Sora Iriye is a career circus artist. She and her husband, Josh, co-own CirqOvation, an entertainment company with a Cirque-Vaudeville flair. While waiting for the entertainment industry to return, she has immersed herself in writing about the intersection between her many different identities, particularly Disabled/Disfigured and Japanese American. Iriye is passionate about advocating for and envisioning a world where all people have access to a safe, healthy, prosperous life and reimagining the systems in which we live to reflect the diversity of our society so everyone can find equality and true belonging. She lives in the Syracuse area.
Were you born and raised in CNY?
Josh and I have lived here for just over a decade. Our move here was serendipitous. We were both sitting in our house in Jersey City one night in 2009 and I looked at him and said, “I’ve always wanted to live in a church,” and he said, “I’ve always wanted to live in a church, too!” I know that sounds fake, but word for word, that’s how our conversation went. Since we’re both circus artists — Josh is a juggler, I’m an aerialist — we both needed high ceilings in order to practice. When we found one in the Syracuse area, we drove around a bit and immediately knew this was where we wanted to live.
Why do you choose to stay and make your home here?
While we didn’t quite know what we were getting into when we moved here, there are SO MANY things keeping us here! CNY has been incredibly welcoming of us wayward circus artists over the years. We’ve had the privilege of partnering with a ton of incredible organizations within Syracuse, the county, and the larger swath of Central New York. I have fallen in love with the local community, which is full of scrappy, powerful people making Syracuse a more beautiful, conscious, inclusive place to live. I am proud of our city for welcoming refugees. I am inspired by creators, writers, musicians, visual artists and theatre folx every day. I know CNY isn’t perfect. There’s still a ton of work to do as far as making our cities safer and more equitable for marginalized humans, especially Trans and Disabled BIPOC. I don’t think it’s paradoxical to recognize shortcomings and still love the areas in which we live. I truly believe in the power of our communities to celebrate CNY while nurturing and helping it to grow in ways that disrupt the status quo in order to serve everyone.
What does your “good life” look like and how does CNY play a role?
My “good life” is being able to engage fully with my area but also have quiet time and space to be introspective. Syracuse certainly offers the engagement part, and our home in our small town provides the quiet sanctuary (literally!) that we crave.
What do you like most about living here?
Without a doubt, it’s the people that keep me in CNY. The communities of which I’m a part make me simultaneously grateful to live here and hopeful for even brighter futures.
What makes CNY different from other places you’ve lived?
I’ve lived in a lot of different places, but I grew up in Arizona. I know this is not quite the inspirational answer, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say I’ve never lived in another place with so much snow! I try not to be too crabby about it, though! It’s just part of the adventure of living here.
How would you spend a day off in the area?
I would start off with a coffee at one of our many fabulous coffee shops (hard to choose just one!), then head down to Labrador Hollow for some hiking and then cap the day off with a live show at one of our many local theaters.
Go-to place to eat?
Do I have to name just one?! Dosa Grill, Vietnamese Noodle House and Strong Hearts all for the win!
First place you take out-of-town friends or family?
Stone Quarry Hill Art Park in Cazenovia! It’s mind-blowing! It’s huge, so we’re always discovering new things.
Does anyone ever choose anything besides fall?!
Favorite way to take advantage of our beautiful outdoors?
Josh and I are such suckers for waterfalls. Our defaults are Tinker Falls, Pratts Falls and Carpenter Falls. Spruce Pond and Shackham Pond are gorgeous!
A place or business you think is underrated or under-discovered?
Without a doubt, The Creators Lounge. It has a huge following already, but more people need to know about this place. The founder, Indaria Jones, is a dynamo. She’s created a co-working space meant to nurture a wide variety of creators from diverse backgrounds.
Favorite memory related to living in CNY?
This is going to seem off-the-wall, but some of our favorite memories living here have revolved around our collaborations with Symphoria, our fabulous symphony. Our first show with them was at The MOST. We were set up in the middle of their largest room and our audience was packed in sitting in a half-circle around us. My trapeze partner, Disa, and I even got to create a site-specific piece on their rock wall, accompanied by a string quartet.
Our second show with them, I got a call asking if we’d like to perform at the State Fairgrounds in the barn where cattle are birthed. I was like, “We’re in!” Unfortunately, there were no cows there at the time. But it was an oversold concert in the middle of what amounted to a giant warehouse. I mean you can’t get more CNY than music, circus, and the State Fair! We loved every minute.
How would you describe CNY in a few words?
Filled with passionate, motivated people.
What do you think we take for granted here?
The artists! This is my soap box! I think Syracuse, in particular, has the potential to be an international art hub. We certainly have the diversity and talent to create a truly inclusive and accessible art world here. We just need to inspire the right people who can make it happen.
Best way to get to know the area better?
I’m always a fan of going into spaces that are outside of my social comfort zone. Josh and I usually start with finding a coffee shop or small restaurant in an unfamiliar area and then let that be the catalyst for new exploration.
Myth about CNY and Upstate you’d like to dispel?
I think a lot of people think that you can’t have it all here. I couldn’t disagree more! Of course, the pandemic has done a number on our world, and there is much work to be done to rebuild our communities. That said, pre-pandemic, Josh and I found a life here where we could live in the quiet country and then take a short drive up the highway to find incredible cuisine, brilliant art, live entertainment, thriving local businesses and tons of festivals during the summer. We look forward to the day it’s safe for all of us to gather again.
What do you think people outside of Central New York should know about living here?
If I haven’t made it abundantly clear already, CNY is a fabulous place to live! No matter who you are, you will find your community here.
You can live your best life in Central New York too!
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