The Look Book Goes to Big Apple Circus

Backstage, where we met an acrobatic rigger, an equestrian acrobat, and Pidge the clown.

Storm Marrero, Ringmaster, first year with the circus. Photo: Kyle Dorosz

How did ringmaster happen?
I was singing with Company XIV — they’re this Brooklyn-based group that specializes in Baroque burlesque. The Big Apple people came to see me without my knowing and got in touch. I was like, What?

Have you talked to former ringmasters?
I researched. You know, I Googled it; there have only been maybe five African-American ringmasters ever. I did talk to the last ringmaster after I’d done a few shows. He said I was doing a good job. Gave me some helpful pointers.

Like what?
Mainly, “You have a cane: Start using it.”

Amy Gordon, Pidge, 22 years. Photo: Kyle Dorosz

So you’re a pigeon clown?
Yes. The idea is, I’m a pigeon who can’t fly. I’m afraid of heights; I fall a lot. I get flak for telling poop jokes, which I think is crazy. Imagine if I were a pigeon that didn’t tell poop jokes?

Hovey Burgess, Juggler, 62 years. Photo: Kyle Dorosz
Angelina Quevedo, Vice-president of touring, 40 years. Photo: Kyle Dorosz
Zuleidy Lopez, High wire, 20 years. Photo: Kyle Dorosz
Kyle Driggs, Juggler, 16 years. Photo: Kyle Dorosz
David Yijae, dancer, first year. Photo: Kyle Dorosz

What’d you do before this?
I was a puppeteer for King Kong on Broadway. I was the ape’s right elbow — the whole puppet was 2,000 pounds and 20 feet tall. On opening night here, I posted on Facebook that I’d run off to join the circus.

Abel Driggs and Daniel Bridon, Chinese-pole performers, 11 and six years. Photo: Kyle Dorosz
John John Caudill, head acrobatic rigger, 40 years. Photo: Kyle Dorosz

Where’d you grow up?
All over. My dad owned a circus. When I was a kid, we had four elephants.
Once, when we were living in Jump River, Wisconsin, one of them, Liz, wandered right off the lot all the way to the grocery store downtown.

Eric Zygela, maintenance supervisor, nine years. Photo: Kyle Dorosz
Alan Pagnota and Rafael Ferreira, hand-to-hand acrobats, 18 and 15 years. Photo: Kyle Dorosz
Skylar Fray, merchandise vendor, first year. Photo: Kyle Dorosz
Tetiana Yudina, aerial straps, two years. Photo: Kyle Dorosz
Patrice Creamer, usher, two months. Photo: Kyle Dorosz
Caleb Carinci-Asch, equestrian acrobat, 17 years. Photo: Kyle Dorosz

Do the performers hang out?
Yes. We all live on set. The Russian aerial acrobats and I cook for each other — I bring them stracciatella soup, they bring me Uzbek pork belly. It’s a real “wine, women, and song” kind of thing around here.

Sheritta Norris, cook, two years. Photo: Kyle Dorosz
Renny Spencer, equestrian acrobat, 14 years. Photo: Kyle Dorosz

Do the horses ever spook?
Once. A kid in the front row flung his stuffed animal at us, and Caleb, my partner, flew right into the audience. He was fine. He picked up the stuffed animal, which was a horse, by the way, and gave it back to the kid.

Jose Hernandez, stilt walker, 11 years. Photo: Kyle Dorosz
Maryna Tkachenko, aerial straps, 18 years with the circus. Photo: Kyle Dorosz
Zaur Aliev, flying act, one year. Photo: Kyle Dorosz

*This article appears in the December 23, 2019, issue of New York Magazine. Subscribe Now!

The Look Book Goes to Big Apple Circus