When you walk into Johanna Sapakie’s living room, you are greeted by a jungle-gym-sized twist of metal hanging from the ceiling — and she performs on it, dancing in the air.
Sapakie is an aerialist, acrobat and dancer in “Michael Jackson One.” She had this replica of a DNA double helix built and installed in her home so she can climb, twist and turn across it spectacularly whenever she wants.
She came up with the DNA-act idea years ago while growing up as a dancer and gymnast in Minneapolis.
“I remember watching ‘Jurassic Park,’ and they have this scene where there’s like a little cartoon DNA, and he’s talking to you about the dinosaurs,” she says. “That’s really when it popped into my head.”
On Dec. 8, Sapakie will publicly perform on her double helix for the first time, at the Hard Rock Hotel’s fourth annual Circus Couture (Circus-Couture.com; $35-$75 tickets).
At Circus Couture, 68 performers and models wear elaborate gowns and stage a full performance, fashion show and before-and-after cocktail parties.
I went to Circus Couture last year, watched incredible performances and thought: “I’ve wasted my whole life. I should have been an aerialist.”
All proceeds go to the Children’s Specialty Center of Nevada. The goal is to raise $100,000. Vegas performers launched Circus Couture after one of their own was touched by cancer.
“Everybody’s a volunteer. We meet at midnight at McMullan’s (Irish Pub) after we finish work,” says Lisa Hearting, the event’s director of logistics.
“The Children’s Specialty Center is dear to us, because they treat kids with cancer regardless of whether they have insurance or not.”
Sapakie’s double helix routine is meant to suggest that women artists can reach their goals if they work within the confines of the DNA life dealt them, rather than fighting their DNA in a bid for physical perfection.
You can see video of her wondrous art at ReviewJournal.com./doublehelix.
The double helix also represents ill children’s struggles with genetics.
“Their DNA has somehow led them to a disease they didn’t ask for, and they battle out of that, into a healthier life,” Sapakie says.
Sapakie’s face lights up when she talks about volunteering at Circus Couture again. Why?
“You know, there’s always this mindset of ‘I’m one person, what can I do?’ And this is a big issue, children’s cancer,” Sapakie says.
“But this event raises so much funding that me, one person, doing something I love to do … can make a difference. Which is incredibly fulfilling, and selfishly feels amazing.
“The event couldn’t exist with just one of us. But it can’t exist without all of us. So each one of us, together, creates this big difference.”
Doug Elfman’s column appears Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. He also writes for Neon on Fridays. Email him at email@example.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.