It’s easy to take on different roles in different kinds of circus relationships. Some friends are more like mentors, some are like apprentices, and others are just sorta friends you hang out with. It all the depends on the circumstances where you meet.
Recently, Julaine Hall and Jordan Rempel-White, both Hup Squad members and students at the School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (SANCA), sat down together to talk about circus friendships – with each other and other people. Julaine and Jordan both took a straps class at SANCA not long ago and became closer through it. They also both performed solo straps acts at SANCA‘s annual spring showcase. How do circus relationships differ and how are they similar? Every circus relationship has a story.
Jordan Rempel-White (JR) – Hey, it’s great to see you!
Julaine Hall (JH) – You too!
JR – How’s training been? I see you have pole face all over your neck. (Pole face is when the rubber coating of a Chinese pole rubs on the skin near or on the face making you look like a chimney sweep.)
*We both start laughing and the conversation totally derails, a few minutes later we continue*
JH – Yeah! I’ve been trying to train pole more recently since I came back from the big top tour. I did a rope act there, so I didn’t get a lot of time to train pole. But now that I’m back I’ve been training it more to get ready for an audition.
JR – That’s awesome! Good luck!! How did your relationships with your friends at Smirkus differ from the ones you have at SANCA?
JH – My friendships at Smirkus were very durable. Because we spent so much time together traveling and working together we all had to get along really well. But since we were all striving for a common goal it made it really easy. I’d call every trooper a close friend. They’re like a second family! I think my friendships at SANCA are much more varied.
JR – Really? How so?
JH – Well I befriend lot of people in the younger performance groups and in other classes, but with Cirrus, the performance group I’m in, it feels like a little more business-like than at Smirkus. (Cirrus is the oldest performance group at SANCA (ages 12-18) Nimbus (ages 9 to 12) and Stratus (ages 5 to 9) are two younger performance groups also at SANCA. Julaine has been a member of all three and is a member currently of Cirrus.) But now it’s my turn to ask you! How the tables have turned!
*We collapse into giggles as Julaine accidentally throws a pencil across the room. Conversation continues several minutes later*
JH – Who do you think your first circus friend was?
JR – Yikes, that’s a tough one. I think my first close circus friend was in a couple aerial classes with me, and then a tumbling class, so we really were able to bond over all of our miraculous failings together.
JH – That’s definitely a good way to bond. It takes 1,000 tries to get a skill, and boy, do we know that. Training is a great way to get close with someone.
JR – Very true. That reminds me of our straps class.
JH – And all the bruises too, from all the failed star roll ups we did.
JR – Yeah, I remember after accidentally bending my arm one too many times during a roll up in class, I went home with massive bruises on my upper arms, but unfortunately forgot about them the next day when I went to go see a play with my school.
JH – Ooch, what happened?
JR – I was in a rush leaving the house and forgot to wear long sleeves, so when I was using the bathroom during intermission, like 3 people came up to make and asked me if I was doing okay and my home life was safe for me. They then told me I could borrow their phones if I needed to call a hotline.
JH – Oh, no! What did you say to them?
JR – I tried explaining that it was all from circus, however I think the idea that I willingly let it happen to me via circus worried them more.
JH – Ack, I can feel their disapproving stares from here.
JR – *shivers*
JH – Straps are really nothing to worry about though. They just hurt.
JR – And give wicked bruises.
JH – True true. Well I have to get back to training, but it was awesome talking to you!
JR – You too! It was really fun to catch up. See you around!
JH- You too!
Going to the circus is an amazing experience. Audiences are always blown away by all the talent. However, when you buy tickets and plan out your night at the circus, you are expecting to be impressed by the spectacle. Running across circus when you aren’t expecting it can be a completely different experience.
The circus used to be somewhere you’d go to see strange and amazing things, and usually wasn’t as common in everyday life. However, circus artists don’t have to just “run away with the circus” anymore, and live on the road. Although that’s still an option, many performers are finding new ways to make a living with what they can do. Circus artists can be found touring with singers and appearing in their music videos, in advertisements, and even as internet memes.
Circus in the music industry is becoming more popular. For example, the famous singer Pink is known for performing aerials while singing. She was inspired to learn circus arts at a Cher concert, where there were backup dancers performing aerial silks. She met with one and asked her to teach her how to perform while singing. The aerialist had Pink first learn how to sing while being punched in the stomach, to show how difficult performing while singing would be. Now, Pink performs aerial arts while singing quite regularly when performing.
Another unusual place to find circus is in advertisements and music videos. For example, there’s a juggler in an advertisement for the Apple Watch. Many other advertisements include circus disciplines – I’ve also seen acrobatics, tightwire, and teeterboard!
Many music videos also include circus, such as the new Jason Mraz song, Have It All.
Some circus videos have been shared with a funny caption and shared on the internet. Although it’s common for amazing circus skills to be shared through social media, it’s usually only on circus accounts that you’ll find it. However, this image from a teeterboard video can be found on several relatable comedy accounts that have nothing to do with circus.
Museums and art events
Contemporary circus can be super popular as a visual art experience, not just through the skills but through the creativity of the apparatus and performance put together. For example, Yoann Bourgeois’s tramp wall performance called The Mechanics of History at the Pantheon in Paris includes an interesting mechanical apparatus that rotates.
Using technology to share skills and creations is easier than ever, which allows circus artists more and more opportunities for performing – and not always in the ring. It’s incredible how technology has been able to make the circus community even more inclusive and rewarding than it already was.
“Gliders, sailplanes, they are wonderful flying machines. It’s the closest you can come to being a bird.” – Neil Armstrong
Flying is one of the few things humans aren’t able to do by ourselves. We have figured out how to create machines that will carry thousands of pounds and hundreds of people across the sky, and we’ve even learned how to jump from those machines. But unlike a bird, we still can’t fly on our own. However, in the mid-1800s a young French man named Jules Léotard created a miraculous invention. He created the flying trapeze. (His name didn’t stick to the trapeze art he invented – instead it attached itself to the costume he flew in – the leotard.)
The flying trapeze has evolved since the day of Jules Léotard. It no longer swings over a pool, like when it was first invented, but instead over a net.
To get up to the board you jump off of to start swinging, you first have to climb up a long ladder. This always feels as though it takes longer than the actual flying, but that’s just your imagination! The board on many flying trapeze rigs tends to be pretty small, but some boards are much bigger, almost double in width – closer to the size of a park bench.
Then comes the trapeze bar, which is bolted into an overhead beam via cables, somewhere in the front third of the rig. The trapeze bar is hooked from where it hangs straight down and is swung up to the board by a thin PVC pipe with a hook on the end called a ‘noodle’. The distance from the board to the trapeze varies from rig to rig, but generally, an adult-sized person should be able to reach the bar by standing on the edge of the board and reaching out. At the far end of the rig is the catcher’s bar. This is what the catcher will climb up to and then swing from in order to catch you.
The flying trapeze rig I fly on at SANCA looks like this:
After you’ve flown your trick a couple times without fail, you get to the most exhilarating part: catching. This is where your catcher will climb up a rope to reach the catcher’s bar, hang upside down, and swing toward the board (although they’re still pretty far away). At the top of their arc, they’ll say, “Ready… hup!” You then do your trick, and at the end of the trick, right when the arcs of the two swinging trapezes line up, you’ll let go of the bar, and get caught by your catcher. It’s one of the most magical moments in flying trapeze. It was that moment of the catch when I realized I could fly forever and never get bored.
I’ve been flying for a little under a year now and I love the freedom you feel when you’re in the air. It’s something that you can’t really understand until you’ve felt it yourself. The feeling of coming down after a successful catch and the world flaring back into life when you come back down to earth. Flying is something that empties your mind and fills your soul with all that it could possibly need. Flight.
“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” – Leonardo da Vinci
You might have an act that’s beautifully choreographed, but sometimes you want a charismatic personality to go with it! However, character creation can be hard – I face this challenge often when creating acts. Here are the steps that I go through to bring my character to life, and the questions I ask myself:
Music & mood
How does your character feel? My inspiration for acts usually comes from a song. Some music just feels like you need to perform to it. Once I choose a song, I think about the mood of the music. Is it a happy song, or a sad song? Angry, or hopeful? That gives me insight on how I want my character to feel and act.
Goals & purpose
What does your character want? Are they trying to get somewhere or do something? What are they doing here? Your character’s goal could be part of your act, and communicated to the audience using actions or props. The story could be centered all around this goal. Or, you could ignore the goal. It does not have to be important or conveyed to the audience in any way during your act. It is still good for you to know what your character’s goal is because it will help you act their personality.
How does your character move? What will they be doing? You should know how they walk, talk, and carry themself. How will they carry out their actions during your act? Perhaps they walk slowly, with long strides, or maybe they leap lightly on their toes. What do they do when they feel exited, or scared? What expressions do they make? You want the audience to know how the character is feeling so act, act, act!
I hope this helped you in developing your character. I find these steps very helpful and I hope you do too. Good luck!
For many of us in circus arts, the majority of our time is spent training and building strength, so when it’s time to create an act it can be difficult to know where to start. Here is my ten step process for piece creation. It’s made up from my perspective as an aerialist, tips from my favorite coaches, and lessons I’ve learned through trial and error. While it works for me, it might not be just right for you, so feel free to blend it with your own creativity and experiences, and advice from your favorite coaches and mentors.
Document Your Training: This step comes before you know even know you need to create an act! Building skill sets and strength is important, but spend some training time just messing around with your apparatus or props. Try to just flow for a few minutes and MAKE SURE TO FILM IT! Filming this creative time will allow you to look back on it and keep skills or pathways that you think are pretty or pleasing. Filming also helps you see how fluid your transitions are and where you can improve. You may also want to purchase a training notebook and write down these sequences, so you can delete some footage from your camera.
Evaluate the Mood and Character of the Event: When you are asked to perform, think about the purpose and tone of the event. Is it a party? A fundraiser? Is there a theme? Who will be in the audience? What is the venue like? Write down any information and thoughts you have about the event in your training notebook.
Pick Music to Set a Mood: Look back at your event evaluation. If there is a theme, such as Halloween, then pick something spooky or foreboding, and not a feel good pop tune. If there is no particular theme but you know the event is an elementary school fundraiser, there are probably going to be a lot of kids, so choose a song with family friendly lyrics. Finally think about what you want to do. Do you want to do a fast-paced piece or something slower? How do you want the audience to feel during your piece? Taking all these things into consideration will help you choose music that fits your goals, as well as the mood and character of the event.
String Together Sequences: Using sequences you saved from training documentation, and your music, start stringing together sections you like. Use the music to help you find out what goes where. If there is a speed up in the music, maybe choose an easier sequence and save more difficult moves for a slower section. Remember to think about your personal strengths and what you can do safely and beautifully. Also consider the space you will be working in before you add large moves like swinging, orbiting, or spinning.
Do It Through a Few Times: Look for timing weirdness, awkward moments, and places that are difficult, or things that you just plain don’t like. If possible film it and mark these moments in your notes so you can remember them.
Revise and Polish: Use your film and notes to find the parts of your act that are the most rough, unpolished or difficult. Make your revisions and do the piece again. Film it so that you can look at it later, and repeat Step 6 as needed!! I usually do separate “revise and polishes” for tricks, any music cues, and cleaning up transitions.
Make It Shine: Film the last iteration of your piece and pay attention to small details such as facial expressions, hands, toes, or any frilly fancy bits. Go back to Step 3 and ask yourself, “Does this fit my character/ mood? Is there something I should change so this more accurately transmits the mood or theme?”
Pick a Costume: Although it’s not the most important part of a piece, a costume that makes you feel super secure and confident is a real benefit. When considering a costume also consider lighting, the color of your background, the mood of your piece, and the event. Once you have it, do the piece a few more times to make sure the costume fits well, and helps you feel confident on stage.
Repeat, Repeat, Repeat: In the days leading up to your performance try to do your piece a few extra times in full costume and with music if possible, this can help reassure you that you know what you are doing and that you look great!
Mark Through the Final Minutes: Before you go on stage, mark through your piece at least twice on the ground. “Marking through” means to move as though you are on your apparatus, this helps jog your memory of the act. Right before you go on stage, take a few deep breaths and stand confidently. Then, get out there and show ’em what you got!
Hello! My name is Eva Lou and I created a special hula-hoop tutorial for my fellow AYCO youth member: Toes to Nose! I’m so excited to be sharing some of my tips for all of you to use in your future hula-hooping.
I’ve been hula-hooping for around five years. I started by taking a fun class with my mom, and it eventually evolved into performing all the time at different events. I’ve had so much fun learning cool moves and am glad to share some of them with you. There are tips for everyone, including beginners who just know how to waist hoop and more advanced hoopers who want to learn to nose hoop.
Thank you for taking the time to watch my tutorial. Just remember: don’t get frustrated with your progression, and always keep trying to improve your skill set!
– Eva Lou