In Performance: Raven Hinojosa is dancing on air | Calendar | Chicago Reader

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In Performance: Raven Hinojosa is dancing on air

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"It's hard to be jaded about the trapeze," says aerialist Raven Hinojosa. "Even if you've already decided you're not going to be all that impressed by anything in life, you're going to be impressed by the trapeze. You're so totally engaged when you're up there that it's hard for the audience not to be engaged too."

Hinojosa, who's 25 and a native of Austin, Texas, ran away from home when she was 15; that's also when she changed her name from Monica to Raven. "I was very angry and independent," she says. "I was ready to be on my own and thought, 'I'll be damned if anyone tries to stop me.'" She spent the next few years bouncing around between Austin, Atlanta, Utah, South America (her father's Bolivian), and a boarding school in Colorado. When she was 19 she studied solo trapeze and tightrope for several months at the School of Circus Arts in San Francisco.

"I had started doing my own kind of rope dance that I made up," she says. She lived in a warehouse with high rafters, and would loop a cotton rope around her waist, haul herself up, and "maneuver myself around to do pretty-looking stuff." But the solo trapeze captivated her. "I just really love to dance," she says. "And the aerial thing is a very studied, controlled way of dancing. It's extremely challenging, and it takes a level of concentration that is kind of meditative. Every step is a kind of accomplishment."

Hinojosa moved to Chicago in 2000 after spending some more time in Austin and in New Orleans. She's currently working as a massage therapist three days a week; in the fall she hopes to study performance at Northwestern or religion at DePaul. Last August, inspired by the other performers she's met here, she launched the Tingle Tangle Menagerie, a circus-style cabaret in which she made her public debut on the trapeze. She wanted to make it a monthly event, but she injured her shoulder last fall and was out of commission for several months. Lately she spends most of her spare time rehearsing--without a net--at a "very dirty" old dance hall in Little Italy.

There's not much of a trapeze scene here, she says, so she's making her own, teaching a friend her bag of aerial tricks and performing when she can. This weekend the second edition of the Tingle Tangle Menagerie will include two stages, art installations, puppet shows, musical performances, a midsummer's eve pageant, and oddities like a performance piece featuring a vibrating mass of sand. Each night will conclude with Hinojosa performing an aerial dance on the static trapeze. Shows start at 8 Friday and Saturday, June 20 and 21, at Texas space, 3012 S. Archer. There's a suggested donation of $10; call 312-375-6746 for more information.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Jon Randolph.

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