April Ananda Bliss is a tiny, tattooed faerie who can fly three times as high as Michael Jordan. Originally from Colorado, April left the U.S. at age 20 to spread her love of fire dancing and hula hooping around the world.
She spent the next several years hitchhiking cargo boats in the Peruvian Amazon, couchsurfing the slums of Nairobi, and distributing hula hoops to kids across Africa.
April was initiated further into the world of circus in Southeast Asia, learning aerial arts and stilt walking in Thailand and performing in Burmese refugee camps.
She reached India in 2010 on a path of spiritual awakening and discovered a perfect climate for her and her global circus friends to train during winters.
Thus she opened Bliss Circus in 2016, building her first structure off the beach in South Goa. In 2019, April moved Bliss to its current location set in a magical faerie forest in Palolem with a full stage and eight-meter-high rigs, becoming the only full-on adult circus in India.
I was lucky to spend three weeks training with April and her amazing instructors, learning trapeze, silk ropes, and partner acrobatics. That was before a motorcycle accident sidelined me. But I finally got the time to sit down with April to discuss Bliss Circus and its decidedly dark side vibes. Hope you enjoy the interview, ya’ freaks!
Renegades Logbook: I’ve never been able to say this to anyone, but you can fly. What does it feel like?
April Ananda Bliss: When I was a kid I used to lay on my lawn and dream about flying in the clouds. It’s exciting, it’s scary, and it’s like a dream come true to actually fly. It’s like being fuckin’ Peter Pan!
How dangerous is aerial arts?
Even if you are a high-level trained professional you can make mistakes. And if you make a mistake in aerial working at height, you can break your neck, you can break your spine, or you can die. There have been big accidents in Cirque du Soleil, which is the largest contemporary circus in the world, where artists died. One movement that’s slightly off can send you crashing to your death. We try to do dangerous things with the most amount of safety as possible. It’s all about calculated risks.
You’re also a mermaid. How did that character come about?
I have a dear friend who is a mermaid and was creating a show at Boom Festival in Portugal, the largest electronic music festival in Europe. I had never mermaided before, but I got the tail, learned how to swim, and was initiated with nine mermaids in the lake at sunset at Boom Festival.
Does your mermaid have a name?
Kali. She’s named after the Indian Goddess of Destruction. I am the dark, Indian mermaid and I always wear skulls in my hair when I’m mermaiding.
Many of your circus performances explore the dark side with black outfits, devilish characters, and fire dancing. Why do you like to explore these themes?
An important part of our reality is the dark. Living in India has such an appeal for me because in a lot of the world we are sheltered from darkness, and when darkness happens people are in shock and don’t know how to handle it. Living in Asia the light and the dark are very incorporated here.
You mean all aspects of the human condition are in front of your face?
Yes. You have most beautiful smell and the worst smell in the same whiff. You can see the most beautiful thing you’ve seen in your entire life and the most terrible, shocking thing in the same day. It’s very real and it makes me feel alive. Expressing that with performance art is important because it’s not all light and faeries. The dance between the light and the dark has been a recurring theme in my art. I love the dark goddesses and festivals honoring the dark.
You accept all ages of students and performers in Bliss Circus?
Yes. My daughter is ten and has been performing since she was three. And we have students and instructors in their 50’s. People who want to pursue it have to be really motivated, hardworking, and have a good tolerance for pain.
There is a Renegade vibe to the circus and your performers. Do you feel that?
In a lot of countries the circus is part of the established art society. Here in Goa, it’s different. Yes, I am a woman running a business in a foreign country. And I play by the rules in the sense that I follow the laws and keep people safe. But in every other way I am not playing into the mainstream. I consider myself subculture.
People used to talk about ‘Running away to join the circus’, is that still the case?
That saying came from the Barnum & Bailey days where circus was more about the freak show and the people who couldn’t exist in society … whereas I don’t want to. It wasn’t that I ran away with the circus. I ran away from mainstream American society, and then I found circus.
How can people see Bliss Circus?
We run from November to March every year with shows once or twice a month. We also host workshops and retreats, artist residencies, and intensive aerialist foundation courses. Our last show of this year is March 26 in Palolem, Goa.
We also are having a fundraiser to pay for the construction of our new stage, and I hope people could make a contribution of any amount at: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/blisscircusstagegoa?utm_term=qJyV9RvvP
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