As he twists and turns above the stage, Travis is bringing awareness to an important cause.
Imagine the strength it takes to suspend yourself high above the ground by the strength of your arms and upper body while doing aerial acrobatics at the same time.
That is exactly what San Diego’s own Travis Ti does and he says he would not change it for anything. In fact, Travis wanted to run away and join the circus when he was growing up, but didn't give into adolescent impulse.
“Instead, I became a gymnast and then a cheerleader in High School and College,” he says.
It wasn’t until after he packed up and moved to San Diego from Utah twelve years ago that he met the late Angel Vera who along with Angel's business partner Jessica Flores were going to start a circus school called Aerial Revolution.
“Angel convinced me to start classes and I was hooked ever since,” says Travis.
Most people in San Diego, know Travis as a "Divo" from his performances at the drag extravaganza "Divas" at Rich’s in Hillcrest. His powerful physique is used to suspend his body high above the stage as performers lip sync to songs and do their own complex choreography far below.
He says nerves are what get the better of him when he first steps on stage and even though you don’t see it on his face, there is constant pain from putting his body through rigorous day-to-day training.
That's not including a more serious aspect to his career of which he has to be hyper-aware during every performance, “There is always a fear something could go wrong, seriously injuring yourself.”
Travis has also started producing his own shows. And the less dangerous, but just as serious business acrobatics of marketing, constant fundraising and troupe organization also keep him busy.
“Wrangling of performers (herding cats); dealing with venues, technical staff and non-profit statutes; and all the marketing including creating media and contacting press organizations.” he said. “And along those lines, you have cold-sweats that people might not come to your show and you can't help feeling responsible.”
These details are even more abundantly clear as he enters into a project that is very close to his heart called Specific Gravity.
Even though he says Divas is a wonderful show that showcases the art of drag performing with a hint of burlesque, Travis jokes that "Specific Gravity" doesn’t require wigs or...tucking.
“Specific Gravity is a ‘circus with a purpose’ production that fuses contemporary circus with social consciousness,” says Travis. “We aim to raise awareness for displaced refugees by telling their stories through movement and spoken word. We use Archimedes’ principles of displacement, buoyancy, and specific gravity to form a metaphorical framework exploring how persons forced out of their homeland overcome obstacles, adapt, and negotiate their identity.”
This complex metaphorical work is broken down by creator Danielle Berg.
She says, “People are afraid of what they don't understand. So the antidote is to understand, and the only way we can understand is by listening".
Travis says he agrees with everything in that statement especially in our current political climate where refugees and displaced persons are under constant demonization.
He adds: “As a gay man, I know that many refugees in the LGBT community have fled their countries just because they are targeted for being who they are and who they love.”
Since he first began using his craft as an instrument for telling a visually compelling story, or transforming into a Divo, or supporting an important cause, Travis is certain what he does high atop the stage floor may be dangerous, but without it, there is something even more costly at stake.
“I hope we can use our talents and art to raise awareness and empathy towards people who are forcibly displaced from their homelands and celebrate what we have in common -- our humanity.”
"Specific Gravity" had a successful preview in Washington, DC, and will now make its way to San Diego.