The Ultimate Balancing Act
Renowned New Orleans performer LadyBEAST is also a businesswoman dedicated to celebrating and supporting the unique artists that call this city home.
Kimberley Singletary is the managing editor of Biz New Orleans magazine. A 20-year Southern California veteran, she has been surrounded by the film industry for most of her life.
Two years ago, at Burning Man, a New Orleanian known only as LadyBEAST became the first woman to escape from a straight jacket while hanging upside down 100 feet in the air from a hot air balloon.
With that performance, LadyBEAST grabbed the attention of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, who signed her as one of their featured artists. The recognition was akin to an animator getting a job with Disney or Pixar.
“It’s a really big deal,” said LadyBEAST in a conversation with me recently. “Ripley’s wants to make sure they can prove the uniqueness behind artists and acts, so once you’ve made it with them it’s really proof that you are, in fact, unique.”
Uniqueness is everything in the world of contemporary circus performers who consistently fuse art with athleticism in acts that can include aura rendering photography, lasso and bullwhip tricks and crossbow contortion — all of which are just a few of the options available for hire through LadyBEAST Productions, a company LadyBEAST formed in New Orleans in 2013.
“We work on corporate events, weddings, and everything in between,” said LadyBEAST, “providing unique creative concepts for events and then taking that concept and developing a narrative, handling costuming, finding the artists, and ultimately, transforming attendees or audience members into another world.”
A native of Philadelphia, LadyBEAST came to New Orleans 10 years ago and has since become a part of what she describes as a small, tight-knit community of performers in the city.
“Many years ago, New Orleans was home to incredible vaudeville and circus acts,” said LadyBEAST. “And then it just kinda died out. But in the past two years things have really picked up, I think. The underground counter-culture movement is really picking up and so is business.”
On a personal level, LadyBEAST said she’s found her passion and niche in what she calls “old world acts that have died away.”
In addition to illusions, aerial and fire work, LadyBeast is known for bottle walking, which is exactly what it sounds like — walking atop standing glass bottles.
“Bottle walking started as a dustbowl circus act,” she said. “Then it died away and you’d maybe see it every now and then in a European circus.”
LadyBEAST is a balancing artist, or equilibrist, and, just like her fellow artists, is deeply dedicated to her work, training her body typically four to six hours a day. Then there’s rehearsals, marketing and all the business and organizational efforts — in her case with artists from around the country — to also create unique shows, another aspect of
LadyBEAST has produced shows at all of the major venues in New Orleans — with her latest to be held at the Marigny Opera House Feb. 21, 23 and 24.
“This is the sixth year of our Vaude d’Gras show — a vaudeville meets Mardi Gras show where this year’s concept is an opulent dinner party during Carnival that’s set in the Baroque era and filled with interesting aristocrats,” she said. “Of course, the dinner party goes awry and there’s whip cracking, burlesque and full group dance ensembles, all set to live music. We’ve got a cellist, a harpist and someone playing a baby grand. It’s going to be amazing.”
Tickets for Vaude d’Gras are priced at $25 and $45 and costumes are encouraged. For tickets, visit LadyBeastProductions.com.
Outside of productions like Vaude d’Gras and using her skills to bring a real wow factor to private events, LadyBEAST says 2020 will hopefully be the year she secures a new home for her national company.
“We’re looking for an operations and rehearsal space right now, but it’s not easy,” she said. “For one, we need ceilings that are 30 feet or higher. It’s going to be a challenge.”
Luckily, LadyBEAST is a woman who happens to thrive on challenges — whether that be bottle walking on top of three balanced chairs or balancing a business of freewheeling freelancers spread across the country — and she wouldn’t have it any other way or be doing it in any other city on earth.
“People talk about running away to join the circus,” she said, “but I’m lucky, I didn’t have to run away. I stayed right here.”
You can support Vaude d’Gras: Baroquen Circus through the following site: