Alter Circus is a feminist company, which uses contemporary circus and performance art as vehicles to challenge gender norms and celebrate the rebellious spirit, strength, and grace of women. Alter Circus rejects narrative structure as a primary humanizing device and uses the human body as text and feminism as the lens to explore power, gender, and sexuality.
The word ‘sin’ is derived from the Indo-European root ‘es-,’ meaning ‘to be.’ When I discovered this etymology, I intuitively understood that for a [person] trapped in patriarchy, which is the religion of the entire planet, ‘to be’ in the fullest sense is ‘to sin.’ – Mary Daly
Photography by Brynne Levy.
Meet the Company
Jessica John, Artistic Director and Founder
An ardent movement researcher, Jessica John was a competitive athlete and dancer before finding a passion for circus in 2006. In 2017, after the 2016 US presidential election, she left a career as an intelligence officer with the CIA to pursue directing, performing, and coaching circus full-time. A corde lisse, fabric, and dance trapeze specialist, Jessica’s past coaches have included Rachel Walker, Brandy Leary, Emiliano Ron, and Leo Hedman. As a director, Jessica’s work is post-modern and challenges gender norms through displays of virtuosity. Her directing credits include: Steal A Step’s Kick Before You Drown; Vaudoux’s Hall of Mirrors, Adrift, and Gris; and (a sprout story). She has a BA from the University of Colorado at Boulder, an MA from George Washington University, and a JD from Boston University.
Katie Embser, Artist
A business and studio art double major at the University of Maryland, Katie Embser has trained corde lisse, dance trapeze, lyra, and strap loop for 7 years under the coaching of Alter Circus’s director, Jessica John. Her previous performing credits include: Steal A Step’s Kick Before You Drown and Vaudoux’s Hall of Mirrors, Adrift, Gris, and Away.
Georgeanna Layton, Artist
Georgeanna Layton is a corde lisse artist, a mother of two, and a grandmother of three from Kansas City. She can neither knit, bake, nor keep plants alive, but can tell a hell of a story after 58 revolutions around the sun. Two things saved Georgeanna–love of family and rope.
Brynne Levy, Artist
Brynne Levy is a New York City-based pole artist. Brynne’s choreography and performances draw from her freestyle explorations, dance training, and lifelong involvement in theater, music, and the visual arts. Formerly a competitive Irish dancer, Brynne first discovered the aerial arts in 2010. Brynne has a background in behavioral neuroscience and a degree from the University of Virginia in Studies in Women, Gender, & Sexuality. She is also an accomplished fine art and event photographer.
Thomas Martin, Artist
Thomas Martin is a Baltimore-based circus artist who specializes in fabric, dance trapeze, and aerial chain. He coaches and performs for In The Dark Circus Arts and is a resident performer at SAX Lounge and its hit male burlesque show SIR. He has a background in dance and visual art from Towson University.
Stacey Carlson, Gwynne Flanagan, Zoe Zou Stasko, and Wondercabinet Weshinskey.