An exciting show, xoxo moongirl, an autobiographical circus fantasia, will be performed live by Nicole Burgio at the Morris Museum Parking Deck on Thursday 9/24 and Friday, 9/25 at 7:00. See Burgio fly through the air, backlit by a gorgeous New Jersey sunset.
xoxo moongirl blends physical theatre, live music, world-class circus, and aerial performance in a hilarious, heart-wrenching and breathtaking story of one woman processing a family life riddled with domestic abuse. This full-length solo show features Nicole Burgio and award-winning composer/cellist Melanie Hsu in a semi-autobiographical and acrobatic exploration of escaping the gravitational pull of trauma, navigating complicated relationships, and always believing you’ll end up on the moon.
Nicole Burgio uses spoken word and her circus-trained body to share her experiences growing up with an alcoholic mother and an abusive father, leaping from tragic moments to dark comedy and incorporating aerial ballet and trapeze work into her rich storytelling. Melaine Hsu and her cello (she calls it Charlie) accompany Nicole with an evocative original live score. When xoxo moongirl was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2019, The Wee Review said, “This immaculately crafted piece proves without a shadow of a doubt that it is wholly possible to fuse strong and heart-felt narratives with highly physical circus skills and produce something so visually and emotionally satisfying that is defies description.
Broadwayworld.com had the opportunity to interview Nicole Burgio about her career and the upcoming show at Morris Museum.
Nicole began training in gymnastics at age 5, and pursued the sport competitively through her matriculation at Temple University. She was nationally ranked and competed at the elite level. She later studied aerial arts at the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, New England Center for Circus Arts, and Montreal’s Ecole National de Cirque (residency program). Nicole also obtained her Masters degree from the Philadelphia School of Osteopathic Medicine in Clinical Health Psychology. She now tours internationally as a performer, teaching artist, and is the founder and director of Project Beehive; a creative lab for professional artist working within an ensemble.
We were fascinated by Nicole’s responses to our questions.
Is there someone particular who has encouraged your career?
There are so many people who have encouraged, supported, helped, carried, inspired, reassured, emboldened, and cheered me on through my career.
If I HAVE to name specifics I would have to say my mom, my sister, and Mark Wong have been there since the beginning. When I was first going circus school they really supported me and stuck with me. Which is tough! I had just graduated with my Masters degree from the prestigious Philadelphia School of Osteopathic Medicine… and now I wanted to run away with the circus.. yet they were there for every step.
Other big supports have been Almanac Dance Circus Theater, Casa de Artes y Circo Contemporáneo, Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, all of my coaches in past and present years, and my friends and family who I keep close. O.M.G it’s so hard not to give you a list of names and people who I admire to the moon and back!
We’d love to know a little more about your circus coaching and why you find it so rewarding.
This question is great because I feel my entire coaching methodology has changed since quarantine, having to shift from in-person to online instruction. I currently coach around 30 clients a week (from recreational to professional performers), and each week I am filled with encouragement and energy from all of my students.
Before quarantine, I enjoyed sharing information in person. I liked to physically spot my students to help them achieve a trick, and I liked playing with choreography and having improvised movement conversations while creating an act with an artist.
But now, things are different. I see most of my students online. I don’t get to spot them or touch them, I don’t get to be close to them to alleviate fear and concern, and I don’t get to feel their energy in the same way as I did before.
Now, together with my students we build trust through our voices and images only. It’s a very different and actually, very rewarding kind of relationship. We build trust between our communication and trust within themselves. I see my students growing and changing before my eyes. I can’t spot them, so they must learn to do it on their own. They must trust that I won’t prompt them to do something they are not ready for; and more importantly they must trust themselves.
I have seen all of my artists, athletes, and clients grow and change to understand their bodies better, to attack something scary with curiosity and a spirit of “I can do this!” I am privileged to watch them accept change and excel.
I find coaching so rewarding because every day, I am lucky to see my students take a chance on themselves, learn to trust themselves, and reach something new. It is incredibly inspiring, and I am in awe of them all.
Can you share some advice for people who are interested in the circus arts.
If you are interested in circus arts, go…GO! Find a circus school or community and take a class.
Circus was born from those that were the freaks, the misunderstood, the outliers. And that’s a wonderful thing because it has encouraged the circus community to be inclusive, tolerant, and understanding of all.
I have traveled to many countries, and everywhere I go, the circus communities have welcomed me with excitement and generosity. Even if you are a beginner, you will likely find a welcoming spirit. Circus can be for anyone and everyone. We pride ourselves on that!
We know that you have toured the world as a performer. Tell us about some of your favorite destinations.
Oh wow! There will always be a special place in my heart for Porto, Portugal. Porto was my first “big time” contract, and I was lucky enough to perform as a duo act with one of my best friends, Shannon McKenna. Together, we flew in the air at 40 feet, 3-5 times a night, for 27 days straight. It was tough work. It felt like an homage to older circus days. And I also had the opportunity to be a magicians assistant during this contract (I was the girl in the box with swords passing through her torso)! I loved every moment!
What have been some of the challenges training and performing during Covid-19?
Surprisingly, I have really come to enjoy my new way of training during COVID. Most of the time I am training contortion, handstands, and acrobatics, which doesn’t take up that much space, and I can train from my personal studio in my home.
However, a new skill that I have been focusing on since COVID is hair hanging, which is exactly what is sounds like. Hair hanging is A VERY OLD traditional circus act whereby women (but now I see men participating as well!) tie their hair in a special knot and which allows them to be lifted off the ground, spinning and contorting during suspension.
This is great to train in quarantine, because it is really a skill that deals with pain tolerance. It is slow going, and you have to take care and stay focused. I have really come to enjoy this process and somehow, it has become a kind of meditation.
What would you like Morris Museum audiences to know about your upcoming show, xoxomoongirl?
Well, honestly, I have a little fear. When reading the blurb about xoxo moongirl, I am afraid people will think the story is too harsh or tough, which will prevent them from coming.
In the same breath, I understand that everyone has their own experiences, and a story that talks about domestic violence may be triggering to some.
However, xoxo moongirl is not a sad story. It is not a story about domestic violence. Yes, those elements are there but it is a story about hope, growth, forgiveness, and beautiful complexity.
I invite people to come because I believe the story is important. And it is my hope that people will come to listen. Come to a story created for the underdogs, the under heard, and the under privileged.
Can you share some of your plans for the future?
Yes! I love thinking about future plans. I want to keep coaching. I am excited for my local and international students and I am thrilled to continue growing with them.
Once it is safe to travel again, I want to go to Kiev to train handstands with the worlds best, I want to go to Barcelona and train hair hanging, I want to return to Mexico and direct another show and see my friends, I want to return to Scotland’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival with a new show, I want to visit my sister in Seattle, I want to learn how to ride a motorcycle… and there is much more but I’ll spare you.
Follow Nicole Burgio by visiting her web site at https://www.thealmanac.us and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/nicoleburgio/.
You can get a sneak peek at xoxo moongirl here: https://vimeo.com/342316846.
The Morris Museum’s Upper Parking Deck consists of 119 individual 8’X 8′ blocks, each able to accommodate two patrons. Admission is $60 for each block and guests must bring their own chairs. Patrons are welcome to bring refreshments and to arrive as early as 5:30 to set up and enjoy the evening sun. Tickets must be purchased in advance by phone or online. To purchase tickets by phone, call 973 971-3706 or online at https://morr-internet.choicecrm.net/templates/MORR/?event_ids=1924,1925#/events. To learn more about upcoming events at Morris Museum, please visit: www.morrismuseum.org.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Nicole Burgio