by Robin Beaudoin | photos by C.MAC Photography
Attendees at QCG productions are treated to more than just the traditional three-ring circus. In fact, hoops and cages are everywhere. The party production company encompasses fire breathing, fire eating, aerialists, contortionists, and LED dancers- we’re circus performers. QCG came from founder Aubrey DePew’s Instagram name, “Queer Circus Girl”. It was shortened to QCG for Queer Circus Group. Why queer? Everyone in the group is either queer/LGBT+ identifying, or an ally. QCG is instantly recognizable to anyone who has been to a Big Gay Dance Party, Alchemy for a Moulin Rouge themed party, Make-a-Wish’s Wine for Wishes, Campbell Clinic’s foundation fundraiser, or more recently Choices’ Condomonium, or Railgarten.
DePew, 29, was raised in Memphis, and went to Alabama before going to New York for college, then finishing her bachelor’s in performance art in LA. “I started out doing pole dancing as a workout- there are still bruises- and that’s where I started doing the circus stuff. It started out as a hobby, but a friend opened her own pole dancing studio and she asked me to teach. They brought in an aerial hoop class, and back in 2011 you didn’t see that a lot. They paid me to go to the class so it didn’t look empty! I initially had zero interest in it and fell in love with it. I ended up quitting teaching so I could train on the aerial hoop full time. That branched out into aerial cube and hammock, and just a little bit of everything.” A return to New York had DePew acting for the small screen. “I got to be on an episode of CSI with Ozzy Osborne, a couple episodes of True Crime, and some docuseries. I called my dad, and said, ‘Yeah, I’m playing a pole dancer on TV!’ So that gave me an extra credibility.”
In 2017 DePew returned to Memphis for a relationship, working marketing and events for Southern Thunder Harley Davidson. Fast forward to 2018, and a bad breakup, and DePew is starting from scratch. “All our friends were her friends. Stephanie Wilbanks from Spectrum and Cristin Smith from Spectrum approached me about getting aerialists when they opened back up for Pride (September 2018). I used the little equipment that I had at that point, and we put on an LED and aerial show.”
Spectrum hired her again for a Halloween party in 2018, and she expanded her talent. “I reached out to Amanda Buchanan who owns Paint It Cool body art and she did body paint for three of us, we were completely topless, we had LED dancing (light up hoops) run by Hoop Rebel, and Cooper Henke was my right hand man from the very beginning- he’s well connected in the gay community. We joined forces and assembled this crew to put on a show.”
QCG’s core crew is about twelve people, that cannot just perform but do the rigging, assemble the crew, get everyone in place, and about four of them double as project coordinators. In addition to the core twelve, DePew has people from across the country come and perform with them, including a locally well-known dance group. “I started working with the Memphis Burlesque, and we’re almost like sister companies, because our performers overlap parties. Everything’s a skill share, it’s on an invite-only basis. That’s how we acquire people. We have people from across the country who’ve come and worked with us on our shows. We just got booked to go do some events in Florida, Kentucky, and Texas. We don’t have to market- it happens very organically, through Facebook and word-of- mouth.”
Future goals are to expand and stay booked, says DePew, “I want to push boundaries and make people think. It’s rigging, costuming, scheduling, checking equipment, safety. There’s a lot that goes into it. The people that I work with here have passion and dedication we practice at least twice a week, no matter what. We’re a family.”
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