Circus Hackathon

NOLA Hackathon 2011
NOLA Hackathon 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been reading a bit about new ways technology is allowing people to collaborate, things like Google Drive, GitHub etc. It seems as usual circus has a bit of catching up to do!

In Wired a while ago I read an article about Hackathons and thought it would be great to see/take part/organise a circus equivalent. Hackathons are a chance for coders to meet up, work like crazy in small teams and produce a sketch version for a new service or product.

Earlier this year when I was in Montreal I spotted Impro Cirque, something quite close to my idea. Unfortunately I left before it took place but from video it looks pretty fun…

I’d love to see a more informal version done in the UK, perhaps no ‘public’ audience. No one gets paid- All it would need is some interested circus artists and some space (perhaps some pizza and beers at the end of it). Perhaps two days manic work and a fun showing at the end of it? Best team performance judged by a panel wins a years supply of Apple products (or not)?!

Just a thought….

Public Fan Letters | Penn & Teller

I’m currently reading ‘Steal Like An Artist’ by Austin Kleon which ties in to my interest in what seems to be a changing consensus on the origin and process of creativity, art and copyright law. One chapter mentions writing a public fan letter. Here’s one of mine…

I love Penn & Teller, they are not only my favourite magicians but also my favourite artists. I love their open and honest opinions on life and their approach to work. I love their backstory, how they went from street performing carnies to Las Vegas headliners. I enjoy their outspoken (well Penn’s out spoken) views on religion, politics and rational thinking. I try and watch as much of their work as I can, I’ve managed to see them perform live a few times and each time they have something new to offer.

A couple of years ago I performed at a magic convention in Vegas and was lucky enough to see and hear Teller deliver a presentation on Penn & Teller‘s artistic and technical approach to creating a new piece. It was one of the most interesting and inspiring things I’ve ever experienced.

Here’s a nice segment from Teller from a different piece he sometimes gives…

Each week I listen to Penns podcast and when the chance arises I read his books which bring me to tears of laughter. I love listening to Penn argue his point of view which is always phrased in such an informally precise way that it takes you by surprise.

Their careers have decades of success to them, with such a wide variety of material and outlets, from an appearance on the West Wing arguing the right of flag burning to creating a TV series about (and entitled) Bullshit. From directing Shakespeare plays to producing their own films. They seem to have a talent of producing well thought out opinion and conveying it in an original and thought provoking manner.

They are a massive inspiration to me and I can’t wait to see what’s next from them, you know it will be ace.

One of my favourite Penn & Teller pieces…

Luke Wilson – My Jedi Master

You may have noticed that this blog has been updated a little sparsely over the last few months, namely because over the summer most circus artists are (hopefully) manic with work and lack a little of the time and energy needed to concentrate on a blog. Unfortunately this is not the sole reason.

Luke Wilson, known online as Cubecheat (referring to his love of the Rubik’s Cube and cheating/magic) was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus at the start of the summer. Throughout the summer he underwent treatment but ultimately lost his battle with cancer and past away today.

Luke was a close friend and I have many fond memories of time spent with him but I think I’ll save them for another place and time. In this post I’d like to remember his amazing teaching.

In 2003 at the British Juggling Convention in Brighton I watched a workshop on modern club juggling. There were many great jugglers sitting and watching a skinny, charismatic, excited man explain juggling detail and variation in his already slightly odd british-german accent. He explained ideas and processes in such a brilliantly logical way that it was both beautiful and clear. I asked Guy Heathcote who the man was and he informed me it was a gentleman by the name of Luke Wilson.

Years later, when on the degree at Circus Space I was lucky enough to experience Luke’s teaching first hand. Everything about his approach to teaching and learning was perfect. He had lessons planned down to the minute, almost second. He would literally give you a task for 6 minutes and 45 seconds and then onto the next with 1 minute and 35 of thinking time. Always in a tight fitting t-shirt, watch around the right front belt loop of his jeans (he claimed it was because he didn’t like to juggle with a watch on his wrist but I suspect it was because his wrists were to thin to keep a watch on! Always in jeans because he found them best for kickups, an area of juggling which Luke excelled at. You can view a tutorial we made together on the triplex kickup here, it gives a great insight into the effort and detail Luke went to in anything he did).

Luke had tried and tested methods and tasks but also experimented with new ideas and exercises in class. His classes had a brilliant combination of building up confidence in technique, as well as pushing creativity using defined parameters and matrixes. Overall pushing your understanding of what juggling is and could be.

I’ll never forget having to do 3 ball penguins whilst being asked what the capital of capital of Chile is, what’s six times seven and being poked in the back all at the same time. Or the sequence 1,12,123,23,3,31,312,12,2,23,231,31,1

Lukes thoughts on juggling, circus and art in general massively influenced the way I think and approach work, when I shared a flat with him for 3 months we would often stay up till early morning discussing and debating our views on circus and juggling. He had very clear thoughts on what circus and juggling are and how to define them. Not believing in the relevance of the ‘contemporary vs traditional’ debate which seemed to be so important to some in the 80s and 90s and even today. Luke viewed and defined work as good or bad, original or ripoff, ethical or not.

His views on progressive steps forward for the art form were clear, using the internet to share work and ideas (which included some magnificent posts on this very blog), constantly creating new aesthetics, drama, performance and ultimately tricks.

Constantly pushing himself, seeking out new inspiration and ideas, Luke taught at juggling conventions and circus school all over the world, inspiring 1000s of jugglers. Competing in international circus competitions, performing in sold-out theaters, sharing his art with the world. Living the dream.

Despite Luke coming from Portsmouth and myself coming from Southampton, we always had a great rapport which turned into a close friendship over the years, we shared many of the same interests and passions. When I was in school we would often joke that I was his Padawan learner. I suppose it would only be fitting to include…

There’s so much more I could say about his teaching, never mind his performing or his friendship but it can wait.

For now I need to be still and sad, a friend is gone forever.

Luke Wilson Memorial Donations

What Sideshow Is Not . . .

sideshow

Sideshow is not:

1. “Jackass” in any way shape or form.  Just because you are a fan of the show or the movies does not make you an expert in the centuries old arts of Circus Sideshow, the Bally Stage, the Old Ten in One, or simply stapling your ball sack to the side of your leg (reference on the last one, see: “Jackass”)

2. Magic.  Magic is trickery, sleight of hand or “gaffing”.  Sideshow is real, real nails, real glass, real fire, real danger.  In the words of a great Sideshow artist, George the Giant, “Magic tries to make you believe that it’s real; Sideshow makes you wish to hell that it wasn’t.”

3. A Party Trick.  It is a “Stunt;” because of the fact that Sideshow is real it takes a lot of training and discipline combined with proper technique and skill level to not get hurt.  Half of what we do during any given performance can quite possibly kill us several different ways if we do not perform the stunt properly.

4. For Children.  Due to the fact that Circus Sideshow is real, dangerous and life-threatening, it may not be the kind of entertainment you would want to bring your child to.  Though that being said we have performed to the delight and extreme delicious horror for older children in the past.  Some kids are just built for it I guess and we will probably be seeing them on stage in the future – who knows?

5. For Women.  Women are far to delicate for this sort of thing and really we don’t want to mar their pretty faces.  I’m sure they would jus faint and pass out at just the idea of the stunts let alone performing them, and . . . and . . .  ——- I’m sorry I just can’t say this with a straight face and without laughing.  Who are we kidding?  I work with the most rockin’ group of Ladies that do things that make the burliest me squeele.  Lol! (www.sideshowsirens.com)

Allie Cooper’s Vertical Rope

Given the backgrounds of most of us Circus Geeks – at least the more prolific of us writers – I sometimes feel we overlook some of the other circus skills that are out there. Today’s lesser talked about circus skill: Corde Lisse.

This is Allie Cooper. She’s a rope artist based in California whom I met at a circus party some time last year. She’s very lovely and put together one of the most enjoyable promo videos for her rope act that I’ve seen. In some ways it reminds me of Danny MacAskill’s Way Back Home.

You can also follow Allie on twitter.

Have you seen other promo videos that are striking, unique or different? Let us know in the comments below.