Holiday Shopping: Contortionist Bends Genres, Releases Christmas Album

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Lanny Headrick

This holiday season we're bringing you some gifts produced by San Francisco artists. Today start's the list.

Dian Meechai spends most of her weekends dancing on the stage at the downtown nightclub Ruby Skye. A typical night involves three or four costume changes, and a lot of time dancing in long boots with tall heels. When she isn't doing that, Meechai fills her days training with her contortion coach, teaching dance lessons, or performing at private events for the likes of Pixar, Facebook and Yahoo.

But behind this pedigree of circus arts and sexy entertainment, lies a classically trained singer with a heart for the holidays. Meechai recently released an album of Christmas music, titled Stormy Weather.

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Tourism for Locals: Musée Mécanique Revives Past with Family Fun

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Juan De Anda/ SF Weekly
Enter a Portal of Arcade Fun and Education for Free.

Fisherman's Wharf is already a circus show that most of us want to avoid, but there's one attraction along the Embaracadero that makes pushing through the crowds of tourists worth it.

With the drop of a coin, the Musée Mécanique has the power of bringing the past to life and entertaining our childhood euphoria. It aids us in finding the classic joy in playing with the quarter-clunking, old-school arcade games to the more modern, Japanese-inspired, Nintendo-nostalgic car chase booths -- all of which are present in this free museum that dedicates itself to showing the evolution of the arcade.

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Juan De Anda/ SF Weekly
Laffing Sal

With more than 300 games, the arcade is one of the largest privately-owned collections of vintage penny machines and mechanically-operated attractions from the past century, according to the museum. One of the best perks of such an expansive collection on public display is that there is something for everyone and most are only a quarter to operate.

From worn-down grannies reading tarot cards inside their glass casings to self-playing pianos to flip books peepshows of sultry women to apparatuses recreating executions in Europe and North America through little marionettes -- the collection will bring out a smile or chuckle from even the most stoic of individuals.

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It's Not Easy Being Blue: Backstage at the Ocean-Themed Circus

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Jodi Lomask looks a bit frazzled when she answers the door. A reporter is visiting, a photographer is visiting (unrelated), it's the middle of rehearsal, and a new company member is auditioning. All of these things require her attention, and there is only so much of it to go around. The photographer and reporter are given brief introductions and then passed off to whoever is within earshot. Then she returns to her work.

Lomask is the artistic director and creator of Capacitor's dance/circus show Okeanos Intimate, currently playing in the theater at the Aquarium of the Bay. The show carries a message of ocean conservation, and maintains a water theme throughout the production.

And Lomask spends her entire evening swimming in the world she's created.

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Performance Artist Lisa Bufano: In Remembrance

Categories: Art, Circus, Dance

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"My eye has always been drawn to abnormal forms... It's just that now my tool is my body. I'm still animating a form, but it's my own form." Lisa "Louise" Bufano. October 20,1972 - October 3, 2013.

The lights slowly come up on a stage, empty but for a chair and a kneeling woman. The woman begins to move slowly, decisive tension evident in every gesture. It is a tension that grows as it is revealed that the dancer has no fingers and both of her legs amputated below the knee. As she continues to move, a leg, an arm, a torso lifted slowly inch by inch captivate but it is not the fact of the altered body that is the defining exploration, it is the movement itself, a sublime expression of etching out humanity into space.

"Five Open Mouths," the title of the piece in question, is the one of the seminal pieces performed by Lisa Bufano that speaks most profoundly to the nature of her work -- an alchemical challenge that transforms the potentially grotesque into grace and the body into living art. Her presentation is entirely unapologetic, asking neither sympathy nor allowance. It stands on its own.

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Agents of Chaos: Cacophony at the Castro Theatre

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Rusty Blazenhoff
Fight Club and Burning Man come from the same place. Where flash mobs and poetic terrorism come from. Yes, a place inside of you. But The San Francisco Cacophony Society had a lot to do with putting that together for you. This is their book. This is their... unauthorized release party?

Enter Chicken John. Outspoken proponent for and enabler of the City of Art And Innovation, Chicken sent out an email to his large list of followers about a show on Friday, May 31st at the Castro Theatre. If you're not on his list, I suggest you sign up for it now, before reading about how he champions the weird creative underground of Bay Area artists with long, hilarious pleas for you to become the person you've always wanted to be. There aren't many people like Chicken, nor are there many people worthy enough to follow (in what was largely a performance art project he ran against Gavin Newsom for mayor, under the campaign "Nuisance '07", and garnered about 12,000 votes). Naturally, he's involved with The San Francisco Cacophony Society.

Here's an excerpt from his email:

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S.F.'s Seven Best End of the World Events

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Debbie Smith

We're gonna go out on a limb here and guess that the most popular song in the clubs this weekend will be REM's "It's the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)." Between the end of the Mayan calendar and the constant "fiscal cliff" blathering, the whole country is feeling positively apocalypsish. And while the world probably won't end on December 21st, it's always good to cover your bases, so we've rounded up the seven best Apocalypse-themed events on December 20 (and the coming weekend).

See also:

Books for Surviving the Impending Apocalypse

Masterminds 2013: Artists, Enter Our Contest to Win Money and Fame*

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Five Questions for a Guinness World Record-Holding Contortionist

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You might not guess it to watch me type, but once upon a time, I was pretty flexible. This is in large part due to a class I took (more years ago than I care to admit) at the San Francisco School of Circus Arts called Acrobatic Stretching. At the time, I didn't realize that the teacher, Professional Contortionist Leslie Tipton, was in the Guinness Book of World Records and had performed in more countries than I had been to, but I did realize that she knew what she was talking about, and that stretching hurts. When I heard recently that the former competitive gymnast and 20-year circus arts veteran was starting her own contortion school in San Francisco, I went to her studio by Ocean Beach to get the lowdown, and meet her beloved cat Bean.

See also:

Local Circus Veterans' New Trick: Come to Shows that Never Happened

Seven Tips for a Great Audition

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Video of the Day: Twisted Beats and Circus Feats

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Simone Lazar

You might not associate clowns with rappers, but Australia-born hip-hop puppeteer Jesse Horne of Circadelix does. An admitted problem child, Horne found writing rhymes an antidote to his ADHD, and turned his inability to sit still into a successful career as a street performer. His clowning and juggling skills took him on a grand adventure that included performances for royalty in Abu Dhabi, the World Expo in Shanghai, and eventually the San Francisco Circus Center, where he met and fell in love with classically trained ballet dancer and aerialist Simone Lazar.

See also:

A Delicate Balance: Five Questions for S.F.'s Hottest Pole Acrobat

5 Clown Questions Debunked From a Ringling Bros. Pro

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Podcast Review: The Grimaldis Are Dead

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Rachel Golden

The Grimaldis Are Dead, a co-production by Dane Ballard productions and Circus Center San Francisco, is spectacular in theory. It combines circus, magic, improv, and musical theater, backed up by a live band and filmed projections; it follows generations of a family who were all in showbiz and all died ghastly deaths; and it takes place in a new and unconventional venue, Firehouse 8.

See also:

Podcast Review: The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity Marks Elaborate Entrance for the Aurora's 21st Season

Podcast Review: The Collapse of Enron, with Puppets!

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A Delicate Balance: Five Questions for S.F.'s Hottest Pole Acrobat

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If you're a regular at Supperclub, the Hubba Hubba Revue, or Bootie SF, you may have noticed that pole acrobat Kara Nova has become a constant presence in the D.I.Y. circus scene. With only four years of training, this 23 year old, self-proclaimed "ninja space angel" has performed at Bay Area institutions The Edwardian Ball and Sea of Dreams, as well as for larger acts like Primus and Bassnectar. Fresh from a gig in Las Vegas, she sat down with me after the Craft Spirits Carnival at Fort Mason to discuss training, success, and coffee.

See also:

Local Circus Veterans' New Trick: Come to Shows that Never Happened

7 Tips for a Great Audition

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