|Beth Clarke on Daniela Steiner√É¬Ę√Ę‚Äö¬¨√Ę‚Äě¬Ęs foot
A newspaper on the sidewalk swirls in the wind. Suspended 20 feet above, a woman tumbles down lithely in a bed sheet. Her neighbor drinks a cup of tea while balancing on a clothesline. The bus doesn‚Äôt come but the mail gets delivered.
An ordinary day in our city? Or an extraordinary one brought alive through the talents of San Francisco‚Äôs newest ensemble of circus artists Sweet Can?
Beth Clarke, co-founder of Sweet Can, has been doing circus for seventeen years. Beth arrived in San Francisco with her family from Northern California at the age of five months. Having lived in a VW van in the Mendocino County woods as a pre-schooler, she got a taste for living on the road. Beth won her first audition at age nine in a local production of Blood Wedding dancing the Flamenco. When she was out of high school she started her training with the Pickle Family Circus School, now Circus Center, and proceeded to get her diploma from the National Circus School in Montreal and went on to perform internationally and locally.
During the dot-com boom, there was also a corporate circus boom. Even Sun Microsystems was giving lavish parties hiring trapeze artists and stilt walkers, Beth among them. And the Balkans were full of jobs with Cirque du Soleil knock-offs, where she flew on the trapeze, walked slack rope and tumbled inside a very large hamster wheel.
This year while teaching and practicing at the Circus Center, Beth and her colleague Kerri Kresinski began the ‚Äúwhy don‚Äôt we form our own company‚ÄĚ conversation. After brainstorming, they arrived at the obvious conclusion: ‚ÄúLet‚Äôs have a circus!‚ÄĚ¬† Kerri brought in her friend Daniela Steiner from Portland‚Äôs physical theatre company Do Jump! They then lured director Robert Rodgers from Cirque du Soleil to help them mold their ideas into the show they always dreamed of creating. Sweet Can was born.
Having collaborated on smaller projects in the past years, the trio came up with the name Sweet Can, named for the anatomical part that they were equally endowed with, and to celebrate the sweet opportunity and the ability to do what they wanted to with their bodies, and finally for the use of a garbage can in the show itself.
Habitat, the name of their first show, refers to the idea of city inhabitants, and what they need to thrive. They need circus, a group and a place to work. ‚ÄúThe more people get involved,‚ÄĚ Beth believes, ‚Äúthe better the experience gets exponentially.‚ÄĚ To that end, Sweet Can‚Äôs ensemble has expanded to include the international talents of Jeremy Sheets (crowned ‚ÄúHunky Jesus 2004‚ÄĚ by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence) BJ Joyer (acrobat) and a live band with music composed and directed by Dan Cantrell (Tom Waits, The Toids) costumes and set by Laura Hazlett (Kronos Quartet,) and lighting by Tad Shannon. The music will be eclectic with a mix of middle-eastern (did I mention there will be a belly dancer), rock, Balkan, and gypsy. ¬†
After traveling the globe, Sweet Can has brought Habitat home. Not a copy of Cirque du Soleil, nor a Burning Man, nor burlesque show with animals, Habitat aims to be a most poetic, funny and touchingly beautiful circus experience. Appropri-ate for children of all ages!
For a free preview of their talents, Sweet Can will perform tumbling, flipping, juggling and slack-roping to live music in Union Square on Wednesday, Jan. 31 at 12:30 pm.
Sweet Can‚Äôs Habitat plays through Sunday, February 11 at Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St., SF. For tickets ($20) go to www.brownpapertickets.com.