Another drizzly Tuesday morning and yet again I am making the four hour door-to-door commute from London to Bristol to pack in a couple of days training with my circus partner, Lisa. By now I know the coach drivers speech by heart (along with the well rehearsed ‘jokes’), and have perfected the art of getting a doubles seat to myself (eat a banana, take off layers of clothing and spread them across the seats etc.)
Lisa and I take this journey on alternative weeks to each others cities to battle to keep our doubles trapeze skills up to scratch, while at the same time developing a new roller skating routine. Despite our marathon training sessions we never seem to fit quite enough in as it seems like every new job we get we have to change some element of what we do – the height, the character, the costume, the music…. People are so demanding!
However despite the schlep to the West Country, training in a different space does also mean training in a different headspace, which can be great. Knowing what an effort you’ve made to get there means we both work harder to make the most of our two days, and the slight desire to ‘show off’ to people who you don’t normally train alongside, pushes us both that bit further.
Our roller skating table arrives next week – scary! Suddenly we’re going to have to relearn our act within a tiny circle, and a few feet off the floor. A few feet may not sound like much, but when you are spinning fast by your neck off someone else’s neck and are quite disorientated it makes all the difference! But however scary the skating may look, nothing compares it to my least favorite 5 minutes of every week – jumping to feet. This is move where Lisa is sitting on the trapeze and I am hanging from it. I then have to swing my legs and let go and catch her feet. It is a move I have done safely for well over a year, and I have only ever fallen from it twice in practice, both times for very clear reasons, and yet it still has the power to terrify me. This mental block has been going on for about 6 months now and we still practice it every week, and every week it still scares me – sometimes your brain can be very irrational!
Another element of my regular visits to Bristol is a chance to see another side to circus life – one very different to London. The training spaces are dependent on volunteers and community support, with regular users all pitching in to run the training spaces and many of the shows. Whether it means cleaning the hall, or calling out a locksmith when he lock is broken, or organizing a fund raising cabaret, it’s all a job for the circus community. And for the most part it runs very smoothly. I was first initiated into this when I moved to Bristol briefly a few years ago to volunteer at a circus school in exchange for training – my warm up one morning was doing the ‘shake and vac’ and hovering the huge training space room! Which actually, did warm me up pretty well!
Back on the bus again, this time headed back towards the big smoke, and straight back to watch the circus space graduate show, hopping from one circus community to another.
Tired, bruised and ready for a drink, but overall feeling like I’ve done a proper days work.