The troupe headed over to Saltspring Island this weekend to participate in an amazing benefit event for Andrea Russel. Andrea is the RingMistress of SPARKCircus! We joined SPARK this year and travelled around Thailand for two months, performing in Burmese Refugee camps, Migrant villages, orphanages, and health clinics.
Andrea is a self employed jeweller who lives on Galiano Island, on the west coast of BC. She has poured her soul and all available funds into SPARKCircus’ 7 years of operation. She is one of my mentors, and an inspiration for the flow arts community.
Andrea was having some health issues just before our last trip. As she was not getting any answers from the medical system her, and her symptoms were still manageable, she decided to complete the 2012 Spark tour, instead of waiting out the winter on the west coast. She also consulted with Thai doctors and had an MRI in Thailand, where they diagnosed diagnosed a pituitary adenoma, which is a form of brain tumour that grows on the pituitary gland, and is impinging on her optic nerves and carotid arteries, causing headaches and encroaching blindness.
The fire fan routine that she performed during our tour was deeply personal- the song choice was “shake it off” by Florence and the Machine: “And it’s hard to Dance, with the devil on your back, so shake him off!.. It’s always darkest before the dawn!” Here’s a video of Andrea’s routine:
The tumours are thankfully non-cancerous, it has been slowly affecting her eyesight, and causing a whole slew of other major health concerns and issues. Andrea has many medical expenses, and has needed to secure a place in Vancouver for her appointments, surgery, and recovery. Her surgery is scheduled for next week.
Andrea spends much of her time on Saltspring, and has a great community of supportive friends there. One of her close friends Nycki arranged a benefit party for Andrea. Andrea unfortunately was not able to come over from Vancouver- her energy levels are too low currently and the trip/party would exhaust her. As she is scheduled for surgery this week, we all understood and encouraged her to rest!!
Myself, Kevin, Jenna, Caden, Lukas and Garret packed into our car (how many clowns can you fit into a Mazda 5?) with our performance kit and met up with Nycki. The party was at a great private residence with beautiful gardens, large performance area, and lovely grass yard set up as the kids’ play zone. There were SO many people, dressed in circus finery. There was a great variety of things to do and see: amazing facepainting by Sarah, Gourmet cupcakes, Sweet and Savoury Crepes and Smoothies, pulled pork barbecue, silent auction of some AMAZING items (including a 10 class pass from Nanaimo’s OmTown Yoga Studio!), fabulous Thailand items and imports for sale (tutus! MiniHats! MonsterPaw Crocs!), a ‘wishing WELL’, Kids area with games and circus props, incredible live music, talented DJ’s, dancing, talking, laughing, playing… the list goes on! 🙂
We were delighted to find Terry in attendance at the party. Terry is a member of the burning man community and has a flair for creation. Terry has what we call a “puffer canon”- basically a propane powered flame thrower. I’ve had the pleasure of performing fire shows with him at a few other occasions- the SPARKcircus fundraiser in December, and again at Carnivale in Victoria. A quick collaborative conversation, a check with Nycki and John, a quick jaunt up to Terry’s to grab the puffer, and the stage was set for an amazing finale! We hope to have Terry join us for our big fire show on Aug 4th for Parksville Sandcastles! The effect is jaw dropping!
We were so happy to come represent SPARKCircus on Andrea’s behalf. Many of these people, while they knew Andrea, had never seen a SPARK style show. What we do is very different from the ‘regular’ fire spinning that one might see at parties. We strive to be highly professional, present choreographed routines to specific music, with matching costumes, crowd interaction, and audience engagement. We were excited to show them all what we do- what ANDREA has done for us, inspiring us and lifting us up to a higher level of performance.
We started the show around 9:45, once it was dark. We performed 7 acts- 3 LED, and 4 fire, in pure SPARK style. Each act went off without a hitch, flowing smoothly from one song to another with no breaks. Our finale was backed by the puffer cannon and definitely impressed! Here’s a fan video of our finale number, shot from the back of the stage. Check out how well the puffer lights everyone up!
Many people thanked us after the show, saying that they had never seen a performance like that, and that they were blown away. It is all due to Andrea’s vision of what a fire show could be- how it could move people to tears, and make them cheer with joy, and gasp with wonder.
Nycki ended up raising the INCREDIBLE amount of over ten thousand dollars to assist Andrea in her recovery. What an incredible event, an incredible supportive community! We are so thankful to have been able to share in this experience- to co-create a magical evening. Thanks to Nycki, Jena, Bruce, and all the volunteers that supported this event in so many ways!!!