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Dancing and art: Emma Nagasawa.

Cirque de la Nightclub

At local art openings, it’s not un usual to be welcomed by a gourmet buffet or some live music, a guitarist or a DJ, or maybe even some sort of video happening. But aerialists, ballerinas, belly dancers, and the occasional fire juggler or stilt walker are definitely uncommon sights amid the white walls and unobtrusively geometric placements of the average gallery reception. Until September of last year, that is, when producer James Rose unfurled the first Cirque de la Nocturne, “a showcase of art, dance, and performance.”

Cirque events are auctions of artworks by local artists that feature live performances, and are usually held in nightclubs and restaurants. “The emphasis is on the fine arts and showcasing local talent, although not all the dance is formal,” says Rose, a painter from Kinderhook who recently moved to Albany. “It’s about integrating art and culture into the region’s mainstream nightlife, to bring it to the people and not leave it stuck in a white cube somewhere, or on a stage with $50 ticket prices. Our first show sold out,” he adds. “We sold everything, 29 pieces of artwork.”

Rose says he got the inspiration for Cirque de la Nocturne when he met an aerial silks artist—“they’re aerialists who use long silk garments to drop from the ceiling; They’re like gymnasts or contortionists in the air”—which gave him the idea to do a Cirque de Soleil-themed party at Envy Lounge, where he bartends. He had seen aerial silks done at Ruby Sky, a nightclub in San Francisco, and flew in aerialist Veronica Blair for the party. Since the first Cirque last September, his performance troupe has grown to include classical ballet by Emma Nagasawa, Arabic belly dancing by Emily Krontiris, cabaret burlesque by Larissa Diaz, gymnastics by Sarah Funk, and a “danse du jour,” which could be tango, jazz, or swing.

“We don’t concentrate on camp, or any one type of performance,” says Rose. “We’ve had ballroom, and also contemporary forms, like hip-hop and break dancing. We’ll have digital artists in the future. It’s experimental and sophisticated, but fun, because it’s high energy.”

A lot of that energy comes from Rose’s 11 years as a promoter in San Francisco, where he organized special events for venues as diverse as Velvet Lounge and the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, as well as mounting shows for his own paintings. “When I got back,” he says, “I wanted to do parties.”

Cirque has a roster of about 15 mixed-media artists. “The artworks are auctioned because it’s a more informal and sociable outlet for patrons to purchase art, compared to gallery protocol,” says Rose. “You don’t have to seek out someone to buy it from. At auction you just sign your name on a piece of paper.” The events are themed: In July, a Vegas Night was held at Envy Lounge; on Tuesday and Wednesday (Aug. 26 and 27), Cirque “heats up” the Parting Glass pub in Saratoga Springs; on Sept. 5, a Roaring ’20s masquerade inspired by Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf will be held at Trinity Church in Albany, in conjunction with the Upstate Artists Guild.

“It’s a new idea, to be interactive, mish-mash this stuff together, and have enough structure so that people don’t feel lost,” says Rose. “We have an MC who guides people through the night.” The events begin with a meet-and-greet happy hour allowing performers and artists to mingle with patrons before the performances. Rose cheerfully admits that cocktails help sales.

Yet selling his own work is almost incidental. “I like organizing,” he says. “I like getting performers together, and interacting with them, and giving them an opportunity to perform, because a lot of them had to stop, [for example], because they weren’t at the level of the New York City Ballet, but they’re still really good, and it’s their dream to do it. Because I’m an artist, I appreciate opportunity.”

—Ann Morrow

Cirque de la Nocturne will appear at the Parting Glass Pub (42 Lake Ave.) in Saratoga Springs, Tuesday and Wednesday (Aug. 26 and 27) from 6 to 11 PM. The silent auction starts at 6 PM. Performances are at 7:30 and 9 PM. Bidding on art closes at 9 PM. The evening’s performers are Larissa Diaz dancing burlesque, Emma Nagasawa performing ballet, Shock Wave the Human Robot, Atlas, Mecca and Ethan Moore break dancing, the Limited Eddition female hip-hop freestyle dancers, and local visual artists including Joleen Button, Michael Button, Jeremy Kohler, Dan Neet, Keira Lemonis, Kevin McKrell, Katie McKrell, James Rose, Rebecca Schoonmaker, Serena Tearno and Tommy Watkins. Admission is $10; call 583-1916 for more info.

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