The Rapidian Home

Daredevil Circus builds cooperative community for City Lights

Last weekend, the City Lights Music Festival included a circus troupe among its performers. This conversation and photo essay of their performance give a window into what goes into creating their performance.

/Trevor Ditmar

"To create, I destroyed myself... I am the living setting in which several actors make entrances, putting on several different plays.” ― Fernando Pessoa 

Having now completed its fifth year, City Lights Music Festival has well established itself as a part of Grand Rapids' culture and summer festival experience. Since 2009, the event has brought hundreds of artists and performers to the stage in Calder Plaza, and every year planners seek to reinvent the experience with new talent and new ideas. While electronic music has only taken root here in the last decade or so, it brought with it a diverse and excessively dedicated group of followers, perhaps unique in the larger music community because of their inclination towards participating in performance art themselves as part of the showgoing experience.

Among these some have honed their skills to an adept level, and Daredevil Circus has become known for the variety and presence they offer. The troupe is led by Cassie Truskowski, founder of the business (and also a performer herself), who is tasked with organizing the team, planning logistics and maintaining strict timetables- all while cultivating a safe and fun environment for the audience and for performers. It'd be a poor misconception to underestimate the responsibilities of the circus troupe, as the physical training, meticulous planning and careful execution amounts to an awful lot of just plain hard work.

"It hasn't always been easy," says Truskowski. "I've learned a lot of tough lessons over the years, and made a few mistakes." She explains that these complications, while troubling, have worked to point her in new directions with the business, and helped shift her outlook on life in many positive ways.

"I really feel like things are moving in the right direction, and I'm happy about where things are at," she says.

Perhaps a subset these changes, Daredevil opted this year to open its doors to any takers and allowed many performers, whether amateur or professional, to take the stage with them and demonstrate their talents.

"Cooperation is what's always made this festival great, and we wanted to give people the chance to work together and share the things they love," says Truskowski. Many of the participants had never performed for a live audience before and were very grateful for the opportunity to exhibit the skills they've spent countless hours crafting. Among those that participated were those proficient with hula hoops, poi (a tethered weight swung in shapes and patterns for visual effect), dancers and aerial artists, alongside the regular members of the troupe.

Together, they worked to facilitate a playful festival experience by interacting with the crowd directly as well as add variety and visual appeal on stage to the concert itself. In practice, this effort worked to narrow the gap between audience and artist, and represented a new level of growth and cooperation for the festival.

With each passing year, City Lights grows in size and ambition. The artists there have drawn and entertained thousands, and the occasion has added to the definition of who we are as a city. When it first began it was just an idea shared by a few people, but as that idea grew it evolved and changed, taking on forms representative of the passions, hopes and dreams of all who participated in the effort. There will always be struggles and improvements to make, but just like our city, if we work together we can change this idea into something special for all of us.

Though, I suppose that too is part of who we are. Motu Viget.

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.