When aerial performance became popular in the 20th century, critics reported the confusing gender appearance of its performers. Muscular women were described as mannish and Amazonian while men were observed to be graceful and feminine. Written in three sections, this condensed thesis by actor, circus performer and writer, Lauren Abel, argues that aerial performance is an art form that allows gender to be reconstituted due to its unnatural and seemingly impossible stunts of flight and flexibility.
Violet Chachki cracks her whip as male backup dancers pose in obedient unison around her on an international stage during a drag queen world tour. She proceeds to mount an aerial apparatus shaped like a phallic rocket ship on which she performs death- defying stunts in designer heels and a tightly cinched corset. The crowd screams in disbelief and wild admiration. How did such a performance of gender manipulation and physical skill become so popular with this audience? Is it the risk of failure that holds the spectators’ attention, or is it the excessive feminine beauty paired with assertive stage presence that keeps them in rapture? Has drag performance always been a popular form of entertainment, or did Violet Chachki beat all odds to reach stardom? Her unique combination of aerial skills and female impersonation spark many questions related to circus and gender. To investigate the nature and effect o...
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