Stephanie Monseu, a founder of the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret, grew up a gymnast, ballerina, artist, and singer in a rock band. Being multitalented certainly wasn’t a curse, but she wished for a way to mix all her interests . Fifteen years ago, Monseu found that outlet when she met her partner, Bindlestiff’s co-founder, Keith Nelson. Nelson introduced her to the world of the circus. Monseu describes it as “both athletic and artsy. It allows you to place metaphor and movement together in a way that sports alone doesn’t do.”
Artistic expression wasn’t the only attraction to the circus life. Remarking on the folk history of variety arts, Monseu explains, “Circus was widely accessible to people of all income ranges. It employed the vernacular, it wasn’t illustrious, highly polished, highfalutin art. It was earthy and gritty and that sort of charmed us.” In 1995, Monseu and Nelson combined their energy and talents to create Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret. They took their own fusion of circus, cabaret, burlesque, sideshow, and vaudeville across the country and around the world. From 2002 to 2004, they ran “the last vaudeville house in Times Square.” Simultaneously, Monseu and Nelson worked (and still work) to educate the community about variety arts and provide youth programming.
In 2005, Monseu and Nelson bought a house in Hudson, giving Bindlestiff a new home. Monseu calls the city a diverse, vibrant artistic “galaxy” with a place for everybody. She’s thrilled about the circus’s upcoming performance at Hudson’s newest venue, Club Helsinki, which she believes will come to the forefront of the city’s creative community. The show will be a blend of local performers and Bindlestiff New York City favorites, expected to include strange and bizarre feats by Online-Diploma-Holder Sideshow Chris, Harvest Moon, the “Sultry Siren of Burlesque,” an accapella performance by Lady Moon, and live music. As always, Monseu and Nelson will perform as Ringmistress Philomena and Mr. Pennygaff, fire eating and swallowing swords. Not wanting to give anything away, Monseu says, “we try to orchestrate a roller coaster ride for the audience. There’s going to be some really thought-provoking, artistic boundary pushing.”
- Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Cabaret will perform at Club Helsinki in Hudson on June 30.