Kiev – Part 2

Part 1 | Part 3

The beginning of the day

Warming up, stretching and meeting people

When I arrived in the morning I would have to shake every male’s hand, that was their culture, (would take a long time if you were last) I would also kiss the girls on the cheek but that was seen as odd at the beginning because the girls should come to you. (Oh yeh lol)

By 9 o’clock, half the school would be waiting to be let in (not like my school -The Circus Space – that’s more like 9:04, you can already start to see why they are better), when we get in everyone has their place to warm up, it’s an unwritten rule, front half – hand to hand, contortionist and jugglers, 2nd half – everyone else. The warm up was self done like everything but all anyone did was sit in box splits and talk, that’s all anyone really did. Now, I’m flat in all splits but not at 9am in -20 degrees. It would take me a good half an hour to get there, for that I was laughed at, they laughed at my inflexibility and asked if I had ever been stretched, nearly everyone there could lie on their back and have their legs on the floor in box if not by themselves with someone pushing. The best box splits I saw by a guy was a hand to hand base, extreme over splits, why? I do not know, jealousy? YES. So for the warm up, no one ran, jumped or did anything to get the blood pumping except two lads who warmed up by round off back tuck which annoyed everyone on a daily basis.

The first people to stop stretching/warming up would be the contortionists and jugglers which would be about 9:30, then the straps artists would stroll in, topless, no matter how cold it was (they were known as the crazy ones of the school). 9:30-9:45 would be the handbalancers and then finally the hand to hand pairs. It was like clockwork every day.

As we are warming up the teachers start to arrive. First at 9:15 is Yuriy Pozdnyakov the juggling teacher (also head of the school) most students would go over say good morning (most formal way possible) and shake his hand. Secondly would be all 3 hand to hand coaches all ex-sports acro world champions, ALL hand to hand students would race over, I mean race pushing each other out of the way just so they could stand at the start of the line, each teacher would come over and shake their hand – No one wanted to be at the end of the line. Then my teacher, Victold a 73 yr old man would come at 9:50 and would go to lots of students and shake their hands and give them a hug – he would say how beautiful the girls are and how strong the boys are looking, he was such a lovely teacher, wasn’t your stereotypical blunt grumpy Ukrainian.

Before I left for Kiev everyone was telling me how much I was going to cry, how much they were going to push and stretch me, but I only saw that with 2 girls, it happened everyday at the same time 10:15 one girl will start crying, 10 weeks went by and it was the same, same stretch, same time, same crying. By the end, everyone had lost their sympathy…

After the warm up and throughout the day the students would stretch each other. The main ones were:

Toe point; you would have someone stand on your feet and walk pushing with their heel into your toes.
20110604-115444.jpgKnees; they would stand in turn out on your knee joint and bounce up and down, oh, your legs are on something high so there is a gap between your legs and there floor, (this one I hate and wanted to cry every time) a perfect example of this knee and toe stretching is Pavel Stankevich.

The most outrageous stretch was the elbow; some girls would try and hyper extend their elbows. I asked why and they said Anatoly Zalievsky had told them to, well you know what; I would probably do anything he told me to do as well.

The Handbalancers

So the handbalancers were split into 2 groups. 1 group focused on contortion handstands taught by Nataliya Pozdnyakova and the other one was just handstands, with exceptions.

From what I gathered the students didn’t get to pick their discipline or their teacher, they got told what to do (very harsh If you don’t like that discipline but sometimes TCS gives its students too much freedom so I see the pros but also the cons). In the group that mainly focused on contortion, all the girls were ex rhythmic or already contortionists, I have never seen the flexibility like these girls, 1 girl had her leg on a gymnastic horse (around 3 foot high) and was flat in all splits without warming up or any pain, there teacher would make them pull their legs past the line of your hips, so when they were in a handstand there legs were in over splits behind them, this I didn’t really like, I think it’s beautiful when they have a flat line. There was one boy who was 19 (I think), from France and was a very highly skilled gymnast – he will be the next Sergei Timofeev. Every morning once the girls are stretched and warm, they would then condition 1 arm leavers on a single cane, their teacher would spot them and sometimes they would hold an ankle weight. There teacher spent a lot of time with them correcting, spotting and telling them what to do (interesting in the contrast with Victold the other Handbalancing coach) though they are different styles I would say Victold’s students were better due to their own self motivation and drive. A comparison can be with Victold’s student Artur Bezkorynny and then Nataliya’s students Sergei Timofeev and Anastasiya Mazur.

So all the girls trained 1 arm lever, 1 arm lower to croc and 1 arm gufus/figure (seen here). 20110604-115452.jpgThey were the main tricks, you started learning them on day one. Again different to Victold, his was more like; you get one trick then move on (which is like my teacher at TCS)
Theory 1 – Why do 1 arm lever if you can’t 1 arm?

Theory 2 – When you get 1 arm you are already strong enough to do 1 arm lever.

Again, I see the pros and cons.

The girls though could not jump up onto blocks or leaver and on the floor they would struggle getting into a handstand, they would go too far and fall into a bridge and then press it from there, which I thought was crazy, once they were in a handstand they were doing amazing things it was just getting in to a handstand was a problem.

One exercise I enjoyed to watch was when the girls were in scorpion and were trying to kick the feet under their armpits, they would get their feet in and then they would pop straight out, it was just funny to watch. I guess though if I tried it, it would be funnier.

There were 3 girls that I think were in 4th year. 1 girl I could watch all day training, she just had ever muscle in her body working exactly where she wanted it, every finger was in the exact place and it looked so elegant and easy for her. She would do her act on tall canes I think 4 or 5, she would do 1 arm turning and she was trying to get a full pirouette on 1 cane. She was very close at this, it was just a hit and miss trick. However when I saw her act I was a little disappointed, her movement was beautiful, her handstands were stunning but she lacked performance, fun and excitement.
I would rather watch her train than watch her piece and I think it’s such a shame but I also think that’s what makes what we do so hard, you can technically be the best but if you can’t put it into a piece it doesn’t matter. (This is only my opinion so people may disagree)

Then there was a girl who would do her act on a round table, so she would be on a flat surface doing every handstand shape you can think of. She was super strong doing planches and 1 arm lower to croc and flexible so doing all the contortion handstands, but, the interesting thing about her act is that she was doing contact juggling at the same time. So, I have seen contact jugglers draw a square with the ball when they are stood up, well she did it in a 1 arm changing positions with her legs whilst drawing a square. She would have up to four balls in her hands and rotating them all while lowering down to the floor. Then have four in both hands while balancing on her elbows. Ridiculously impressive – two extremely hard disciplines put together and both at a very high standard. Again I felt disengaged as with the other girl, something was lost when she did her act, I don’t know if it was the music and because it was all very one level and had no contrast but I just felt like we miss something and it doesn’t show off how good and how hard it is. It’s such a shame because she is so talented but again I felt her piece just lacked a spark.

The last girl would perform her act on about 24 wooden blocks; she would start on the floor and stack them all up transferring from one arm to the next changing and again doing every position you could think of. Before you have realised it she has stacked all the blocks and is at the top and she is still in a handstand about 4-5 mins later with no rest. Hardcore, especially when people don’t realise. She hops up and down the blocks, turns and just looks phenomenal and so at ease but again I feel she lacks something and I think its life, happiness and enjoyment. I know she does have all that but it doesn’t come across when she performs and it’s such a shame.

Technology Tips for Circus Artists – 10

This is the tenth post in a series where I set out to give tips on using technology to make your hours behind your desk that bit easier.

Tip Number Ten:

Get More (Corporate) Gigs

Circus has always had strong links with marketing, if you don’t promote your show/act/you well enough then you don’t eat. One of the greatest marketeers of all time  P. T. Barnum, was a circus proprietor who mastered the art of how to grab attention, create a buzz and sell a show.

I understand why so many circus artists shy away or despise ‘selling themselves’. To do it well you do need to be brave, go out on a limb and invest time and energy. If you really have no interest in marketing then get someone else to do it for you. But understanding the basic concepts behind marketing is important to any artists whether you plan on creating the next Cirque Du Soleil or not.

This is why I’m recommending you sign up for the free trial of GMCG, it gives you some great starting points and some basic principals. The course is delivered by Barry Friedman, a real expert in this field.

The name may be familiar to some of you as Barry has been performing half of the legendary double act, The Raspini brothers for over twenty years. Without a doubt one of the most original, funny and financially successful juggling acts around. So well respected in their field they were asked to give their own TED talk (now a personal goal of mine).

So when I found out about Barry’s online marketing course it was a no brainer to join up.

I loved doing the online course, learnt so much about my own approach to marketing, work and life. I’ve improved my business and continue to read and occasionally post in the forum which provides excellent feedback and support to your efforts in a really positive community of performers. Every week I revisit one of the lessons and see how I can make improvements on my work.

I would recommend GMCG to anyone who has the drive to make their business better. It does centre around the US corporate sector but the underlying lessons can be applied to any market your interested in; from writing proposals for funding to selling your shows to theatres.

I know the full course is not going to be everyones cup of tea but you can get a taster with the free 7 day training course. Even the information from this freebie could transform your marketing approach and I’m sure some of you will see the benefits in signing up to the full course.

Sign up for your free 7-day training course here.

Oh and incase you’re wondering, I’m not on commission or anything like that, it’s just a service I think is really useful.

If you do sign up let me know your thoughts!

I’ve always been interested in business and marketing but since doing the course I’ve become more passionate about these subjects. I want to learn more about selling shows and building websites, so perhaps drop me an e-mail if you have an interesting project you think I could help with.!/CircusGeeks/status/68270412898910208

Technology Tips for Circus Artists – 7

In this series of posts I’m going to give tips on using technology to make your hours behind your desk that bit easier.

Tip Number seven: Use YouTube

When YouTube started to attract attention less than six years ago I was skeptical, even a little fearful. I made a video in early 2006 which was uploaded to YouTube and attracted 70,000 views and was featured on the home page, all within 4 days and without my knowledge (and most importantly) my permission.

But 5 years later and I’m a total YouTube convert. It’s quickly become the industry standard for sharing work with agents and clients, replacing DVD as arguably the best way to share your work.

There is a great feature you might not be aware of, setting your video as unlisted. This means the video can’t be found by anyone who does not know the url which you can distribute as wish.

You can rename the title of the video once it’s uploaded os get rid of that ugly ‘whateveryourtitleis’.mp4 extension!

For promo videos it’s best to have your url link in the first line of the description with the full http:// included so it becomes an active hyperlink to your site.

Read more YouTube tips here.

Also worth remembering is jTV, a site setup for juggling videos but also contains some great historical circus videos.



Technology Tips for Circus Artists – 5

The fifth instalment to the series which aims to make your hours behind your desk that bit easier.

Tip Number Five: Use an electronic calendar

There is something brilliant about a Moleskine pocket calendar but times are a changing and using the calendar on your smart phone and desktop is the way to go.

It’s fine to keep a handwritten diary, there are some advantages but my suggestion would be to fill the information into a digital back up. If you lose a pocket calendar then you could be in real trouble.

If you lose a phone with your digital calendar then at least you have your backup on your home computer and online (if you have set it ip to sync!). If you don’t know how to do this then have a look here. I’d recommend Google calendar as it’s free and works across most platforms, Mac or PC, iPhone or Android etc.

The great thing about a digital calendar is you can setup reminders. Set alarms and text messages to go off at any point of your choosing before an event. Say you want a 1 week, 3 day, 1 day and half an hours notice before a meeting, you can easily set up a message to appear on you phone or computer to do this.

If you use this system correctly you should never forget about an appointment again! Learn how to do this with your Google calendar here.

If you found this tip helpful or have any suggestions please leave a comment below.

Technology Tips for Circus Artists – 4

The fourth instalment to the series which aims to make your hours behind your desk that bit easier. This tip should keep you inspired.

Tip Number Four: Watch TED talks.

TEDI became aware of TED talks in 2007 and ever since I’ve been hooked.

TED is a non profit organisation set up to spread interesting ideas. Originally focusing on Technology Education Design (TED), but now encompassing a vast range of subjects, everything from horse puppetry to the future of wireless medicine.

You can read more about TED here.

I think it’s worth stopping for a second and taking note of the amazing value of the internet. We are now lucky enough to able to watch and listen to some of the most knowledgeable experts from around the globe talk about their most cutting edge and exciting work and ideas, all from and comfort of our own home, for free. It’s an example of the internet at it’s greatest.

Some of the TED talks have entertained me, informed me, challenged my opinion, inspired me and even moved me to tears. The best have all at once.

My challenge to you is to watch a TED video a week. It will make you a better artist and more importantly, a better human.

Here are a couple to start you on your way…

If you you find any inspiring TED talks be sure to share them with us, particularly if they are circus related! As ever, if you have any suggestions please leave a comment below.

Technology Tips for Circus Artists – 2

This is the second in a series of posts aiming to make your hours behind your desk that bit easier.

Tip Number Two: Signup to Twitter.

There are still so few circus artists using Twitter, this is changing but I hope I can convince you to sign up today.

People often ask, “What is it? What’s the point? How can it help? Isn’t it a total waste of time?”. Watch the video below and read the Twitter FAQ.

Basically the more circus people that are on Twitter the more useful it becomes, the more connected we all our, the more experience we can share and the better informed we all get, creating better work. This will increase the interest and eventually demand in circus which in turn means there are more jobs for us all. Sounds a bit hippyish but it actually makes perfect sense.

If you don’t know who to follow (receive updates from) @CircusGeeks has a lists of circus artists, venues, employers and our very own bloggers on Twitter. You can just chose to follow our lists and you don’t have to go searing around for hours on end. If you want to be included on our lists just send us a tweet (message via twitter).

Still not convinced? Get an account and follow our lists, you don’t have to tweet but I bet something will pop up that sparks off your interest and before you know it you will be addicted!

Just don’t get too carried away with it all and avoid making embarrassing mistakes.

If you found this tip helpful or have any suggestions please leave a comment below or better still tweet at us!

Technology Tips for Circus Artists – 1

In this series of posts I’m going to give tips on using technology to make your hours behind your desk that bit easier.

Tip Number one: Use RSS Feeds.

RSS stands for ‘Really Simple Syndication’, you will probably recognize the logo as it’s on most websites. Basically it’s a neat way of reading all of your favorite websites news from one convenient place. Meaning you don’t have to waste time checking each site individually. I’d recommend using the Google Reader as it’s simple and will work with 3rd party Apps on iPhone, iPad, Android phones etc.

You can learn more about RSS in general here and watch this video about Google Reader…

Once you’ve set up an account be sure to add our RSS feed to your list!

If you found this tip helpful or have any suggestions please leave a comment below.

Top 10 tips for touring.

1. Take a technician.

When you first make a show, you obviously want to keep cost to a minimum, so will obviously decide to do the tech yourselves. Don’t. It’s a nightmare. Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, that you’re not going make a text heavy show, where every cue is a line in the script. So if the cue is “when I land a Juan-Qui” or “when I move my hand like this,” you’re gonna end up with wrong cues all over the shop, and a rubbish show.

Get a good lighting & sound designer, get them to put together a tech sheet which you send ahead to all venues, as well as “the book” for your touring tech with all the cues, levels etc. Make sure your touring tech calls ahead a week or so before you arrive to check the venue has everything you need.

Make sure you get on with them. You’re gonna spend a lot of time together, some of it very stressful, and we all mess up sometimes.

2. Take power naps

If your show has a get-in before midday, and you’re tour has a fair few dates (say, over 10), you’re going to end up knackered, especially if you’re doing the driving as well. If you get any chance for a kip during the day, take it.

3. Don’t scrimp on accommodation

It’s far better to spend a few extra quid on a B&B near the venue than to try and get a crap one in the middle of nowhere where 4 people have a share a room. Also, avoid nipping back home to sleep inbetween consecutive days performances. Ie. Home is in Hackney. Don’t do Newbury, Bristol, Newport and Reading over 4 nights, punctuated by epic journeys across the M4 and Euston Rd each night to cut costs. It’s more fun to cut off your arm.
(Lauren’s addition: The cheap crap B&Bs always have the best stories attached, even if it’s traumatic at the time. I’m willing to take a few of these, even if just to tell the grandkids. In Peterborough, we paid £39 to three of us to stay in what was essentially a self-storage unit for people. It was in an industrial park, and there was a code to enter the room, rather than a key. Then you had to step over a little barrier to get in. When the delivery guy came with our take-away, he wished us luck. Giles’ single bed was above our double, which you barely had room to step around. I love it. Afterwards.)

4. Use a tour-booker

Ours takes 12.5%. She checks our contracts, chases up our fees and sells us way better that we’d sell ourselves. Trust us, they’re worth every penny.
(Lauren: Especially if you’re employing a tech or other performers, you’ll want a tour with dates close together in dates as well as geographically, and it’s just a pain if you’re trying to do that, whilst forming new relationships with a load of venues.)

5. Be nice to in-house technicians (and all other venue staff)

It makes the day more pleasant, and often they’ll be the only person who has contact with you from the venue. So if you want to go back…

6. Try to squeeze in salad and healthy food.

It’s easy to live on a diet of shit food. There are lots of motorways, and after your get-out, you’ll be lucky if MacDonalds is still open. You inevitably end up feeling tired and fat. If you see a salad or a pulse, eat it!

7. Be patient

Touring is intense. Personalities can clash and tempers can run high. Hopefully it’s because you all care about what you do. Breath and count to ten.

8. Let people do their jobs

Lighting designers, directors, technicians, marketing managers and programmers usually know their jobs better than you do. If they don’t, then let them find it out for themselves.

9. Include as many post-show talks as possible

You will embed you yourselves in the venue and really give the audience that little bit extra. They’re also fun, and the venue will usually give you and your team a free drink. Just make sure you don’t have a 4 hour drive to go, and a 9am get-in the following day, or your tech will be looking at their watch!

10. Work hard and be modest

Do your job well, perform well and don’t go around acting like you’re better than anyone else. Because you’re not. Touring is very, very hard work. It is also immensely satisfying. Definitely the most satisfying part of our job. Just remember that as you’re driving down the M1 at 1am, eating a soggy MacDonalds, because it’s the only thing that’s open.

10.5- Don’t discount the little venues, or village halls. They’re the best!