Variety Show Host Creates Open Mic for Circus Performers

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John Audley

Call it open mic for circus freaks.

Jugglers, gravity-defying aerialists and one-of-a-kind performance artists took the stage at the Galapagos Art Space in Dumbo last night as part of a variety show for circus performers known as the Bindlestiff Variety Show, where they are invited to do whatever their wacky, creative hearts' desire in an intimate setting.

“There's a lot of open mics for musicians, but not a lot of space for aerials and jugglers with the ceiling height necessary. We try to fill in a need for the artists of New York,” producer and host Keith Bindlestiff, who's been in the circus business for 20 years, told Niteside on Monday night.

The Bindlestiff Variety Show is as fun and random as its host's polka-dotted tie. Tap-dancing, five-foot Mamiko turned air guitar with a badminton racket into a performance. Dani Martin moved so quickly when juggling glowing balls to "Mission Impossible" music it looked like he had three arms.

Some acts are better than others, and Bindlestiff often finds new talent to recruit for the Bindlestiff Family Circus. But for five bucks a show, he said, "you get to potentially see some of the most talented variety artists."

One stand-out performance was clown and aerialist Eric Allen of Vermont, who ditched college to join the Ringling Brothers' tour. On Monday night, he made his New York City debut, hoisting himself on clown straps and spinning in the air.

“I figured New York is the place to go for variety acts,” said the 21-year-old, adding: “I really like it here. Up in Vermont there aren't too many opportunities to go out and perform.”

The Galapagos Art Space is built with an indoor, 1,600-sq-foot lake above which islands of seats are placed. Since many of the vaudeville acts are new, props sometimes fall in the water. There were no casualties this time around, but Bindlestiff said a keyboard once fell in.

Bindlestiff also tries out new tricks to entertain the audience while the next magician or burlesque dancer is preparing to grace the stage. He really loves the spinning top, he said, but his “latest obsession" is the unicycle. He made it all the way across the room without falling in the water.

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