New York’s Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Soars to New Heights

For the New York-based performing group Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, tradition is something meant to be challenged, even as it’s being celebrated.

Bindlestiff Family CirkusAnd while the circus remains a real family tradition, Bindlestiff is turning the genre on its ear, merging acrobatics, burlesque, and vaudevillian humor into one action-packed, surprising show.

A Cirkus is Born

Founded in 1996 by Stephanie Monseu and Keith Nelson, the talented troupe of two to 16 performers per show regularly performs at theaters, colleges, and festivals, sharing its love of the variety arts with audiences worldwide.

With its founders well-versed in the art of fire eating, Bindlestiff offers audiences a chance to view the nearly impossible, providing a spectacle that for adult audiences stretches the definition of what is traditionally considered a circus, crafting a somewhat raunchy and utterly riveting production that merges sideshow, burlesque, music, and vaudeville.

A Little Bit of Magic

For several years, the troupe performed in what it billed as “the last vaudeville house in Times Square,” presenting several shows a day and giving both audiences and performers a chance to explore vaudeville-style arts better.

They were forced to close up shop when the former shoe store was demolished in 2004, but the group soon hit the road, bringing its finely-honed, edgy acts including sword swallowing, fire eating, acrobatics, contortion, magic, and buffoonery to audiences worldwide.

Kinko the ClownFrom Kinko the Clown, who made a satirical bid for president in 2008, to Mr. Pennygaff’s sword swallowing, Miss Una’s surprising aerial feats and Philomena’s precision bull whip handling, a skill that allows her to slice a rose held between a volunteer’s trembling teeth. The show is a risque celebration of the circus, one that pushes boundaries while still allowing viewers to be swept away for a while by the death-defying feats.

Educational Opportunities

Bindlestiff is also dedicated to teaching performers the art of the circus, and the non-profit organization offers workshops, performances, and lectures for the general public along with advanced classes and internships within the group.

The troupe also performs and presents workshops in schools, ranging from single workshops to two-week programs that explore the circus, vaudeville, Wild West touring shows and sideshows, ultimately offering a study of more than a century of American entertainment.

The courses allow everyone who has ever dreamed about running away to join the circus a chance to realize that dream for a while, generating increased interest in the spectacle that ultimately is the circus at the same time.

Beyond Bindlestiff

More than 400 Bindlestiff graduates are currently performing at a variety of venues worldwide.

Magic: Beginner ‘Is This Your Card?’ Trick

These seemingly impossible feats of extraordinary magnitudes have been around men for decades, even centuries, and our minds have not even begun to comprehend how these magicians or illusionists perform their tricks.

From the classic “Is this your card?” trick to the more complex Indian rope trick, any magic trick, performed correctly, will have your spectators’ minds boggling. I will tell some magic tricks and provide an explanation for the preparation and the procedures of the tricks. I will begin with an easy, but still impressive — a card trick.

You start this trick by preparing the deck before you go to your spectators, so they are not suspicious. You have to flip over the bottom card of the deck so that both sides if the deck have the back of the card facing you.

Now, let us move on to the actual trick. You will need another person to perform the trick. With the deck facing normally, ask him to pick a card from anywhere in the deck. Don’t let them see the bottom of the deck! Then ask them to look at the card closely, and memorize it. While they are examining the card, flip the deck over so that the bottom of the deck is facing up. Then ask them to put their card back in the deck. Since the deck is upside down, they actually put the card backward! Then make some hand gestures as to conceal you flipping the deck over again. Now look through the cards, showing them that their card is upside-down in the deck. They will be amazed!

Here are some tips for being able to perform magic tricks such as this one. First of all, the audience will always look at what you direct their attention to. If you are trying to do something that you don’t want them to see, direct their attention. This is part of the reason that hand gestures and special words were introduced into magic tricks or illusions. Another trick if preparing for a trick before it happens. This way, you don’t have to worry about your audience seeing you and discovering that trick. And finally, practice, practice, practice! It helps if you practice tricks in front of a mirror, so you can see what your audience would be seeing when you are performing the trick. I hope this helped, and that this leads you to become a new David Copperfield!