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Spirits fly high with the Emerald City Fliers at Mardi Gras extravaganza

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Lynn Treadwell — Courtesy of Dante Moreno
Lynn Treadwell — Courtesy of Dante Moreno

At the Mardi Gras Spectacular debut on February 9, the Emerald City Trapeze Arts venue seemed like a large warehouse or barn, its vaulted ceilings made up of dozens of wooden beams, clearly engineered with aerial activities in mind. Amid the twinkling lights and gentle bustle, every corner below was decorated with an assemblage of esoteric-meets-Mardi Gras: curious potion bottles, glittering skulls, and festive masks. Adults of all ages filled the floor seating and twin balcony spaces.

Adra Boo as Madame Mars — Courtesy of Dante Moreno  

Then the lights dimmed, and out stepped our host, the captivating Madame Mars. The elegant guide was played by none other than Adra Boo, vocalist and co-director of PrideFest 2021. She engaged the crowd with quips about the end of the workday, and in true Mardi Gras fashion, centered our focus on the spirit of indulgence. For the duration of the show, she introduced each act with a tarot card that corresponded with its theme.

The pacing was strategic, starting slow and sexy, with an aerial-straps burlesque by the devilish Oroki, followed by aerial hoop, pole, and floor performances that ramped up toward the highest-energy act of the first half, a sizzling dance routine by Koach Giggz and Krew. A broad range of talent also took part, including a romantic acrobatic sequence of pretzel-like proportions by Duo Rose, a bootylicious number by local drag queens Beau Degas and Rowan Ruthless, and a heady celebration of Trans joy, Queer intimacy, and a sacred-masculinity act by the leather-clad Moonyeka and the House of Kilig.

Madame Mars then delivered us to the break with a vocal performance of her own, ushering many of the participants back onto the floor, as well as a giant lit-up snake, puppeteered by several crew members. She encouraged the audience to stand up and join the snake-led promenade around the room, in which almost everyone participated. The energy bubbled over, in perfect anticipation of the exhilarating second half to follow. (One couldn't help envying the following night's show, which was slated to end with a dance party.)

The Emerald City Fliers — Courtesy of Dante Moreno  

The Emerald City Fliers concluded the extravaganza with an exhilarating bang in a nail-biting sequence of acrobatics, flinging themselves across the room, individually and sometimes in pairs, eliciting hysterical delight from the crowd, each receiving their own special spotlight and appreciation. The trapeze artists utilized the entirety of the space, both in the air and running perpendicularly along the balconies, where part of the audience was close to the performers. It was clear the architecture of the space was utterly unique — as one of the troupe members would later attest, "Nowhere else in the world can you [sit] at flying height."

Though the tenets of Mardi Gras were strong tonight, it was clear that the winning theme of the evening was the unshakeable sense of community: from the celebration of individual performers' milestones, like Duo Rose's first child and trapeze artist Lynn Treadwell's 51st birthday, to the tight-knit, supportive energy of the group.

Emily Perrier, choreographer of the Fliers' act, praised the collaborative nature of the production, remarking how rewarding it was to make tickets donation-based and "open it up to the community." She said afterward, "You could feel the energy of all the friends and families, and maybe people who wouldn't have come otherwise." Perrier travels the world to perform, but Seattle continues to be a favorite, both for the uniqueness of the space and the "open-mindedness and the acceptance of the people here... They are just so welcoming."

With shows like this, aerial arts seem to have a promising horizon. Many of tonight's performers learned as adults. One was on a plane (can it get any more aerial?) when she first saw an advertisement for flying trapeze classes, and instantly wanted to try.

The mere act of exposure to these arts goes above and beyond in bringing more people in. "The more that people become aware of it," Perrier said, "[the more they] fall in love with it."

Co-directors The Shanghai Pearl and Caela Bailey — Courtesy of Dante Moreno  

Show co-director Caela Bailey hopes that in the wake of this production, more people will want to learn circus arts. Bailey and co-director The Shanghai Pearl — whom Moonyeka dubbed "a goddamn legend" in the burlesque world — achieved their collaborative vision for tonight's broad showcasing of talent. Whatever they bring to the stage next is sure to dazzle and inspire.