Sail Away with the Circus

I ran away with the circus once. Almost twenty years ago. Back when I was young and I was looking for my first real dance gig. This was not only a dance gig but an experience of a lifetime. Every memory of this band of dreamers, artists, and sailers is fresh like a lucid dream about an Egyptian desert.

The Caravan Stage Company is a theatre company like no other, founded in 1970 by Paul Kirby & Adriana “Nans” Kelder, with a unique permanent venue, the deck of a 90ft tall ship, named the Amara Zee.


The traveling dance theater company started off on land, drawn by Clydesdale horses in carriages in 1970. Then in 1993, they transformed their travel arrangements by building the Amara Zee. The Amara Zee is a Thames River Barge replica. A flat-bottomed ship with leeboards for traveling through shallow waters then the high seas. When not sailing, the deck served as the stage for the Caravan’s theatrical performances.

Photo by Sachith Ravishka Kodikara on

I joined the Caravan Stage in 2003 for the production of Red Tide. The original play by Paul Kirby displayed the works of aerial artists, fire dancers, stilt walkers, and opera singers. We rehearsed in Jacksonville, Florida with opening weekend performances starting there before making our way up north. There was nothing like it. When not performing, I was a sailor living aboard the ship in a shared bunk with roommates. The saloon or the living room below deck was spacious and a place to relax and eat during the sail.

Everyone had dual duties, some had triple. I was a sailor/dancer. This meant my job was to perform the dance acts including fire poi spinning during shore docks. When out at sea, I was part of a four-hour crew that took turns navigating the entire ship, sailing the ship, keeping watch on bow watch, and roaming in case any of the other positions needed relief or any type of help during their watch.

When out at sea, our sojourn took us up the Intracoastal Waterway, through the Chesapeake into the Atlantic, up the Eerie Canal and Hudson River, through the Great Lakes, and finally down to the Gulf of Mexico to our final destination of the tour, New Orleans, Louisiana. We played in big cities like Baltimore, MD, and St. Louis, Missouri, but we also landed in small, lesser-known towns. We went to Peoria, Illinois, because “if it doesn’t play in Peoria, it won’t play anywhere.”

Photo by Matthew Montrone on

The Caravan Stage is 52 years in the making. They are touring their last tour this year in 2022. In order to make that happen, they need our help. The COVID-19 pandemic had its lasting effects on the majority of performance artists across the globe. Help me make their last hurrah, one for the times. Donate here.


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