Bindlestiff Family Cirkus entertains local families

Bindlestiff Family Cirkus performers Aerial Emery, Kyle Briggs, and Keith Nelson host juggling clinic. - Staff Writer / Brendan Cohen

The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus Dynamic Trio came to Rowan on Sunday, March 25. Families came to Pleefger Concert Hall in Wilson Hall to enjoy the treat of a lifetime. The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus is well-known for their spectacular performances. Performers include Host and Co-Founder Keith Nelson, Juggler Kyle Driggs, and Aerialist Aeriel Emery. 

This event was hosted by the Marie Rader Presenting Series, which is a group at Rowan University that “uplifts the region’s cultural landscape.” This group helps bring these performances to the area so people don’t have to travel to see and enjoy a wonderful show. Debbie Shapiro, an artistic director at Rowan University and member of the Marie Rader Presenting Series, works with the rest of the board to find these performers for everyone to enjoy.

“I spend most of my time getting to know and understanding what makes each of those communities special, what they are interested in, and what they might benefit most from being exposed to,” Shapiro said. “I then connect that to my ongoing research within the professional arts touring industry.” 

The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus has been around for almost 30 years. With hints of comedy, imagination, and amazement, it is almost impossible to miss a moment when something bigger comes around the corner. This organization has not just performed in New York City, but they have traveled to the United Kingdom and even performed in the waters of the Caribbean Sea. When trying to find out who to bring the region a spectacular show, Debbie Shapiro considered what audiences including children really enjoy.

“Children and family audiences are a priority of the series. Circus and variety acts are a great way to get folks into the theater for the first time, so yes! Bindlestiff was a perfect fit toward this goal, and co-founder and performer Keith Nelson struck me as incredibly sincere and devoted to his craft,” Shapiro said. 

During the performance, the audience got to see the spectacular tricks and participate in mind games. Keith Nelson was not just the host of the event, he was also a master of balance. The grand finale of this show was a display of him doing a sword-swallowing act. Kyle Driggs left the audience with oohs and ahhs with his talented juggling acts. Kyle showed the audience that he can juggle absolutely anything from balls, to rings to even umbrellas. Finally, but certainly not least was Aerial Emery and her acrobatics. Aerial is a highly skilled rhythmic gymnast who combines it with a hula-hoop, not just one but over five! She combines her two favorite things into one amazing performance which left the audience wanting more.

After the show, members of the audience signed up to participate in a juggling workshop hosted by the performers themselves. The performers taught the kids and their parents how to perfect the art of balance by helping them balance peacock feathers on different parts of the body such as their hands, fingers, and nose. After that, it was time for the main attraction which was teaching everyone how to juggle.

Starting off slow with thin pieces of fabric and plastic shopping bags to get a feel for the patterns, which then moved into the bean bag balls. Once everyone had a handle on the patterns, participants continued to test their skills by juggling three of the bean bag balls. Even though the frustration of trying to get it right was building, families couldn’t help but laugh and have fun.

Shapiro also hopes to open more of these events to all the students here at Rowan.

“Student engagement is another very important component of this work. In fact, I often hear from our regularly attending community members that they wish to see more Rowan students alongside them,” said Shapiro. “We always need help with word-of-mouth influence. Rowan students are not always aware that we have a world-class performance series right here on campus, that it is for them, and that they can access tickets for free!” 

Students, faculty, family, and friends all came together to enjoy a day at the Cirkus and everyone left with smiles on their faces. The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus left their audience speechless and with hopes to catch their sideshow performance again in the near future. For more of these events by the Marie Rader Presenting Series, tickets can be purchased on Rowan’s Performing Arts Website. (

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