By Julianna Rose Dow
Photo: Kenny Rodriguez
“I run slow in the pizza costume, so you will have to come to me,” Anya Sapozhnikova, Fashion Design, shouts to a fellow performer before the start of the Dirty Circus: Variety Show at her venue, the House of Yes, in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Bedazzled and feathered, Sapozhnikova looks like the love child of a Vegas showgirl and a New York slice. Backstage, co-founder/business partner/best friend Kae Burke, Fashion Design '08, prepares for her role as “Carl,” the night’s mustachioed emcee. His mop-top hair, tinted aviators, and wide-lapel brown leather jacket recall the ’70s. These are typical costumes for Dirty Circus, a monthly three-act showcase that Burke and Sapozhnikova curate, host, and perform in. It’s a 21st-century vaudeville of the brilliant and absurd. When Sapozhnikova took over the lease on a 2,500-square-foot loft space at the border of Brooklyn and Queens in 2007, she had no idea the House of Yes would become a globally recognized destination for the weird. Burke quickly joined her in creating a live/work space to practice and teach circus arts (aerial and trapeze), offer both performance space and lodging for touring artists, and throw the occasional dance party. Ten years, one house fire, one lost lease, and one $90,000 Kickstarter campaign later, the House, now in its third iteration, has transformed into a full-fledged performance space and nightclub with a seating capacity of 165 and standing (well, dancing) capacity of 550. Bonnaroo, Envision, and Art Basel Miami. But it still celebrates the unexpected, revels in the random and—though the founders no longer live on the premises—welcomes everyone home.