Circus News

“Go Beyond the Stereotype”: A Thoughtful Discussion Regarding Gender, Binaries, and Contemporary Circus

“As a female base, I realized that by literally lifting people up, I could quickly change audience perception. I had a sense of responsibility to do my act to enact change, to change people’s perception of what a woman can be or do. Early on I always highlighted my femininity on stage: wearing pretty makeup, a dress, sometimes heels, to show that, yeah, this can happen at the same time. I can lift a man over my head, and still be a woman. But also out of fear that if I wasn’t super feminine, I would be categorized as aggressive or somehow part man.”

I was sitting with Erica Rubinstein, current education director and coach at the Circus Project, in Portland, Oregon. She had worked as a partner acrobatics base for many years with Acrobatic Conundrum in Seattle, Washington, and I wanted to pick her brain about her experiences as a female base—specifically, a female base with a male flyer—in the circus world. “No one ever questioned my choice to be a base, if anything it was encouraged. What felt confusing was figuring out how to portray my gender on stage,” she said. “I had few role models to look to. It’s like, because I’m a strong woman, I have to play the ‘man-part’. I never saw a woman base play the romantic interest, for example. I got typecast. There is a narrow vision of what a strong woman can look...

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Zoe Zou Stasko

Performer, Writer USA/CANADA Born in Portland, Oregon, Zoe Zou Stasko graduated from L'École de cirque de Québec in 2017. She majored in aerial straps and minored in handbalancing. When not training, she can be found reading science fiction, singing to herself, or writing blog posts for her blog Cirquespiration, found at