factor, the group would have failed long ago. Tickets range from $10-25, which covers the costs of guest performers and venue rental. Past venues have included nightclubs, theaters, houses, and large festivals such as Lightning in a Bottle near Los Angeles.
Dial and Raggio have the responsibility of filling their show with acts and putting them together cohesively, whether it’s being put on by them or if they are hired out to be part of a larger production.
They are the organizers, producers, directors, choreographers, stage managers, makeup artists, accountants, cheerleaders and main event of each show. Stressed? Hell yes they are. And they take it with a giant grin. This is circus.
So, what’s even going on?
It can be daunting to describe and promote a circus show. New attendees often have no idea what they are getting into or what they are paying to see. Even the event pages tend to be fairly vague. Each show is unique, and surprise is half the fun. However, in an attempt to shine some light, here are just a few things that you can expect to see:
-Acrobatics and adagio (people being tossed, handstands, flips, pyramids)
-Jugglers (At least a 6-ball guarantee)
-Lovely ladies (dancers, hula hoopers, keeping the audience involved)
-Silks (Elegant acrobatics while hanging from a silk rope)
-Spanish Web (rope-from-the-ceiling acrobatics)
-Pole dancing (not like any pole dancing you’ve seen before)
-Aeriel Hoops (tricks on hoops dangling from rope)
-The ring mistress (she’ll keep you in line and create a bit of order out of chaos)
-Great Live Music (such as Heyoka and DJ Metabomb)
-Amazing Wardrobe (Think–sexy steam punk with more glitter)
And don’t forget, you will be a small fraction of a great whole–the audience. A comfortable wish to leave routine life behind for the night and go a little crazy may settle in. The love is passed around freely. Don’t be surprised if you leave with a bit of glitter in your hair and a dazed smile on your face. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself getting home at 4am with a bit more of your innocence gone forever.
What makes underground circus so special?
-The dedication of the performers is obvious, especially after the show. They are constantly in the spotlight. The job doesn’t end when the performance does. Hours of live music and dancing follow each show, and the circus can’t just run away. They keep on smiling and stay available to their friends and fans. This is a tight-knit community, and they are expected to be seen, sometimes well into the next morning. Another performance the next day? Too bad. Being the last ones to leave is part of the job.
– No need to bring the kids. There are the occasional all-ages events, but overall; this is circus for adults. Circus does a lot more than providing fun, sexy entertainment by extraordinarily talented and strong acrobats and performers. It takes attendees out of their comfort zone. Actually, it shoves them out of it. Hard.
Uncomfortable with pasties? Get comfortable. Squirmy about men wearing eyeliner? Start squirming.
-The circus provides an invaluable outlet. This outlet is an open door for people to be themselves. There is no hiding. There is no judgement. Be who you are, be who you must be. There may be a bit of innocence-loss but that’s normal. Innocence, like anything else in life, isn’t worth holding onto. Inspiration spills out of the performance and seeps into your skin. You may want to go do something motivated, and maybe just a little crazy.
-All of the acts and talent put together is what makes the underground circus great. You can put on a concert with one band, you can put on an art show with one artist, but you’ll never find just one act at a circus show. These shows are a reminder of how much we need each other to make things wonderful and inspiring, whether it be for a production, or to change the world. Lot’s of small parts make an amazing whole, and everyone adds an invaluable piece.
“What I’d want them to take away is an appreciation for the efforts that everyone makes together. Individually its great, but we are in a group–without my troupe mates I’m just a big guy that does back flips and it’s not so impressive. But we all get together and we can do something that no one else does around here. and the other performers that we contract in, it’s the same story. Sure, individually it’s incredible, but when we bring them all together and make it cohesive, then it’s really something.” -Alexander Dial
Any city would be much improved by an underground circus. It creates a one-of-a-kind community and a once-in-a-lifetime event that everyone needs to experience.
So slide on your big-kid pants and get ready for a ride!