Cirque Roots Examines “The Conscience of Love”

February 3, 2014 |

Music, Motion & Fire

photo: Pedro Romano

photo: Pedro Romano

Entering the Cirque Roots Studio on Toole Avenue just east of Stone Avenue is like walking into a parallel universe—one where the smart phone and tablet explosion never quite took hold. The small lobby and reception area is filled to near capacity with acrobatic props and pieces of hand-painted sets. Plastic hoops of every color imaginable dangle from the ceiling in neat clusters. And don’t be surprised if you have to step around one or more of the regulars twirling with hoops splayed across outstretched arms to get through the two oversized wooden doors which separate the lobby from the large, open practice space in the back of the building.

Cirque Roots has been using the building in the Warehouse Arts District as a practice space since its founding in 2011, when the local hula hoop performance troupe Orbital Evolution decided to make their group more of a community driven, all-encompassing performance arts company. With the expansion of their reach to a broader community of performers, Cirque Roots grew into an umbrella organization which supports other performance troupes like pyro-performers Elemental Artistry and the daredevils of Flight School Acrobatics.

The nucleus of the crew is a group of just under twenty made up of acrobats, fire spinners, stilt walkers, classical and belly dancers, and even a pair of house musicians (a DJ duo billing themselves as Unianimity), all of whom bring their dark-carnival vibe to the Tucson Museum of Art (TMA) this month for three performances of “The Conscience of Love”—their third major production over the brief course of the company’s existence, and the first show which features all of Cirque Roots’ spotlighted acts.

Cirque Roots photo: Pedro Romano

Cirque Roots
photo: Pedro Romano

The show, complete with its own custom electronic score, is their second major performance piece using TMA as a backdrop (both performances of their Native American inspired “Feather” sold out last summer) and this time, since “The Conscience of Love” will be performed outdoors, they plan to bring the fire—literally. On a heated patio underneath the Arizona full moon with an intimate crowd of less than 250 people, this 45-mintue show promises to dazzle.

Says Cirque Roots Founder and “Conscience of Love” Director Brittany Briley (she was around when Cirque Roots was still all about hula hoops) on how they arrived at their chosen theme, “We had this opportunity to say something” and the concept of love and its myriad methods of expression provided the perfect “positive affirmation of our existence.” Thus, the multifaceted metaphor in motion began to take shape.

Appropriately, it all begins with Briley in a flaming headdress and skirt performing a sort of whirling call-to-the-spirit to set the tone for the evening. Briley, whose mother was recently diagnosed with cancer, says that pouring her heart and mind into choreographing these various expressions of mankind’s most powerful emotion has helped her keep her head on straight during this time of duress. And though it means the troupe will be forced to practice briefly without her as she heads home to Little Rock, Ark. for a brief visit, Briley is not worried. “I have complete faith in them,” she says of her performers. She plans to stay involved during her absence, though, by watching video of the group’s practice sessions online.

Another original hoopster and Cirque Roots co-founder, Zoë Anderson, says that the money earned from the show will go right back into the studio and production company to help improve their practice space and support their many ongoing programs like the free, open-to-all Tuesday Night Circus Jam and almost-daily performance-and-fitness-based classes and workshops. The ultimate goal, though, says Anderson, is to take “The Conscience of Love” on the road.

“There’s plenty of circus to go around,” says Anderson. She invites anyone in the community interested in a little spirited activity to come and play—step behind the shadow wall, work on your tumbling, dance, sing, or just hang out for the experience. Though the organization is young, Anderson says  it is growing. And she assures us that, though (like other local arts groups) Cirque Roots has seen its fair share of economic difficulty, no amount of financial struggle is going to keep them from some serious clowning.

On Cirque Roots’ upcoming show, says Anderson, “This is our offering to the community… and we’re going to bring it.”

“The Conscience of Love” takes over Tucson Museum of Art courtyard at 140 N. Main Ave., on Saturday, Feb. 15 for one night only. Show times are 6 p.m., 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 day-of. Get more info at Cirque Roots’ studio is located at 17 E. Toole Ave.