Jumping through hoops

Anna Norris | The Signal

Fifteen minutes!’” shouts the stage manager as the performers of the Masked Charade hurriedly crowd around the lone makeup mirror backstage. Dipping their brushes in face paint, dancers paint teardrops, hearts, and what can only be described as abstract art onto their faces. Sarah Cappuccitti, a hula hoop performer and dancer, is in constant demand for help with stage makeup, keeping her busy before her first circus performance.

Anna Norris | The Signal

Cappuccitti will graduate from Georgia State this December with a journalism degree, a concentration in public relations and a minor in hospitality. Two years ago, she would never have imagined herself in the circus.

“Ten minutes!” Everyone makes their way downstairs to make their final adjustments, putting away their everyday clothes and chatting excitedly. The performers rush to pull on their tights, touch up their face paint, and snack on animal crackers in the “dungeon” of The Arts Exchange, 750 Kalb Street. Propped up spotlights shed light on the chipped paint, puddles collecting on the floor, and the dusty rooms filled with extra props and furniture, but despite the gloom of the dungeon, spirits are high and energetic.

Ten minutes later, everyone rushes out to find their places off-stage. The opening number brings everyone on stage in an impressive feat of choreographed dancing and body stacking, ending with everyone posing at their places at the front of the stage, a completed collection of endearing circus misfits. The live band, glowing red and wearing masks, fills the room with guitar, saxophone, and violin. The show begins.

With her pointed toes, rehearsed movements and perfected balance, it’s obvious that Cappuccitti has practiced gymnastics for practically her whole life, with a little bit of dance and competitive cheerleading. But she hasn’t always been hula hooping.

Cappuccitti said that she discovered hula hooping from her “eclectic” bunch of roommates a little over a year ago.

“I didn’t know that hula hooping was a popular thing until I saw them all doing it, and then all of a sudden I just had this insane urge to start hula hooping,” Cappuccitti said. “I remember writing in my journal: ‘Goal: master the art of hula hooping.’ I just started watching YouTube videos, and I started catching on really quickly.”

Cappuccitti continued to practice her hooping moves with a group called Hoop Essence. In August, two of her friends from Georgia State, Rachel Webb and Orly Waanounou, told her about the Masked Charade, a circus performance put on by the Imperial Opa Circus and Rhythma Dance Studios. The next day, she auditioned.

Cappuccitti’s act features a hula hooping number with her partner, Ashly Connor. Patty Pie, a main character played by Stasha Sampson, joins them. They synchronize their hooping and highlight tricks. For the rest of the show, Sarah dances behind a feathered mask, finding comfort in the anonymity.

“There’s a veil, so I can dance a lot differently and put a lot into it, and experiment with different movement that I’m not used to doing because I have to be creepy,” she said.

Cappuccitti calls the ensemble “a perfect match of everybody’s style,” with dancing, body stacking, trapeze, ropes, juggling, break dancing, and magic.

“There’s a really cool darker aspect to it. Things get a little creepy, they get a little weird, a little bit dark,” Cappuccitti said. “With the live music and also with the DJs that we have doing the mixes of the songs, it’s going to make for a really entertaining show.”

Tim Mack, founder of Imperial Opa, previewed the event: “Masks will hide the greatness inside and annihilate our gladness.”

Anna Norris | The Signal
Sarah Cappuccitti and Meredith Hope get ready for the circus premiere.

Building up to the first weekend of performances, Cappuccitti had to find the balance between finishing up her last semester at Georgia State and working to choreograph her personal routine with her partner. She attended rehearsals every Wednesday after class, in addition to every Sunday. The week preceding the first performances, Sarah attended rehearsal every night.

“This semester has been probably one of the harder semesters I’ve had,” Cappuccitti said. “The workload is a little bit more than I’ve experienced in the past, and rehearsals can run a pretty late. I hate leaving early, but sometimes I have to because I have an early class the next day.”

The Masked Charade will host its last performances next weekend, Nov. 16 and 17. Once it’s over, Cappuccitti said she looks forward to being able to study for finals.

But Cappuccitti also said the finale will be bittersweet. Even though she’ll have her free time, she said there’s something “refreshing” about being around her fellow performers.

“People are very enthusiastic about performing and they’re a very eclectic group of people. Very interesting and unique, very silly and animated,” Cappuccitti said. “That’s everything that I wanted in terms of a group of people to be performing with. It keeps things very fun.”

Circus information:

The Masked Charade

Nov. 16 location:
The Arts Exchange
750 Kalb St, Atlanta GA
8:30 pm

Nov. 17 location:
Grady High School
8:30 pm

Tickets are $20. Commission goes to performers.