Cirque du Soleil Clown Interview

Thanks to our new Tumblr account we stumbled upon this interview with Cirque du Soleil clown/character John Gilkey from A Fool’s Idea.

The interview covers a lot of ground, focusing around John’s history and thoughts on Clown and his career.

If you’re not familiar with Gilkey’s work you can see one of his numbers below.

John Gilkey

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….

Quixotic Fusion: Dancing with light

I’ve been interested in the use of technology in circus for some time. The performance of Quixotic Fusion at TED merges dance and elements of aerial work to produce some interesting results.

To be honest the over all performance is not to my taste but it’s great to see companies succeeding in the tricky business of blending technology with live performance.

New Hula Hoop Style?

If I’m honest I’m not the biggest fan of Hula Hoop as a Circus discipline, I tend to find most routines very similar in structure style and tricks. Today, however, I stumbled on the video below and to my surprise, really enjoyed it. A nice mix of hoop manipulation, juggling type moves, body rolls and actual hula hooping. To me this is a new style in Hula Hooping (feels almost a bit “street”) and it will be interesting to see where it goes…

Julians Troupe Acrobats 1902/03

Apparently the oldest footage of circus online (Shame about the music.. There is another version posted on youtube by Charlie Holland which is minus the techno music I believe, but I couldn’t embed it here). Some really nice Acrobatic Moves and Icarian Games. Can’t find much more info about the troupe…. but I haven’t looked very hard if I’m honest, if anyone finds out any more info, post a comment below.

Oh, This Old Thing?

I am amazed, in awe, truly dumbfounded that anything we do could possibly become old hat; but sometimes to us it does. I have to wonder if my fellow acrobats go through this as well? Let me explain.

Sideshow by definition is based on the different, the oogie, and the thing that gets a visceral reaction out of people. A common pitfall in performing these stunts is that we become used to doing them, compare it to a long run of a theatre production if you like but on a longer scale. We get so used to the stunt we start to become numb to that which makes it special. What may be even tinged with a little sadness is we forget what it was like the first time we did the stunt, all those emotions rolled up into a tight little ball inside us. I dare say we may even become just a tiny bit jaded in this amnesia.

I recently had the luxury of watching my troupe’s latest round of trainees, whome I’ve termed our ‘Debutants’, train in fire eating – my specialty. Now I would hope I have not become jaded in the least with my love, but you never know. I just so happened to catch them on the night, after all the nights of lecturing and safety rules and prep, that they were going to put fire to torch and do their first eat. I was giddy.

I was amazed and in awe. I couldn’t take my eyes of off them, it was rivetted. It was as if I was seeing fire eating again for the first time, so raw. They were fighting with themselves. Well, actually to be more precise they were fighting with the human ingrained fear of fire hard-wired into the amegdala – it resides at the center of the brain and is the oldest and one of the first parts of our brains to evolve. It’s like stepping in the ring with Ali him-own-self. Believe me the first time you eat fire that torch looks for all the world like a flaming meteor coming towards your face. Every fiber in your being is screaming at you, “DO NOT DO THIS.” But we have a great coach, our Yoda, and we trust him enough to think for us in this moment – if need be – as our own thinking might be overwrought by the all too human fear of fire. These Debutants fought with themselves, which is a unique sight to see. A one-handed fight, torch in hand the other hand on hip; bicep, trice and carpi all in dynamic tension not knowing if it’s coming or going. She is trying to lower the flaming torch into her mouth and her amegdala is trying to save her from herself. Some balk and don’t finish the eat without shame. It is a difficult struggle undoing milliniai of genetic programming; but those who do succeed are forever changed. Those who conquer their ingrained fear of fire and finish an eat, even if they never eat another torch in their life, come away from the experience a different person. For at the very least, whether they know it or not, if they can do that they can do anything.

My eyes are wide, and my jaw is dropped, there’s a chance I might be drooling I’ve been frozen in this position for so long. But that is how drawn in I am by what my girls are going through. Their experience is captivating, so literal. I remember my first eat, the nervousness, the sweat, my flinch, the elation after the eat. I was Wonder Woman and I felt so free.

I don’t ever want to forget what that feels like, the fear, the fight and the triumph. Teaching and watching the lessons is a wonderful way to remember and keep the old feelings fresh. Even something as simple as remembering what the stunt looks like to the lay man helps. In glass walking I kid about “make the noise, we live for the noise” from the audience. But it’s also about the noise of each pop and crack of the glass that is singular and unique to the audience like their gasps are to us. So if they aren’t making the noise we’ll pick and pop through the glass until they do, and then we smile 🙂

Grotesque Like Me

Elly del Sarto; from a c. 1910 postcard.
Image via Wikipedia

I was well over two years into sideshow before it even occurred to me that a woman performing circus sideshow stunts might be viewed as “grotesque.” I don’t think of these things, the weird, the freaky, the odd. I see something I’d like to do and I do it. Not until much later does it enter my mind that any of it might veer a little to the left of the norm. But then I guess that’s what sideshow specifically chooses for, doesn’t it?

My troupe is made up of a lot of very beautiful women, most of whom you would never think did this sort of thing, the oddity, the absurd. We even have one Lady who would pass for a Disney princess. Really, I swear! And we all have had this talk a bunch of times that we’ve never felt quite a part of normal society. Oh sure, we can pass with the best of them; Beverly Hill events, high intellect societies, professional businesses and the like, the whole kit and kaboodal. But none of us ever really felt like we fit — I’d like to think of it as a really long run of junior high. And then the clouds parted and the universe gave us SIDESHOW! and we found a home and a family with each other. Strange, no? In reality not so much. In truth, I would think this story is much more familiar to everyone than we all would think. It’s just that in those who are a little “left of center” it is more apparent. If we listen to each other we begin to understand that not only did we probably have that outside time when we were younger, but we still have something now that may make us feel like we are not a part of the collective. Sometimes it can be so much so that we might very well feel like we have a glowing incandescent sign with a big red arrow pointing at us screaming “one of these things is not like the others, one of these things is just not the same!” Or is it just me?

My Ladies and I get up on stage with our Yoda each night we perform our mind bending stunts of outrageous human feats revelling in this strangeness. We long to hear those noises of gasps and eeks and inhales – Make the noise, we live for the noise. In the process of being the freak working acts we have concered our most primitive fears of fire, creepy crawlies and pain, and we offer it up to you. At the same time we stand virtually naked in front of our audience in all of our grotesque and freakish glory and unarm you of your own insecurities – if only for a moment – without you even knowing it. And we ask you to be “one of us.”

I Want To Learn Circus – Part 2: Circus in the UK

Many people these days want to learn circus, whether it’s just for fun or fitness, or professionally because they want to be a performer.

Regardless of why you want to learn circus, the circus arts are a fantastic set of skills to have and to learn. Training in circus skills is great for strength, flexibility, stamina, dexterity and coordination, and is also incredibly social. Circus skills are used to develop physical, mental and social skills in young children are used around the world as a tool for social change with disadvantaged youth.

Depending on your age, experience and your intention (do you want to be a professional performer or do you just want to do it for fun/fitness?) there are many skills you can learn and lots of places you can learn them.

Through this short series of posts I’ll direct you to a variety of places where you can learn them. Rather than trying to list every place or circus company in the world that offers circus skills training (which I’m pretty sure would be close to impossible) I’m going to try to point you in the right direction. If you can’t find anything on your doorstep, get in touch with something in your region and they can probably tell you about more local groups.

Following on from Learning Circus – Part 1: London, I thought you’d probably be interested in some places to train circus skills outside London, around the UK. So if you’re not in London and want to learn circus skills either professionally or for fun and fitness read on… Continue reading “I Want To Learn Circus – Part 2: Circus in the UK”

Circus Fitness

“Circus is good for you,” said Ernest Hemingway. (Yes, it hurts; yes, there are injuries; but consider the level of fitness of your average circus artist compared with Joe Blogs.)  And in the video trailer for the Taschen book The Circus 1870-1950 (see Arron’s post here) Voiceover Man describes how in the 19th and early 20th century “the display of women’s physical strength was groundbreaking.”

Doing circus makes you strong, flexible, agile and coordinated. Who wouldn’t want that?

I don’t know why but in recent years people seem to embracing that circus is in fact good for you, and a whole host of circus fitness programmes have been springing up. Here’s a few that I’ve spotted.

*The full Ernest Hemingway quote is “the Circus is good for you. It is the only ageless delight that money can buy.”

Reebok & Cirque du Soleil’s Jukari – Fit to Fly and Fit to Flex

You can read more about Jukari in this NY Times article or on the Cirque du Soleil website.

Hulaerobics

 

Hoopilates

 

Juggle Fit

 

Circus Fit

A US youth fitness programme launched by Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey.

 

Obviously attending any circus skills class would help you get fit and if you’re looking for a class you can start by checking this post on Learning Circus.

Do you know of other circus classes that are designed to improve fitness? Let us know in the comments below.

Circus Futures

For those of you who may not be aware there’s a large (for UK standards) circus event happening at the end of November which could prove to be very interesting….

Circus futures is a showcase/conference taking place on the 30th of November and 1st of December in Bristol designed to bring policy makers, producers and artists together.

The event will consist of keynotes, showcases and panel decisions centring around,

“…the creation and distribution of contemporary circus work in this country and beyond.”

I shall be there, probably sharing my thoughts on Twitter as I go. Hopefully there will be more artists in attendance at the discussions than there were at circus open spaces earlier this year.

http://www.circusfutures.org/

Newcomershow Krystallpalast Varieté

Saw this on the Krystallpalast Facebook page and thought some of you may be interested in entering… good luck!

“XVIth Newcomershow from 6th to 8th July 2012 at the Krystallpalast Varieté Leipzig.

Attended by the Managers, Artistic Directors and Agents of all german Variety Theatres.
Contact for information and application forms available at u.jaeckle@krystallpalastvariete.de (Urs Jäckle)

Deadline for applications is the 3rd May 2012.”

Learning Circus – Part 1: London

Many people these days want to learn circus, whether it’s just for fun or fitness, or professionally because they want to be a performer.

Regardless of why you want to learn circus, the circus arts are a fantastic set of skills to have and to learn. Training in circus skills is great for strength, flexibility, stamina, dexterity and coordination, and is also incredibly social. Circus skills are used to develop physical, mental and social skills in young children are used around the world as a tool for social change with disadvantaged youth.

Depending on your age, experience and your intention (do you want to be a professional performer or do you just want to do it for fun/fitness?) there are many skills you can learn and lots of places you can learn them.

Through a short series of posts I’ll direct you to a variety of places where you can learn them. Rather than trying to list every place or circus company in the world that offers circus skills training (which I’m pretty sure would be close to impossible) I’m going to try to point you in the right direction.

Being a Londoner, I thought I’d start with circus training in London. So if you’re in London and want to learn circus skills either professionally or for fun and fitness read on…

Continue reading “Learning Circus – Part 1: London”

The Kitchen Sink Circus Cabaret

For those of you that are London based (at least this weekend!) there’s a circus cabaret you might like to see…

~ The Kitchen Sink Circus Cabaret ~

Witness hand-balancers, jugglers, acrobats and more!

See here for more information

*This post is an unashamed plug for some of my friends who are putting this show on. I’m not able to see it but it should be damn good!