Fourth Wall

Backstage at the GOP Varieté theatre in Hannover, just finished my training and now relaxing for 40 mins or so before getting ready for the first of our two shows today.

One of the major reasons that I love doing Varieté contracts is the stability of the environment. I prefer to know for example exactly how my lights will be, and to trust that the technicians will turn them on and off at the right moment. Ditto for the space, the sound and the ritual. I think this partly comes from the juggler mindset, but can accept that it probably says something deeper about my own psychology too…

“Change ain’t good, Leon”.

For nearly 5 years I performed a set and unchanging act (duo club juggling with Ilka Licht), and my solo juggling act has been set for the last 6 years or so. In that time I have made plenty of new pieces and shows, with magic and with juggling, but I have always held on to my “act as seen” as the centrepiece.

So why did I decide last year that I would retire my juggling act and make a new one to replace it? Well, for many reasons, ranging from “artistic” to “commercial”, but the point is that I am now busily performing an act that I have thus far only done 15 or so times, rather than the hundreds that I would prefer. It’s a good process to go through again! And by the end of the two month run here it shall be without question my “main act”.

For the first time in my life I have an act where I play fourth wall up. It is only for the first 50 seconds or so, but it is totally new to me. I have always made a point in my work of starting a clear dialogue with the audience as soon as I walk on stage, and to start that dialogue whilst being completely internal and alone is something I am learning. It seems to come so naturally to all my acrobat colleagues, but I guess that is why many of them often say that they cannot imagine eg talking on stage, or that to so would be such a major step. It seems an obvious step to me as an extension of the audience contact, but if that contact is other than what I am used to, then of course it seems as foreign as “being alone” on stage is to me.

But it is getting less so every day.

Double Dutch

A lot of my work over the last years has been teaching based, and this month found me teaching for the first time at the circus school in Holland.

I mean, at the circus schools in Holland.

Both Rotterdam and Tilburg now boast circus departments within the auspices of a university organisation. Both offer four year bachelor programmes. Codarts in Rotterdam are about to present their second graduating year, ACaPA in Tilburg their first.

Another difference:

Codarts school hall
Codarts school hall
ACaPA circus tent
ACaPA circus tent

When coming in for a week, I am always torn between wishing to spend the short time available doing strict technique classes, or to rather concentrate on eg choreographical / concept based work. I hope always that I find a balance between these two, but manage always to come away wishing that I’d had more time…

The major difference between the two schools, or rather the one that has the most effect relating to my work at them, is that Codarts has a permanent juggling teacher in the shape of Gregor Kiock. This means that I can trust the students to have, and to keep to, a consistent and strict technique training programme. It also means that my guilty conscience at tweaking people’s technique is made even guiltier…

It feels so good to make tiny physical corrections (hand position, cross point etc) to someone’s pattern and to instantly see an improvement. That work can feel just as creative and valuable, sometimes more so, than seeing the results of a pure conceptual exercise. Hopefully both will make an impression of some kind on my students.

My next stop in the world, after a single and all too brief day at home in Cologne, shall be the GOP Varieté in Hannover, where I shall be for all of May and June. Sometimes my job feels like several different jobs. Which seems like rather a healthy and challenging, if somewhat stressful, position to be in. Come visit me if you happen to be near!

Photos with Photosynth on iPhone

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