Glassworks Fall 2016

Page 61

Cirque de Celia Laura Bernstein-Machlay

13-year-old Celia flexes her arms so the muscles pop—biceps, triceps, deltoids swelling like sand dunes beneath her skin. She nods toward her flexors. Only aerialists get these, she says. I don’t know if that’s true, but who am I to question? Go on, squeeze. I squeeze, feel through my fingertips the dense tissue rolling over bird-fragile bone. Daughter-Celia does trapeze. She does lyra, that metal hoop dangling like a great eye from rafters twenty-five feet up. She does hammock, though she doesn’t much care for it—too easy. That’s for beginners. And her favorite, the silks, don’t call them ribbons!, long swathes of fabric, always in pairs, dropping like vines ceiling to floor. Celia’s been performing aerials three years now, so you’d think I’d be used to it. Since the P.E. teacher at her strange little Waldorf school on Detroit’s east side convinced the parents—earnest vegans, urban farmers, and pioneers all—to install circus equipment in their gym. And she’s good, too, my Celia. Wholly fearless, her bones made of rubber. So when we left that school for someplace more comfortably cynical, Celia graduated to adult classes at Fly House downtown, then private lessons at Dragonfly, aka Pole

Addiction, where we’d sometimes catch Teacher-Shadow stalking like a jaguar in black leather and six-inch stilettos. When I have my own money, I’ll buy shoes like that! Nowadays, Celia trains at Agora Aerial—where we are right this second, third row from stage, twisting our necks like flamingos to watch her slip into position up front. And because it’s my turn to ruin the video, I aim my camera over the bobbling heads before me. Wait for it—“Jackie Dressed in Cobras” by the New Pornographers, chosen months ago by Celia for this routine, this very night. Guitar and piano expanding like light to fill the small space. Celia in white, in spangles and glitter paint. Celia iridescent, fey as a winter witch. She grabs the twin silks, one in each hand, and effortlessly pulls her whole self up, and up again. She rises like she’s made of gauze, right leg twisting the right cloth into foothold. Quick flick of the ankle and she’s free. Left leg shaping the silk now, another foothold. Up and up. Like a snow monkey she climbs higher, ‘til ceiling meets her a blink away. I wouldn’t let her do it, mutters an elderly woman beside me, her folding chair knocking into my folding

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