The Intersections Between Circus and Other Art Forms

By Maia Castro-Santos

Art is typically divided into different categories and mediums, but often the skills from one art form overlap with others. Circus is no exception. Experience in other artistic mediums will help circus performers of all levels and ages.  

Music:

Music and circus have always gone hand in hand. Songs enhance the energy and tone of an act and are much more than just a backing track. How well the choreography works with the music can make the difference between a mediocre act and one that receives a standing ovation. A circus act that is well timed with the crescendos and percussive drops of the music will always have a greater lasting impact on the audience. Circus artists with a musical background are likely able to identify and describe more subtle musical cues and timing when working with other artists or a composer. Not to mention, if you write music, you can compose for your own act to get the perfect sound!

Sewing:

Sewing is a ubiquitous and important life skill — one that I do not have. Despite how much I personally dislike sewing, I have come to appreciate its value in the circus community. Sewing skills can save you in the moment if a costume loses a button backstage and needs a quick fix. They can also be extremely useful in the longterm for costume creation and adjustment. Finding the perfect costume for your act is not only a difficult and tedious task, but also an expensive one. You might spend all day looking for costumes (on Amazon, dance wear stores, or independent sellers of circus-specific costumes) and still not find what you’re envisioning. And whatever you CAN find might be way out of your budget. Any freelance artist knows that independence and autonomy are just as important as cooperation and community. While it is great to perform with a costumer on hand, that is often not an option. Being proficient in sewing will help any circus performer in the long run.

Visual art:

Art is often divided into two forms: performance art and visual art. But really if you think about it, most performance art is also visual, since the audience is looking at the performer. Experienced visual artists have a better understanding of how to harmonize different colors — which can be useful for making decisions in lighting and costuming for an act. Additionally, an eye for balance and an understanding of graphic design helps with promotional work like making posters to advertise a gig.

Film:

Most circus is performed live in front of an audience: on stage or in the ring. However, with the rapid growth of social media, youtube, and other video sharing platforms, many performance art forms have adapted to be compatible with these services as well. Not to mention that over the past several months — with social distancing regulations in place — most live performances have been out of the question. Combining circus and video is more important now than ever before, and film is certainly a medium with advantages and limitations. On the one hand, a camera can never offer the same energy as a live audience which makes it harder to be engaging and connect with the viewer. Without applause, it can be challenging to maintain pacing and stamina. On the other hand, film can provide unique perspectives and angles of circus acts that are not traditionally seen. Cropping, scaling, and changing the speeds of clips can offer countless creative opportunities not available to live performance. Not to mention, if you mess up a trick, you can just try again.

There are countless other art forms that intersect and overlap with circus, and these are just a few examples. Hopefully this blog post has provided some recognition to artists of all types in the circus community, or maybe it has inspired you to pick up a new artistic hobby. Or maybe it’s had absolutely no impact on you, but you’ve read this far, so I hope that you moderately enjoyed it. Keep training and keep creating!

This is an act I performed and edited for the Circus Smirkus online season premiere at the beginning of the summer. I was very disappointed to not tour this summer, but I appreciated this opportunity to combine my interest for videography with act creation. Music: Tristan Moore

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