Heather Bailey – BFA in Performance, 2003
Even though her early career was primarily in front of the camera, Heather grew up wanting to be a dancer, “I used to mimic the dancing from 80s movies and MTV.” She spent most of her twenties acting in videos and commercials, as well as working for Talent Connection in Northern Virginia “That’s how I got background in writing contracts,” which would prove provident in her current business.
“I wanted to make my career better,” so Heather chose Theatre VCU. “We’d go on New York trips, and I didn’t feel it was right for me. Auditioning every day and living in a closet.” She also traveled with Janet Rodgers to Romania, where she “saw new, progressive theatre and I wanted to be involved in things that felt very new.”
Starting in 2002, she was part of Dazy Lays Cabaret. The group did weird performance art (burlesque inspired) at First Fridays and other art events. “Sometimes we were hired and sometimes we just showed up, guerilla style.” Here’s an old video of one of their performances.
Meanwhile, local jazz drummer Brian Jones created an event with lots of different drummers from different backgrounds coming together. Heather recalls, “It was chaos theory in sound and I was trying to figure out how to perform to that. I envisioned people flying in air like a children’s mobile.”
That led Heather to the Trapeze School New York in Baltimore (they have five locations around the US all called New York). Once she got into the air, she found “I didn’t like trapeze, but l found aerial fabric and started driving to DC/MD to study aerial art.”
This resulted in her current business, Host of Sparrows. Heather explains the name, “The name of a flock of sparrows is a ‘host’, like a murder of crows.” She also began working with Rob Petrie, the founder of Richmond’s Dogtown Dance Theatre, starting with a rope show that combined modern dance with rope climbing.
Rob was looking for programming for the space and he helped Heather get a grant to buy safety equipment and bring in teachers to help her get started. “I never saw myself as a teacher or circus owner, but it just evolved to the next thing.”
Host of Sparrows now has five specialist teachers and fifteen professional performers teaching juggling, contortion, aerial yoga and partner acrobatics—including another TheatreVCU alum and former Head Clown at Barnum & Bailey, Chris Hudert (BFA ’82). Heather still designs most of the costumes and makeup for the group which she says is thanks to the design classes and teachers she had at VCU. The group performs for corporate and non-profit events, as well as community outreach, where they take their outdoor rig to various events to get experience in front of people.
Compiled by Liz Hopper, professor emeritus, and Jerry Williams (BFA ’71) for the June 2021 Theatre Alumni Newsletter.