The High Sierra Music Festival is back in town and will feature all manner of music, arts and entertainment over the next few days.
When you go, be sure to visit the Family Village between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily to see what our local circus troupe Quircus has going. It’s guaranteed to be fun.
Leading up to the vibrant, hectic season of circus antics, it seemed a good time to sit down with new Quircus Executive Director Rayen Lowry.
The downtown Quincy café colors were muted and cheerful, but provided a vibrant backdrop for a quick visit with Lowry, a petite, beautiful woman who has spent her life surrounded by color, art, sound and movement.
Drums, dance and music
Lowry was born with drumbeats, dancing and bright sparks of light keeping time in her life. Her grandparents were Methodist missionaries in Chile, so Rayen’s mother was raised within that rich culture. Her father, an indigenous Mapuche (mah-oo-chay) Indian, came from Argentina.
When her parents first met at a concert, music and dancing were woven into the bargain and though she was born in Oakland, she spent her early childhood in Chile and Canada.
“As a kid, growing up in a Latin culture, I was always hanging around that and dancing to the music,” Lowry said. “I feel that drumbeats are our global heartbeats. They draw people together in a sense of community. It’s the same with fire — our human instincts are to gather around it.”
Lowry studied ballet, jazz and tap dancing until she advanced to en pointe. At age 11, she was advised to go on a diet to stay competitive in the ballet company. The dancer said she refused that request and stopped dancing for a few years. She was delighted to find belly dancing and yoga at the age of 14.
“Joining a performing arts troupe and training in weekly classes as a teenager gave me more self-confidence and changed my life,” Lowry recalled. “I want to pass that excitement on to young people and encourage them to dream big.”
She has performed as a member of three belly dance troupes.
First came the “Invaders of the Heart” troupe in 2002, directed by Suzanne Dante; “Sacred Ground” was next, directed by Kari of UNMATA; and the internationally acclaimed “Bal Anat” in the San Francisco Bay Area, directed by Suhaila Salimpour.
“Belly dance is inclusive of all women, with different shapes and sizes, from different backgrounds, and all ages,” said Lowry, who is still active with belly dance performances in Northern California and teaches weekly tribal dance classes at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays at the Quincy Yoga and Wellness Center.
At home with Quircus
Those threads of creativity have come together beautifully in Lowry’s own journey and she was recently put in charge of Quincy’s wildly creative troupe of two dozen acrobats, dancers, stilt-walkers and fire performers known as Quircus.
“I’m really excited to be part of this interesting, artistic group of like-minded people,” the new director said, explaining that she met them quite by happenstance in 2015.
Lowry was moving to Plumas County from Chico. Hearing that the troupe was starting up, she and her family drove their loaded trailer and dogs to their new place in Quincy and she changed into a costume, went straight to the Veterans Hall downtown, and went in to introduce herself.
“I didn’t know anyone there, but I walked up and said hello, let’s do this!” she recalled. “It was amazing timing. I’m really glad to have found them.”
Lowry’s training in fire safety and fire dancing (she was inspired to learn the techniques at Burning Man), plus her experience with the longest-running fire-dance troupe in Sacramento, “Obsidian Butterfly” directed by Sequoia, made her uniquely qualified to become the fire captain for Quircus and then its executive director.
Local dancer Lindsay Davis originally founded the show troupe.
“After seeing Rayen’s enthusiasm and leadership skills, I felt it was best for the program to continue under her leadership for the 2019 season,” Davis said. “I look forward to continuing my participation with Quircus as Rayen takes our organization to new heights.”
Engaging the community
Heights are definitely a prominent feature of Quircus shows. Between the acrobatics and stilt-walkers, these fun-loving performers will go to great lengths to engage with the community through fun, entertaining performances.
The troupe has also taught local classes in circus arts for children and adults where they covered acrobatic balancing, hula hooping, poi spinning, aerial silks skills (using FRC’s rock-climbing wall for practice) and much more.
“We like to help students build their self-esteem and develop the confidence to express themselves uniquely,” Lowry explained. “We encourage everyone to find a creative outlet that they love.”
Lowry doesn’t recall a time when she was ever uncomfortable on stage or while performing. She said it’s about learning that it’s OK to be silly.
“We all just want some playtime,” she said, smiling. “Quircus offers a very supportive environment where we are always encouraging each other, suggesting ways to go a little further than what their limits are.”
Have you ever done that dance or move while balancing a ball on your head, the dancer-director asks a would-be student. Ever thought of performing with fire?
Uh, well maybe not, one thinks.
But that’s OK because Lowry said the most important job in Quircus is to make people smile and be happy so they will stop worrying about all the things going on in their lives.
“It’s fun to see the reactions of the audience,” Lowry commented. “Performing brings us solidly into the present moment and if you are motivated enough, you can make a living out of the arts. I just want to show people that they, too, can do this.”
Thanks and gratitude extended
With her fire-safety background, Lowry has nothing but compliments and admiration for the local firefighting personnel with whom Quircus collaborates on their shows.
In addition, she praises Roxanne Valladao of Plumas Arts for supporting the troupe, the Common Good Community Foundation for a $1,000 grant they recently bestowed upon Quircus, and John Steffanic, manager of the Plumas-Sierra County Fairgrounds, for generous support of their shows.
“There are so many people to whom we owe thanks,” Lowry said. “All the businesses that donate gift certificates and materials for our shows. The hardware store, grocery stores and more — they all make it possible. We couldn’t do it without the support of the community, thank you.”
Lowry also expressed gratitude for having an arts-oriented family that supports and engages with her career as a performing artist.
Her husband, Jayson, is a glassblower and he cooks for a local restaurant. Lowry said they have a good balance of work and family life, but admits it’s “tricky” managing everyone’s schedules.
One easy solution is taking their son, Ozzy, to all of Lowry’s shows at carnivals, fairs and events. She performs in a few dozen shows each year and when she is booked for her solo act, she uses nine different fire-dancing props and her stage name Rosa Del Fuego to perform various circus acts, including dances with fire fans, fire-eating, sword-balancing and fire belly dancing.
Lowry loves her work, dancing and performing evenings and weekends.
Like many artists, she doesn’t really consider it work — that’s what day jobs are for and hers has been managing the Feather River College (FRC) bookstore and campus post office for the last three years.
“Actually, it’s a really fun job at FRC,” she said with a chuckle. “I find accounting to be relaxing. Art is very subjective, but numbers, they’re either right or they’re wrong.”
And when she’s at Burning Man or surrounded by the quirky, fun-loving performers of the Quircus troupe, Lowry is most in her element.
“It’s a collaborative of different talents,” she said. “Our goals are to provide fun activities for the community and a healthy, happy, creative outlet. We encourage playfulness with the audience.”
July 4th Fun at the Festival
As they do at many of their events, Quircus will offer children and families safe, fun circus-arts activities at the High Sierra Music Festival.
The troupe will engage youngsters with:
– Animal-circus activities.
– Yoga lessons.
– Bright parachute playtime.
– Carnival games and an obstacle course.
Free popcorn, a tradition at Quircus shows, will also be available.
Want to join the Quircus Circus?
New members and volunteers aged 18 and older are always welcome to the Quircus troupe.
You don’t need to be an expert dancer, performer, or gymnast to join up. Some skills are helpful, but not required, and people are welcome to come in with no experience and learn.
Practice sessions are held in various locations around Quincy. Nonperforming volunteers are needed for vital support functions, too. There’s a place for everyone.
For information, contact: