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Denver-based circus company Rainbow Militia is bringing the circus to low-income neighborhoods, ten times over.
Starting May 18, Rainbow Militia's "Zabiti: 10x the Impact" tour will bring a traveling circus wagon to ten of Denver's underserved communities, stopping at each for an all-day celebration combining performances, workshops and collaborations with local artists. The free neighborhood performances will lead up to a production, also titled Zabiti, that Rainbow Militia will put on at Denver Rock Drill for three weeks in late August and early September.
The performing arts collective will stage a version of its latest production—aerial artists and jugglers included—in community gathering spaces throughout the city this summer.
Every year, RiNo’s Ratio Beerworks supports the Denver art community by inviting artists to transform their brewery during the Genius Wizard Imperial Stout release party. Of course, the transformation must fall into the theme of “Genius Wizard” — although exactly how it does that is up to the artist…
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It makes sense that Amber Blais was drawn to the circus life: The woman knows how to juggle. But we’re not talking about multicolored balls or chainsaws here; Blais knows how to handle a tricky schedule. She spent more than five years as the communications manager for Wonderbound, a local contemporary dance troupe, and in her limited hours outside of work, she launched two creative enterprises. Raconteur Denver is a free bimonthly storytelling series held around town (mostly at coffeeshops and bars) à la New York City’s the Moth; Rainbow Militia, which Blais co-founded, is a circus collective that performs collaborative productions with local musicians and artists. “[Those endeavors] took up pretty much all of my free time,” she says. “There were times my friends would ask me to do things, and I would say no because I was working on my passion projects.”
Both ventures were artistic outlets for Blais and a way for her to connect with the local creative community outside of her job as a marketer; she wasn’t trying to make money (and her day job meant she didn’t need the extra income). She relied on apps such as Wunderlist and ColorNote to keep all of her proverbial balls in the air. “You have to be willing to put a lot of hours into it,” she says. Those would be evening hours and early morning hours and weekend hours, because as any side hustler knows, most of her income will continue to come from her full-time job—unless that side hustle starts paying some, if not all, of the bills.
When she started wanting to further stretch her creative muscles this past summer, Blais parted ways with Wonderbound and is now working to turn her secondary pursuits—circus performance, in particular—into something more. Since they aren’t yet bringing in enough to cover day-to-day expenses, Blais is juggling again, taking on contract marketing projects and splitting rent with roommates—all while conceiving Rainbow Militia’s first major production. Zabiti, inspired by Russian folktales, is expected to premiere in August 2019. It’s not easy, and Blais admits it’s a struggle to cobble together a reasonable income. She isn’t giving up though. “I didn’t start off doing the side hustle and thinking I wanted it to be my full-time career…. It was just a fun thing to do and it made me really happy,” Blais says. “I’m running with it.”
In Denver Westword
Rainbow Militia took part in the Unicorn Love Party for a good cause.