10 years ago former circus performer and yoga instructor Micha Adams Buss sought to create a place where people could come to learn circus arts in a friendly, supportive, and inclusive atmosphere. She and her partner opened the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School in Detroit, Michigan and today offers classes ranging from acrobatics to fire dancing, and contortion by highly trained instructors.
Recently the Flyhouse hosted the Celestial Bodies Circus Show at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. The show had two performance sets beginning with a family friendly show at 6 p.m. and an adult-only performance at 8:15 p.m. The show aimed to raise money for the Cascades Humane Society’s Pet Pantry, a program that assists pet owners that are struggling financially to care for their pet. Micha’s husband and head coach at the flyhouse, Matt Buss, said the performances raised $400 of monetary, food, and toy donations for the Pet Pantry.
The Flyhouse hosts four shows per year. The next performance is scheduled for July 10 at The Eastern in Detroit. Check out their Facebook page closer to the performance date for updates.
Tonya Ross stretches on a yoga mat before her performance on the straight silks at the Celestial Bodies Circus Show at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Ross has been with the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School for six years. “It’s a great community of amazing people,” said Ross. “I only wish I lived closer because I want to be there everyday.” Ross joined the Flyhouse with no experience after going through a divorce. “I wanted to stay busy and try something new,” said Ross. “I really wanted to get back into gymnastics but I couldn’t find any place that offered adult gymnastic classes. I watched a movie that had a trapeze act in it, and wondered if there were any places that offer that. I found the Flyhouse and I’ve been going ever since.”
Britt Webb performs on the straight silks during the Celestial Bodies Circus Show at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Webb has been a student at the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School for nearly four years and has been an instructor for the last two. “My full-time day job is as a social worker specializing in substance abuse and mental health,” said Webb. “I have a pretty emotionally demanding job and aerial has helped me find balance in my life. It’s really easy to get burnt out working in the field that I do so I needed something that brought that balance to my life while also being meaningful at the same time.”
Iris Schuster (left) paints an audience member’s face at the Student Celestial Bodies performance at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. “I gave one beautiful girl a reminder not to forget that space is not the limit,” said Schuster. Schuster, who is a originally from Germany, does face painting for the Detroit Circus and has been a student at the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School for three years. She takes aerial and acrobatic classes. “You can’t find this kind of school in Germany,” said Schuster. “If there were I would probably would have run away with the circus a long time ago.”
Willow Bigham chats with audience members before her performance on the aerial silks during the Celestial Bodies Circus Show at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Bigham has been a student at the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School for almost two years. The freshman in high school lives in Lansing, Michigan, and drives to Detroit for classes (an hour and a half drive one way) up to three times a week. Bigham was inspired to learn after seeing a circus show during a vacation in the Dominican Republic and by her cousin who does aerial acrobatics. Bigham’s dream is to join the Cirque du Soleil. “I love seeing how the audience reacts and the adrenaline that comes with it,” said Bigham. “I was always shy when I was little so when I put my makeup on I feel like a completely different and free person!”
Courtney Wilcox performs on the straight silks during the Celestial Bodies Circus Show at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Wilcox has been a student at the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School for four years. Wilcox said she’s always loved dance, gymnastics, and the circus. “My dad used to ride a unicycle and juggle,” said Wilcox. ” He hand-made my sister and me stilts when we were kids that we walked around on like it was no big thing!” Following a Cirque Du Soleil performance during a trip to Disney World, Wilcox’s 10-year-old daughter voiced interest in the activity so they began taking classes at the Flyhouse upon returning home. “We both fell in love,” said Wilcox. “Not only with aerial, but with the community Micha’s built. Besides being ridiculously talented and dedicated to what they do, Micha and every single instructor I’ve met at Flyhouse are the most supportive, patient and genuinely encouraging people I’ve ever met. I continue to do aerial because it’s such a perfect combination of artistry and athleticism. Class is always fun and a guaranteed stress reliever and I’m 43 and it’s the best way for me to stay in shape.”
Jason Melko high fives his performance partner after their routine in the Celestial Bodies Circus Show at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Melko’s routine included partner acrobatics, straight silk, aerial hammock, and the aerial hoop (also referred to as the lyra). Melko has been a student at the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School for five years. “I really enjoy it and the people there are the best,” said Melko. “I just love life when I’m able to get a reaction out of the people watching.”
For this assignment, we were to tell a story through a series of images. For the Detroit Flyhouse’s performance I aimed to capture not just the show but the camaraderie and the passion the students have for the performance art.
My biggest challenge for this assignment was lighting. The performance, at The Eastern in Detroit, had beautiful lighting in person but it wasn’t conducive to photography. I tried dropping my shutter speed as low as I could at 1/60th of a second to allow for more light but even paired with a f-stop of 5.6 or lower, the images were still too dark. I compensated that with a speedlite that I was able to bounce off of either the ceiling, which was metallic, or a wall. I was incredibly hesitant to do this because I was nervous of exposing the performers to the danger of them accidentally being blinded by a flash aimed at a ceiling, near where they are, but no one said that it was an issue. Some of the performers routines were quite fast and that shutter speed wasn’t sufficient to capturing sharp images so for the first time I put my ISO up to 12,000 so that I could bump up my shutter speed. There is noise in the images but I feel adamant that it is a suitable compromise for having a moderate flash. Turning my flash up on full power was too risky for the performers. It was a learning curve trying to find that happy medium on my camera settings and the flash power and instead of shooting a ton I waited for moments to conserve my flash battery and minimize the amount of times the flash fired. Something that helped a lot was my telephoto lens. I had my wide angle and that helped with more light in images but it was too distant and I’d have to get in incredibly close to get strong images so in using my long lens I could get stronger images and by keeping it zoomed out still allow for the most amount of light in the photographs.