Vau de Vire Society – San Francisco, CA
Mike Gaines, Co-Founding Director and Producer of Vau de Vire Society, along with his wife and Co-Founder, Shannon Gaines, began VDV in Colorado twenty years ago but have called San Francisco home for the past fifteen years. VDV is a collection of musicians, dancers, acrobats, aerialists and other circus artists that come together to create custom choreographed shows and events. The husband and wife team determine the theme and script, then cast and put on the entire production as a duo.
“We’re pretty schizophrenic with what we actually do; we’ll join the SF Symphony onstage for a structured, choreographed piece and then the next week we’ll be producing an EDM or rock show for four thousand friends,” shares Mike. A brief summary of past VDV events range from The Edwardian Ball, New Bohemia NYE, Lagunitas’ Beer Circus, The Soiled Dove dinner-theater show under the Tortona Big Top and the Symbiosis Gathering, not to mention a few Vegas shows each year! Whatever they’re doing, VDV focuses on creating an immersive, engaging experience for the audience; an up close and personal undertaking playfully conducive to the party environment. Mike’s vision for the future is “continuing to perpetuate freedom in artistic expression, and continuing to create without boundaries.”
Brandon Kazen-Maddox is one of the roughly 15 core performers at VDV. Though he is currently taking a hiatus from his six-year stint with VDV to pursue his Master of Fine Arts degree at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, which he says is “essentially like Hogwarts school of witchcraft and wizardry,” Brandon is a self-proclaimed “lifelong member” of VDV.
Although he is not deaf, Kazen-Maddox’s first language is American Sign Language. He was raised by his Deaf grandparents, making him a Grandchild of Deaf Adults, an identity that has “informed every aspect of who [he is] as a human.” His goal for his passion for both dance and sign language is “to fuse these worlds together, to continue to produce works of art in a new genre of theater that the Deaf community calls ‘ASL Dance Theater.’” In Kazen-Maddox’s current project, he brings together six NYU dancers of color to collaborate with a non-NYU affiliated Deaf performer from Paris, France. The performance is an interpretation of a song from Andrew Lippa’s musical, The Wild Party, a steamy love story set in the roaring 1920s.
Kazen-Maddox is currently researching a concept for his Master’s thesis that could change how Deaf and hearing people understand and discuss the language of dance. And how does cannabis influences his art? “Throughout my life,” he tells us, “marijuana has indeed helped me access the roots of my creativity, communicate with my ancestors, and allowed me to dig into the many passions that are embedded in my soul’s very core.”
Kazen-Maddox’s performace takes place on March 8, 2018, at the NYU Tisch Dance Works IV concert at the Jack Crystal Theater. Admission is free.
Stefania, aka “Devire”
Stefania has been a character-driven performer with VDV since 2003. Playing everything from small parts to major leads in the circus, Stefania feels that she is “a bit of a wildcard, or a pioneer.” She originally ran away to San Francisco looking for cabaret experience, but arrived at the circus instead. She was part of the group that opened for The Cure at Shoreline Amphitheater in 2016 and originally met the DOPE team as part of the Madd Vibe Orchestra.
Stefania’s professional repertoire is as broad as it is impressive. She’s been in a handful of circuses in her life, including the Lucent Dossier Experience in Los Angeles, and was one of the first clown go-go’s in San Francisco at DNA Lounge before she transitioned into singing and songwriting. Now, Stefania wants to record an album with a live orchestra backing her singing.
“It should come as no surprise that the Urban Dictionary definition of ‘devire’ is literally: ‘Dope . . . ’”
Stefania picked up the nickname “Devire” with her Vau de Vire family. It should come as no surprise that the Urban Dictionary definition of “devire” is literally: “Dope . . . That chronic you got last night, that tasted like fruity pebbles, was devire as fuck.” Devire tells DOPE that she’s used cannabis for inspiration while performing as a clown, as it allows her to “access eccentricities, passion and desire to create more art; it encourages free expression!”
You can see Stefania singing in San Francisco’s Chinatown Great Star Theater and in Los Angeles at The Edwardian Ball in February 2018. Listen to her music at stefania.bandcamp.com or soundcloud.com/stefaniasongs.
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