It is no coincidence that the subject of my first blog interview is the inimitable Suzi Winson. She is the reason I am in circus today, as she was the first to trust in my potential when she invited me to join the Intensive Program at Circus Warehouse. I knew I wanted my circus Godmother to be the first (presently-active) circus Jew on this platform as she is a constant source of inspiration to me, and I hope you will find her as fascinating as I do.
Some basics: Who are you? Name, gender pronouns, age, location and jewish affiliation.
Suzi Winson, she/her, mid-50s, New York… And I am a Jew.
What do you do?
I think I am first and foremost a dancer, it is my identity. At the moment I am the Director of Circus Warehouse, a professional track circus school. I teach ballet to acrobats and run a program for people who are hoping to either enter circus or re-enter circus.
What sort of Jewish upbringing did you have, if at all?
I wanted a religious education and they were afraid for me to have one. I’m of that generation who grew up in the 60s and they thought “well, maybe you shouldn’t….” My mother would tell me to “tuck in my [Star of David] points”, they felt persecuted in their day. My father’s experience was that he was accepted to Harvard with a scholarship, but their way of keeping the Jews out was to not allow you to work, and the Jewish kids were poor. So he had the scholastic ability but he couldn’t realistically accept, so he enlisted instead.
I had a culturally Jewish upbringing: we read, we played music, we talked at the dinner table, did math at the dinner table, there WAS a dinner table… And it was so much about personal, intellectual curiosity, and it wasn’t as if “you must all go to Princeton”, but “read these books” and “have these references”, “see these sorts of things”. We went to the theater as young children and saw Shakespeare with my father; he was the strangest of political activists and a typesetter, my mother was a painter and a scholar.
Both my parents came from religious households, I have my father’s tefillin, things I didn’t know he had… I had a couple years of Hebrew school and then my parents moved us to a more gentile neighborhood, they wanted us to assimilate. We tried… But we didn’t do very well.
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