Circus student reading list

12 years ago when I went to study circus at university there was a reading week but no reading list, either required or recommended. I don’t know if there’s one now but I thought it would be an interesting challenge to come up with my own list.

The following consist of things I wish I’d been more aware of before taking my degree. My list would have given me things I lacked in 2005 (and perhaps still do).

Some entries provide a wider understanding of circus and related activities such as side-show and magic. I have not included books on the history of theatre or dance as they were included in the course syllabus. For some inextricable reason, the history of circus was not covered on the course. Others entries on the list are featured as an attempt to deepen the students’ knowledge of the creative process and the real world application of such a process.

The UK circus student reading list

If I’d consumed all this stuff I would be in a better position to take a degree in circus.


After sharing this article a couple of people suggested some additions…

Harm van der Laan recommended “The ordinary acrobat”

Charlie Holland, author of one of the books on my list suggested the following…
“I normally did a couple of film lectures (at The Circus Space) and recommended ‘The Golden Age of the Circus‘ by Howard Loxton, as an accessible introduction, and ‘The New American Circus’, by Ernest Albrecht.
The UK circus timeline you link to was iirc derived in part and with my permission from my fuller version (with a couple of small errors I’ve never quite been arsed to correct!) at http://palaceofvariety.co.uk/page24.htm

For those interested in the development of circus acrobatics, I cannot over-recommend Strehly’s ‘L’Acrobatie et les Acrobates’ http://gallica.bnf.fr/m/ark:/12148/bpt6k882577q/f17.image – a book that really should be translated into English by someone, one day.”

 

“Quotations”

I aspire to be a skeptical person, but try to step back from brink of cynicism. I struggle to make my mind up on how I feel about the concept of quotations. When I see a vague statement written in fake handwriting on a wall like, “Love is the string to my bow” I can’t help but feel disgusted. Can one really distill the complexities of life into a glib sentence?

Yet, when I come across an idea that has resonance with me I try and find a sentence that concisely sums it up and add it to a quotation note on my phone. Hoping that at some point I’ll read it back and find it useful. A shortcut to the memory of an idea.

At the front of my physical notebook I write a few quotes from my collection. I’ve just started a new notebook and have four quotes from Luke Wilson on the inside cover. I’m only now beginning to work out how I can use them to guide my work.

Perhaps the whole subject of quotations for me boils down to, “I like quotations but only when I’ve curated them.”?


“The technique should be a necessity of the performance.”

“The technique is the major tool that we have to communicate our intent.”

“Innovation is creating the right trick for the right moment.”

“Be aware of what you aim to do.”

Luke Wilson.

 

Demain38

It’s Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain this weekend and there are two UK acts taking part, perhaps a milestone for UK circus.

One part of me thinks the contest element is stupid, how and why does circus compete in any meaningful way? Why does this format still exist? Apples and organgutangs etc.

Another part of me recognises that the festival launches careers, it showcases amazing artists and it has a historical significance which has had a direct and indirect impact on me. Mark Robertson competed for goodness sake!


Demain always reminds me of Luke Wilson. I think back to Luke and Ilka competing as LukaLuka in 2003, the fist Circus Space alumni to reach a truly internationally respected circus platform with their own work.

Luke had a great story of meeting Francis Brunn at the festival. Francis asked to see his hands, saw they were all callused and broken and said, “Good”. Luke was immensely proud of that.

Luke returned to the festival stage in 2011, he got picked to be a volunteer for a pickpocket. It was slightly set up as Luke had been given objects specifically for the act. As Luke pointed out, he would never utilise a belt and braces at the same time, for obvious reasons.


I’m proud of the NCCA, it’s so excited to see artists go through the UK system and come out on a level on par with the rest of the world. LJ and Korri are a credit to the progress being made in UK circus and obviously they’ve also worked crazy hard to get into the festival.

Good luck to them both and the other artists involved in the festival.

I’ll be watching the live stream here:

http://concert.arte.tv/fr/38eme-festival-mondial-du-cirque-de-demain

Remarkable List 3


This is starting to become my yearly ritual. Every 12 months I make a list of remarkable stuff I think worth sharing. It’s really fun to do.

Every so often I send out a short mail with cool links I think worth looking at. If that interests you add your e-mail address here.


5 Things worth enjoying at your desk;


5 Places worth eating/ drinking at;


5 People you should work with;


I hope you get something out of those links, they bring me much cheer.

Have a great 2017.