Part 2: Background Ambience or Foreground Fabulous? Work It Cirque Style!

Posted by: on October 2, 2011

Last week we explored what situations are the best for using ambiance, and which are perfect for acts. Now we get tactical. You want to get the most possible bang for your buck, right? Remember that even the best French toast isn’t going to taste so awesome if it sits around. Gotta keep it constantly fresh! The context in which you place these acts will make a big difference in how they are perceived, and in getting the most out of the cirque-style awesomeness you’ve ordered up.

Making Ambience Amazing – Do It Up Right!

Timing is Everything


– Ambient performance works best as the majority of people are first walking into the party, usually during the cocktail hour. Just like the first taste of chocolate or sip of wine is what we savor the most, the first impression is what they will remember.

Ambient Slammock

This is how we hang out!

– Going with ambience all night? Most parties (aside from weddings) do not start on time.  Have the performers begin 30-60 minutes after the official start time. In the past, we’ve noodled around for 10 people for an hour – awkward (oh, so awkward) and more expensive. Save your moolah!

-Please – we beg you – do not have the performers on for the last part of the party! The energy of a party always changes as it goes on, and I can’t tell you how many times people insist they want performers on for the entire party, pay for five hours and then tell us not to bother for the last hour (if we had a dollar….). Being impressed for four hours straight is exhausting – give your peeps a break!

The Nitty-Gritty – Straight Talk About All Things Ambient


-The performers should not be doing the same thing non-stop, you gotta mix it up, yo! The audience will not want to see a unicyclist or a stilt walker circle the room 100 times. It will make them dizzy and just wonder if the performer simply can’t find the bathroom.


photo: Andrew Brucker Juggling can be done anywhere

-If you know the party might be extremely crowded, someone needs to help the performers maintain some sort of space to do what they do. It’s very hard to balance on one arm if people keep spilling their drinks on you, or your toe keeps wandering into someone’s lasagna.

-Walk around performance does not work in very small spaces or with crowds of less than 100. With so much intimacy, the audience may be seeing many of the same tricks after a while (there’s that awkwardness again!).

-For goodness sake, do not place performers between the attendees and the buffet. It’s VERY dangerous. Laura once stuck her foot in someone’s bean dip.  It’s ugly (Laura here! It really was ugly!). When the food first comes out, give it focus.

 Get Your Act Together! How to Let Your Acts Take Center Stage

–  Have the act announced a few minutes ahead of time so people know something special is coming and will not step out to the bathroom and miss it (they will never let you forget it!).

Flying Silks, Only an Act!

Flying Silks can only an Act! Photo: Andrew Brucker

–  Schedule it once people have settled in a bit, either at the end of dinner before dessert or once everyone has a cocktail in hand.

– Make sure there is someone who can bring some lights onto the performer. There is nothing worse than an exciting act done in the dark or in all yellow (unless you’re going for the jaundiced look). We are happy to provide recommend a lighting designer and make these arrangements as well.

–  Make sure that everyone has good sightlines. We usually request a stage for contortion acts but sometimes we have been given a six inch riser and then people in the back end up hopping up and down.

–  Have a good person running sound. Nothing screams AMATEUR more than a DJ trying several songs waiting for the performer whose holding his/her opening position to yell “That’s it!” With today’s technology, there is no reason this embarrassment needs to happen. The DJ just has to be prepared.


Trio Triangle photo: Andrew Brucker, faster than the speed of light

Now let me subject you to my personal bias.  In my humble opinion, I feel that in general, acts make a much greater impact than ambiance. As stated in the previous article, there are good reasons as well as a time and a place for ambient entertainment.  That said, a spectacular trick or sequence can really make people’s faces light up. Those types of tricks are only going to happen when performers are doing an act, because when working for a long period of time, performers just can’t do their hardest/most spectacular work or they physically won’t make it through. A visual background wash can be really beautiful, but it doesn’t culminate in a breathless moment. Whatever direction you decide to go in, just make sure you think clearly about how it can really serve your message and your event.

Yes, I know – it’s a lot to take in! Don’t worry – this is just to give you a peek into the “why” of it all from a planner/performer perspective (try saying that 10x fast). Trust me – it’s not that complicated. Give us a ring, tell us what you’re envisioning, and we’ll take it from there. An informed consumer is our best client! And we love ya!


  1. ImaginAerial says:

    Thanks for the feedback! We will keep it up!