Alexander Dial of Otherwise Entertainment, a San Diego-based circus-oriented performance troupe, talks to RAW about how the group got together, their inspiration and work. Catch these acrobats at the next RAW San Diego Showcase!
Tell us about Otherwise Entertainment.
Otherwise Entertainment is a circus-oriented performance troupe. We specialize in acrobatics, aerial performance including lyra, trapeze, silks and Spanish web, juggling, comedy, hoop dance, contortion and fire performance. That last one is tricky: San Diego is terrified of fire. We work private events, parties, festivals, corporate gigs, and we produce our own shows. The last show produced by Otherwise was the Rock Odyssey, a circus Rock show headlined by Lipstick n' Leather, and starring Otherwise and tons of local talent. Our next big show is just over the horizon.
How did you first come together as a team?
Otherwise Entertainment has been under construction since I returned to San Diego from Portland, where I worked as an Acrobat for KAZUM. I met Jacquie Witt (one of my star acrobats) at a show I was working as a firedancer for the last entertainment troupe with whom I'd performed, the Vaudeville Flame Productions. That last company was pretty funny to me, considering there was nothing Vaudevillian about it, and there was no Production to speak of. After Jax and I met, I decided that two was a good start, and began searching San Diego for talent. Before long, I'd rounded up Lala, our mid-level base/aerialist, and Clarke the Juggler. Over time, the rest trickled in and now we have six acrobats, the juggler, and the hooper, Naia.
From where do you draw inspiration for your work?
We draw inspiration from old-time circus acrobatics acts, the comedy of classic clowning, adagio ensembles (especially that of Juanita and the Ganjou Brothers,) Cheerleading, and gymnastics. Most of what we do is comedic or, at least, tongue-in-cheek. We try to ride the line between the whimsical and the amazing.
What do you love most about what you do?
Personally, I love the sense of community created in a performance troupe. As acrobats, we rely on each other in ways no one else can understand. Our very lives depend on trusting each other to do as we promise. We work very hard to be what we are, and there is a very real feeling of family here. It can almost be telepathic, onstage.
How do you go about choreographing your sets?
Choreography is interesting. The idea is always a skeleton at first. It's all about the music. Find a song, imagine a concept to fit, and then compile a list of stunts, in no particular order, paying attention to musical cues. People love musical cues. That's just the beginning. IMPLEMENTING that idea is a whole other animal. Choreography for Otherwise takes place in a painstaking piecemeal fashion, with ideas being scrapped and replaced on the spot as we learn more, or discover that an original idea won't work. It's dangerous and exhausting, but we have a stringent system, and the creativity of my fellow troupemates is in infinite supply.
Are there any specific reoccurring themes or subjects that you explore and deal with most in your choreography?
As a matter of fact, there aren't. In the interest of maintaining versatility, we try to cover a broad spectrum of possibilities in our talent. We've choreographed to Michael Jackson, Guns n' Roses, The Stolen Sweets, Circus Contraption, and more. We never really know what we're going to do next.
Any previous shows that you are most proud of?
Certainly the Rock Odyssey was one of our crowning achievements. We produced, I directed, and then we starred in that show. Serious business, it was.
Why showcase at RAW?
I like RAW. I researched them, found out about who they were and what they were about, and it sounded fun and productive. I am always trying to keep Otherwise active in a community of artists, and that is what RAW does.
Any rising stars within the genre that you'd recommend we look out for?
Interestingly enough, there are very few performers of our genre in San Diego. Certainly there are none who do what WE do in terms of group acrobatics and such. I wish I could recommend someone else, but I fear we're the only ones around here who do what we do. I hope I am not erroneously ignoring someone else. . .