Beta Testing – Creation Week 1

We’ve spent a taxing yet rewarding week working on new material for Beta Testing, some planned from the initial stages of the project, some thought of in the morning mind mapping sessions.

Our average day has run something like this:

8something AM – Get up, breakfast etc. (not for Arron he likes his sleep and can run on air for a few hours)
9ish AM – Go to a supermarket and buy lunch (often various kinds of chicken)
10 AM – Start. Sit around a table with whiteboard laid flat (why is this not sold as a product?!), mind-map, discuss, suggest, joke, inspire, timetable.
11ish AM – work on more spoken word based work.
12:30ish PM – 1 hour lunch – much chicken, listen to Radio 2 ‘Death Hour’, make phone calls, send emails.
1:45 PM- work on new juggling technique needed for the show.
Midafternoon PM 10 min Coffee Break! <– No Such Thing!
4:45 PM – Club Passing practice
5:27:34 PM (allow 15 min-ish discrepancy) Endurance Practice & 6/7 technique
6goingon6:30 PM finish
7SomethingStillPM Craft Beer Pub – drink/food or both if you’re feeling rich!
ApproxPM – bed

We finished the week feeling exhausted, probably juggling more in the week than we had collectively done in the last 3 months. Celebrated a birthday, laughed a lot, picked up far too many props off the floor and probably spent more time than is healthy with each other. All this whilst avoiding getting hit over the head with a chair.

Excited for it to all start again on Monday.
Creating feels good.

Here’s a video of us failing…

Propellor Prize

In April Circus Geeks won the Propellor Prize.

The Propeller Prize is a partnership between the Roundhouse, Circus Space, Jacksons Lane, Jerwood Charitable Foundation, Seachange Arts and Le Brèche in Cherbourg.

The prize awarded by Jerwood Charitable Foundation provides a budget, support and space to develop Circus Geeks show which was presented at Jacksons Lane earlier in year. Residencies start in September and lead up to the premiering of our show Beta Testing in April 2014 as part of CircusFest. Dates and more detail to follow.

Exciting times.

Arron

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…

Inspiration

Already this morning I’ve watched two videos which have amazed and inspired me (isn’t the internet marvellous?)! Both are juggling videos and have some very nice and original content. Interestingly (at least for me) in both cases I see similar inspirations that have been a starting point for some of my latest work, thoughts and ideas.

Obviously carried out (and I have to say, producing better results) in a very different direction to mine. Clearly both videos have other insparations mixed in, as well as a different starting point and intention. It’s not ground breaking stuff to say everyone is different but I like being reminded of it now and again!

Send me some nice acrobatic/aerial videos please!

http://juggling.tv/12883

An old pair of comfy #circus slippers

One of my favourite performers Donald Grant, once remarked to me how performing his act felt ‘like putting on an old pair of comfy slippers’.

Old Slippers

I’m starting to get to a similar point with my act. I know that despite external conditions I’m still capable of shipping my art and delivering the goods (although I’m still capable of screwing them up as well!). No stairs to get on stage? No Worries. Wrong music comes on? On with the show.

Once you’ve done your act several 100 times it starts to become a little less stressful, you start to trust your work a little more. You can refine detail and perhaps enjoy yourself a little more.

In a podcast Penn Jillette reminded me that acts that have worked for 20 years have a quality, maturity and refinement that can’t be taught and is rare to see these days. You can really see this with performers such as George Carl.

These ‘mature acts’ obviously made and make incremental changes over time and I enjoy following acts and watching how they subtly evolve. A new line here, an extra trick there – it’s a circus spot the difference.

However the danger is stagnation, it’s probably not as artistically rewarding for most performers to do the same material year in year out. And times have changed, there isn’t the market demand for such refinement yet lack of flexibility. Modern circus artists need slightly different skills, the ability to constantly create new work, collaborate (often cross discipline) and push the art form in new directions.

It’s not something that I’m not particularly suited for or good at. Yet I’m pushing myself onwards. I like having my comfy slippers but I know at some point I’ll need some brogues, trainers and even a pair of Crocs. After all, slippers do wear out – eventually.

Enough of the shoe analogies, I'm off to the cobblers.

An average day

Someone asked what’s an average day for a professional juggler. It’s a pretty difficult one to answer succinctly as the average day varies so much. Over the summer I was performing pretty much every day, right now I’m not performing so much and able to concentrate on new projects and on practicing juggling.

At the moment my average day is working out a bit like this (and I love it):

8:30 Get up

9 Running

10-11:30 e-mails, RSS feed, Facebook, Twitter and breakfast.

12-3 Juggle

3-4 Gym

4-6 Coffee, more internet catchup. Plan stuff for Beta Testing.

6-7 Eat.

7-12 fun time/pub time.

12-8:30 bed.

Repeat.

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

Moving

I’m currently flat hunting, don’t worry I’m not going to turn the blog into an advertisement platform for my personal life (although I’m looking for a relaxed, quiet flat share in Hackney, if you know anywhere email me!). Viewing a couple of flats and then going through the process of explaining ‘what I do for a living’ to my would-be flatmates has made me think.

In the Dreaded Question I ranted about the boring conversation that is explaining to someone what I do. For the most part I stand by that post, sure it’s a self indulgent position to take but for the most part it’s true. Having the same egotistical conversation over and over agin gets a bit dull (at least for me).

So having to explain to potential flat mates what I do is not my idea of fun but unfortunately at the moment I have to go through it. The other day I must admit I did pause for thought when I was asked, “What did you do yesterday, on the weekend and one month ago?”.

I had to explain that, one month ago I was juggling giant apples in front of 80,000 spectators and millions of viewers around the globe watching the opening ceremony of the Paralympics. Last weekend I went to Portugal and spent most of my time running, eating and relaxing by the pool which was interjected by the occasional show in a beautiful theatre. Yesterday I eventually got up at 9:30 went for a run, had a leisurely breakfast, did some web work/reading, had coffee (it’s a new experience for me) and then went for a few hours juggling and workout. Finishing my days ‘work’ with a book and a quiet pint in my local.

It would be disingenuous to claim that the above answers were an average day but the fact that more than a few have been like that makes me think, I’m super lucky and it can’t last forever…. Best enjoy it while I can!

Being a circus artist can be the best, it’s good to remind yourself of that.

But it’s also wise to remind yourself of harsh reality, moving sucks.