It’s the winter solstice – the darkest day of the year.
From here on in, the days get longer and the sun shines brighter.
Historically it’s a day that’s been marked by feasts, parades and sometimes even human sacrifice.
Tonight at the Guild Hall, Claire Ness and a host of Yukon artists are going to celebrate the return of the sun in a more civilized style.
The Solstice Cabaret is a vaudeville variety show featuring music, dance, comedy and burlesque.
“I think it’s an awesome thing to celebrate,” said Ness, who is producing the show. “It’s a time of year that deserves some attention.
“It’s the passing of our darkest hour and a great reason to get together and entertain each other.”
It’s also a fundraiser for the Yukon Circus Society, a group Ness started in April to try to bring a little more of the circus to the North.
Several years ago, Ness, who was born and raised in the Yukon, ran away and joined the circus.
She was studying comedy writing and performance at Humber College in Toronto when she started training at a circus gym.
That led to a gig performing with Toronto’s Zero Gravity Circus.
“They’re still my circus family,” said Ness.
From there she went to Montreal to study at the National Circus School, the main recruiting ground for Cirque du Soleil.
“I could have stayed and worked there, but I wanted to come back to the Yukon,” she said. “It’s pretty saturated with circus down in Montreal and I never felt important or needed there.
“Here I have something to offer.”
Whitehorse may not have the same cachet as Montreal or Toronto, but it’s an amazing city for an artist, said Ness.
“You’ve got so many opportunities to do it all here,” she said. “If you’re just in it to be creatively satisfied and produce beautiful art, this is a great place to be.”
When she was performing with the circus in Toronto, Ness was also head coach of the group’s kids’ summer camps and after-school programs.
That’s something she’d like to bring to Whitehorse.
“Eventually, I hope to be teaching circus classes and be preparing people to perform aerial acts, acrobatic acts, clown acts, but there are no circus artists up here so they have to learn it from scratch,” said Ness.
“I think in order to learn circus and really excel in it, you have to have a venue, a show in mind, some kind of public presentation.”
If it takes off, she’d like to eventually have her own space, but right now she has her hands full organizing the cabaret.
Other than the few “awesome people” who have volunteered to work the bar and the door and run the sound, Ness is basically doing everything herself.
“It keeps it simple and cheap,” she said.
This is the third solstice show Ness has put on.
The first one was at Foxy’s Cabaret.
“It was really fun at Foxy’s, but not for the performers,” said Ness. “The poor performers couldn’t be heard at all, which was a shame because it was a great line up for the show, but it didn’t get seen.”
The Guild Hall is a much better venue for the performers, said Ness, but she has even bigger ambitions for the show.
“I’m trying to slowly get more and more circus content,” she said. “And eventually I’d like to do it at the arts centre where we can use the high ceilings.”
The Solstice Cabaret will be hosted by Ness and feature performances by Andrameda Hunter, Kelvin Smoler, Lauren Tuck, Joe La Jolie, Nicole Bauberger, Kim Beggs, Celia McBride, Shauna Jones, Anthony Trombetta, Erica Bigland and Eric Epstein.
It starts at 8 p.m.
The show will feature five-minute performances by each artist, but the format is pretty loose, said Ness.
“I like to fly by the seat of my pants a bit when I do a show,” she said. “I think that makes the audience feel comfortable when it’s not too rigid and formal.”
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