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.

Video of the Week – Taschen Book

After my rant from this post I thought I’d post something a little more helpful on the subject of circus history.  Released by world famous publishers Taschen, ‘The Circus 1870-1950’ book should be on the (reinforced!) shelves of anyone remotely interested in circus history.

Read more about the book here and buy it for cheap on Amazon.

Or if you like supporting local shops do that, go out of the house into daylight (more likely rain) and have a lovley conversation with an actual human (although my experience of local book shops is a little more like this).

*Note in the video above the clips of Lottie and Francis Brunn, cool eh?!

Know Your History!

Why is it that few modern circus artists seem to know or care about the history of circus?

The job of an artist is to be creative, rather than recreative. Knowing the history of your discipline is important; You don’t want to merely repeat what others have done before you.

It’s a good idea to know the history of the genre you’re involved in and possibly the history of other related disciplines. In a world where we know ‘knowledge is power’, why would anyone not want to know as much as they can about their passion or career?

With this in mind, why can I still have a conversation with a professional who knows nothing about the history of what they are doing!?

I’m not saying everyone needs to be an expert or want to be on Time Team, but please take the time out to educate yourself, just a little.

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”

Why Circus?

I was required to write this short piece some weeks ago for a residency application. Originally, I was planning to take some time and really try to be as honest and clear as possible. But, as these things so often transpire, I ended up writing it in pretty much one draft just before the deadline…

So, I reckon it’s a slightly odd mix of honesty and keyword hitting, but re-reading it now, I am quite happy to share it here, and I stand behind it. And it got me to the interview, so it’s original purpose was fulfilled…

————–

Why circus?

Circus imagery is some of the strongest cultural imagery that we have. The clown, the candyfloss, the laughing child, the strong man and the beautiful ballerina, the horses and the lions. To say it is timeless would be a crass naivety, but the shared emotions that circus is still tied to are still alive, and are felt by peoples of almost all ages and cultures.

But beyond the imagery, circus should not remain a “timeless” art. Its core concepts – including physicality, strength and risk – stay ever fresh, but over time the reasons for its necessity change. We have a responsibility to keep our art form relevant and fresh. Circus is a “time art”: one that happens anew each time in real time, as opposed to the snapshots offered by painting or engraving or sketching, or the set in stone offerings of ballet or cinema, and as such it has the opportunity to develop and evolve over time, and at a quicker pace (how short our history is compared to that of music, or dance, or even cinema!).

Circus’ roots are in spectacle, fantasy and exoticism. In showing that which it was not possible to see anywhere else. Now that we can see almost anything we want, at almost any time we want to, we must look deeper into the purpose of the circus arts. Circus arts, the techniques that belong to the circus, speak their own language and carry their own emotional baggage and weight. To me, the biggest step that circus has taken in it’s recent development is that of opening it’s doors to people from outside it’s traditional families and dynasties. It is obvious to say that many circus practitioners today chose of their own free will to study the skills of the circus, rather than being born into it, and one hopes that that means that not only do they have the physical abilities to say something, but also that they have something they wish to say.

Circus as it is performed today really shouldn’t need (30 years after the birth of nouveau cirque) to justify itself as “circus with theatre”, or “circus with dance”, or “circus with value added art”. Circus should be proud enough to accept that it is an art, and then to look once more within itself to find what it wishes to communicate. I believe that not only different practitioners, but the different disciplines themselves, have personal and important things to say. Things that can be said better with circus than with any other medium.

Otherwise, what would be the point of practicing circus?

To answer the question “why circus” is to me exactly this process. Why did I become infected by juggling at the age of 14? Why did magic capture me three years before that? And why did those obsessions develop into the love for circus that I have now? What is it about juggling that speaks to me, and how can I be more honest to my artform in my interpretation and performance of it?

And what about all those other disciplines? Why do I “know” (or even have an opinion) about what a “good” handstand act is? Or trapeze or teeter-board or or or? The more the technique can speak to us, the closer we can get to the real meaning and purpose of circus.

This excites me.

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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!

The Quadruple Somersault

Miguel Vasquez, of the Flying Vasquez, one of the world’s most famous flying trapeze troupes,  catches “the most difficult acrobatic feat in the 20th century” – the quadruple somersault.

I love flying trapeze but what I love most about this video is that in slow-mo you can see two of the saltos just hover in the air defying gravity at the peak of the pass.

 

Circus Skepticism

I’ve seen two student shows the last few days and I’m due to see another this weekend. It’s the time of year again; the time for the End Of Year Student Performance.

After each of the shows I found myself having a familiar conversation with a number of people: “what did you think of the show?” It’s not a strange question to ask. I must have asked it and been asked it thousands of times over the years after almost every circus show, theatre show, film and music gig. And obviously some I like and some I don’t like.

There are very few movies I don’t like. For the most part I can accept them exactly as they are and exactly as they’re not, regardless of whether they are Hollywood Blockbusters or Indie Flicks I can enjoy them, letting the story and the fantasy wash over me, taking me away from my life and letting me get wrapped up in an alternate reality for a while.

But when it comes to circus I find myself stuck. I no longer get wrapped up in the thrill and the excitement of the circus, I struggle to be amazed. I find myself waiting for the fake slip on the high wire, watching the acrobats intently for flawed technique, or watching the use of safety lines instead of the trick itself.

I find it hard to enjoy circus these days and am pleasantly surprised when I walk out of a show having enjoyed myself, having been entertained, and having forgotten about the safety lines.

Is it just me? Am I overly critical these days? Or do you find yourself doing the same thing?

Popcorn Circus

A good friend once offered the assertion that traditional circus is “a machine to sell popcorn”. I smiled, nodded and changed the subject. But thinking about it: is it true? And if it is, is it a bad thing? And what is the machinery of modern circus set up to sell?

I like popcorn. I eat it brainlessly, extract what wanton energy from it that I can, and discard what I don’t need. I leave at least ten percent on my clothes and on my seat. It makes me feel slightly sick when I have too much of it, but it is none the less an organic and tactile experience, bringing joy to all of my senses. I don’t eat it often, and I don’t miss it when I don’t have any, but I always look forward to and enjoy it.

In my video library is a long row of Cirque du Soleil DVDs. I like to own things. They sit there and remind me that I am a loyal consumer. I haven’t watched them all, and the ones I have watched I have watched just once. Each box and disc is identical in it’s dimensions, just as the acts encapusulated within them are identical each time I watch them (or would be, if I were to watch them).

I do like perfection: but I also like honesty. Honesty and humanity and humility. I am a fan of science and of precision, but am happy to depart from them for some occasional one-off sticky gratification.

Popcorn makes me happy.

Circus Girls

It came to my attention today that nearly two weeks ago another interesting circus-related blogging site has popped up on the interwebs. Circus Girl Magazine is “devoted to bringing news, tips, and a backstage tour for Circus Girls by Circus Girls around the world!!” and promises “in-depth interviews with your favorite circus stars from venerable legends to rising newcomers to circus school students. Also you can look forward to insights into fashion and circus-fusion entertainment, product reviews, and much more!

There’s not a huge amount of content yet but go check it out. The more Circus Geeks the better!

I Can Ride A Bike

From summer 1998 through to the summer of 1999 I was living in America. During that time I went to see Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba, their permanent show at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Cirque du Soleil didn’t have as many permanent shows then as they do now and to get to see one of them was pretty special for me. Generally speaking, I’ve rarely been a big fan of Cirque du Soleil’s shows but I have to admit that I remember thoroughly enjoying La Nouba, particularly the Flying Trapeze. However, there was also something unusual in the show, something I don’t think I’d ever seen done, as an act, in a circus: Bikes. Continue reading “I Can Ride A Bike”