03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Day at the Circus (School)

A Day at the Circus (School)

Photos from the Kinetic Theory circus school, copyright Libero Di Zinno

She had me at... "Circus."

"Tony, would you like to come and shoot my circus-school rehearsal?" It's funny how things find you... and not funny like a clown. In my own case more like an trapeze artist really. My super-connector, full time soul sister and former top model muse, Dawn Heusser-Forrester did it again. She rocked my world with a one more smart bomb of an invite to an already long list of our past adventures (large and small).

My pal Dawn is a six foot tall, athlete slash cerebral virago married to Brent Forrester (an award winning writer for NBC's The Office) and, famously, she is never short of ideas for "let's measure how brave your heart really is" kind of pursuits.

Dawn and I met at an event called the Southern Traverse somewhere near Queenstown, New Zealand (the adventure travel destination capital of the world) and have been fast friends ever since... but alas, I digress. Just off the beaten path a mere human-cannonball shot's distance away from the epic A-list first choice photo Mecca known as Smashbox Studios (where I shot Kobe Bryant for a sports propaganda gig) lies a proper first class training center for high wire novices in the making. Kinetic Theory -- so says the modest sign at the door.

(VO: Insert sound of my inside the head voice saying OMG!)

This place is the perfect intersection for a brilliant collision between two of my greatest passions -- the athletic and artistic. Dawn motions to me to meet her primary instructor. She strides up a taut pixie named Karyne, whom I'm instantly taken with just from her Québécoise accent (a serious weakness of mine). The maestra moves across the padded room with a grace and confidence in the way only a veteran performer can embody... sprite, wound with tension. Intuition tells me she must be a 'Cirque du Soliel' veteran from Montreal drawl... but how could I have known she was an identical twin? Karyne and her sister, Sarah Stebens, are second generation performers whose circus DNA was in the blood thanks to their famous Canadian TV personality father, who paved the way for them to enter the big top at 16 years old.

(More on the twins on a later blog.)

Dawn is one of the first to go. I shot video with my trusty Canon G10 the whole of the routine (for her Facebook, page of course). She doesn't disappoint, as the whole gathering of friends and fellow performers cheer like mad when the music stops. I sit with Karyne as she takes a seat on the floor, close enough to spot the students when they initiate a movement where they are vulnerable to a serious fall. Her face glows with joy like a child, in full delight of her charges taking to the ropes for each of their short routines. I make a photograph of her beaming with pride without Karyne knowing... it is my favorite shot of the day (see slide show).

One of the most memorable of all the students was a spoken 'performance art' piece by a radiant Indian dancer named Shyamala. A one-woman show performed completely from the point of view as a spider (set amongst the web of her ropes), the show included wee bits of charming educational factoids and even an audience participation chant of "down with arachnophobes!" But it was not to last, as our favorite swinging singing spider eventually gets swept up in a vacuum cleaner at the end!

It was simply brilliant.

These women (and one absolutely fabulous fellow) did their teachers proud. If you have ever felt like running away to the circus, or seeing if you have what it takes, check out this treasure chest of a place in LA's own back yard.

'Tis a thing of beauty.

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