Reviews

Review: Omnium

Review by Carleigh Saberton

I had the amazing opportunity to attend Omnium’s virtual show this March! Omnium circus is all about diversity and inclusivity. This nonprofit organization features “multi-talented, multi-racial, and multi-abled performers” and has given the opportunity to all people and families to enjoy the show. Although I had a bit of trouble logging onto the show, I received help from a lovely representative and once I was there, it was very user friendly. There were 4 options that you could choose from. The Typical video included the hosts talking and signing as well as captions. The ASL video was very similar to the Typical video, both always had a way for the deaf and hearing to enjoy. They also had an audio description, where the audience can hear the dramatic music as well as a narrative of the people, actions and events taking place, and a plain language video, where the narrator spoke in a simple language that made everything very easy to understand. 

The show consisted of a variety of skills from cyr wheel to juggling, aerialists to acrobats and hoops to horses! All of the performers, from all over the world share a love of circus and have a strong appreciation of this organization. They strive to break the brand of society and embrace diversity. Watching the acts from my living room felt like being at a live performance but more exciting because we got to enjoy the incredible feats of strength from awesome camera angles and transitions. My personal favorite was Jen Bricker Bauer, an aerialist with no legs, who performed on aerial silks with her husband. Not only did she showcase her amazing aerial skills, she shared a touching moment dancing with her husband with her aerial silk ballgown. Overall, I really enjoyed the show. It was so inspiring, and I can’t wait to see how they continue to inspire people of all ages and abilities to pursue their dreams.  

Review: Artistes of Colour: Ethnic Diversity and Representation in the Victorian Circus by Steve Ward

Review by Revely Rothschild

To some, history books may seem boring– everything they discuss has already happened, so what’s the point? But from the moment I picked up Steve Ward’s Artistes of Colour: Ethnic Diversity and Representation in the Victorian Circus, I knew this wasn’t the case: the rich details and approachable writing make it a valuable and enjoyable read. Whether you know the ins and outs of Victorian circus as well as Ward, or whether this is as new of a subject to you as it was to me, you will find Artistes of Colour to be a compelling and accessible take on a largely unexplored aspect of circus history. 

Artistes of Colour is Ward’s way to celebrate those circus artists who have been unjustly forgotten, and to honor the memories of those who experienced racial discrimination during life. While the book does an excellent job of covering such a deep and important theme, it’s also a very accessible read. Each chapter covers one performer, so whether you intend to read the book cover to cover, or would prefer to read the chapters individually, you will find yourself immersed in a narrative that’s compelling for a variety of reasons. 

For one, he paints an awe-inspiring picture of all these artistes and their terrific skills (for example, one woman, Leona Dare, hung from her teeth from a hot air balloon). But it’s by using interviews, press clippings, and posters or photographs from the time that Ward really brings the performers (and society’s response to them) to life. Not only does Ward use media about the artistes, he also investigates their personal lives, and through that, these admirable circus heroes become lively, complex individuals in their own right.

Ward pays great attention to detail, not only in the lives of each individual performer, but also in the connections between all of them. One of my favorite elements of this book was the way that Ward makes references to previously-discussed performers in later chapters and describes the interactions or relationships between all the artistes. By drawing unifying ties between all the artistes, Ward reminds us of something that has always, and still is true about the circus community: no matter who you are, it can be your home.

Review by Stacy Gubar:

One may think that a non-fiction, historical novel would be overly dense and boring, but Artistes of Colour: Ethnic Diversity and Representation in the Victorian Circus by Steve Ward is anything but that. This work contains fascinating personal stories accompanied by broad overviews of the time period which creates a beautiful balance between entertaining anecdotes and important historical context. For this reason, I really enjoyed reading this book and did not find it overbearing in content at all. I also loved looking at the included timelines and pictures because they provide wonderful visuals of the discussed people and events. Additionally, they further dilute any possible insipidness and make the book very entertaining to explore. The timelines also work to contextualize and chronologize the book’s events, which ensures the work is accessible and easily comprehensible to a varied audience including adolescents like myself. In fact, the entire text is extremely well organized in a clear, logical order and includes a glossary at the end which allows readers to quickly locate sections they might wish to re-read. Furthermore, each chapter is concluded by a list of cited works which can be an invaluable resource for those wishing to learn more about the subject. I personally admire the citations because they allowed me to trust the information I was reading, and feel confident about the author’s integrity. In conclusion, I feel everyone would enjoy perusing this brilliant, accessible, and trustworthy look into the history of POC representation within the circus, and I highly recommend you give it a try.

Purchase your copy here!

Review: NECCA’s Circus Spectacular

By Stacy Gubar

Recently I had the pleasure of attending NECCA’s 11th annual Circus Spectacular show. The performance was truly incredible despite being virtual this year. NECCA admirably adapted to the current circumstances to create a beautiful programme for an admirable purpose. The board chair, Elizabeth Wohl, and Jenna Struble explained that the Circus Spectacular is the main source of fundraising for NECCA students needing financial aid, and that NECCA has recently been able to fund a blood drive, food drive, LGBTQIA+ scholarship, and BIPOC scholarship in addition to that. Additionally, the speakers acknowledged that NECCA is located on Native land and that all their work would not be possible without the sacrifice of the native people. I knew very little about the organization beforehand, but found NECCA to be a very admirable, responsible, and humble one. 

I was equally impressed and inspired by all the stunning performances the evening included. The Advanced Youth Troupe performed beautifully to the poem “Freaks” by Moo Butler. The poem was incredibly powerful and fit well with both the occasion and the choreography. The routine included fluid group dance, trapeze, ribbon (silks), German wheel, acrobatics, straps, and webs which proved to be a wonderful, varied display of circus skill. The group’s choice to wear mismatched costumes further highlighted the individuality of the performers and matched well with the poem’s message regarding inclusivity in circus. 

The next act, performed by the incredibly experienced and talented Joel Herzfeld, was simply breathtaking. It was a very creative hand balancing routine with clever theatrical aspects. Herzfeld demonstrated exemplary strength, balance, flexibility, and aptitude for fluid motion throughout the whole incredibly active routine. It was a mesmerizing and rare experience to view a hand balancing routine with so much motion and I was entranced the whole way through. 

Another very unique and seemingly gravity-defying performance was carried out by the incredible Eric Bates. This particular routine was no exception to Bates’ admirable use of performing arts to bring awareness to climate change, since the items being juggled were cigar boxes. I found this to be a very interesting choice, and one that created a juggling act unlike anything I had seen before. The routine was very active and upbeat and demonstrated such skillfulness that, in the hands of Bates, the nearly impossible feats seemed effortless. 

The next routine seemed to be equally effortless for the spectacular founder of Droplet Dance, Molly Gawlerl. It was a very beautiful, fluid routine with the Cyr wheel. Gawler and the wheel seemed to be one and the same, and were truly mesmerizing to watch. The incredible, heartfelt facial expressions Gawler displayed throughout the routine matched the music very well and added a beautiful theatrical aspect to an already stunning performance. 

Another very theatrical act was presented by Micah Ellinger and Sylvian Ramseier. They were an incredible acrobatic duo with a beautiful, highly emotional routine that I simply could not look away from. The dance elements blended wonderfully with the awe-inspiring acrobatic feats the pair displayed. Having experience with partner acrobatics myself, I was absolutely astonished by the ease with which they completed such advanced tricks. Their talent and strength made each feat seem effortless. Furthermore, they were so impossibly in sync with each other that I found it difficult to believe these incredible performers were regular humans. 

Another artist that must be extraterrestrial is the astonishing contortionist, Ariana Ferber-Carter. The routine Ferber-Carter presented at the Circus Spectacular was certainly spectacular and seemingly inhuman in the best possible way. The flexibility and fluidity demonstrated in this performance are unbeatable, and seemed so natural and effortless for this talented performer. I also really loved the shining body suit Ferber-Carter wore, and the way it emphasized the beautiful bendy positions demonstrated in the routine. 

The next routine, performed by Chloe Somers (Wailer), was a very creative, cheerful hula hoop act. I have not seen many hoop routines in my life, so I had no idea a childhood toy could be used in so many beautiful ways. Somers (Wailer)’s incredible coordination and creativity produced quite a spectacle that I could not stop staring and smiling at. I was particularly entranced when four, or perhaps it was even five, hoops were spun at once! That, as well as the entire routine, was truly incredible. 

Last but not least, Kevin Beverly and Gravity and Other Myths presented an incredible group acrobatic act. The seemingly impossible flips and leaps they performed convinced me that gravity truly is a myth for these talented artists. I also really loved the fact that the routine was performed alongside a band playing live music. As both a circus performer and ensemble flute player myself I really appreciated witnessing my two favorite things collide in such a beautiful, dynamic routine.

Despite being a virtual event this year, the 2021 NECCA Circus Spectacular was an amazing show. The combination of pre recorded acts and live, and very lively, ringmaster and emcee, Jeff Raz and Tristan Cunningham, allowed the evening to run smoothly, but feel personal as well. The concluding live Q&A with the featured performers also helped make the show feel more like an in-person experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole event, and lament the unfortunate fact that I missed Mario Diamond’s pre-show because I am certain it was wonderful as well. 

Book Review: Juggling: What It Is and How to Do It by Thom Wall

Book Stack

Pre-order your copy here! (anticipated release date 8/31/20)

Reviewer: Emily Fulton

Rating: AAA+++ I would definitely recommend this book!

Thom Wall’s latest book Juggling: What It Is and How to Do It is definitely a must-read for any aspiring juggler. Beginners and seasoned jugglers alike can all benefit from reading this comprehensive guide to the all-too-much-forgotten art of ball juggling.  

Here are a few different reasons that I think you will become obsessed with this book from the second you turn the first page:

The Why Factor

Whenever I am learning a new skill, I will often be asked to perform some minor change in form.  I often counter this with a “why”.  I know that I will be 10 x more likely to do this change every time if I know what will happen if I don’t.  One of the great things about this book is that it explains “why” you should do something, which is an area I find many similar books often fall short.

The Appendices

Another great feature of this book is the appendices.  They include some great information and really help you dive deeper into certain subjects.  For instance, if you want to learn about all different kinds of juggling balls, just head on over to Appendix C.  This lets you choose when you want to learn more about a specific topic which leads to you thoroughly enjoying your juggling practice.

Circademics

Circademics (circus-academics), a term coined by Jackie Leigh Davis, is the study of circus in development and science.  Thom frequently features studies about juggling in this book, which is great!  He even gives you free access to the short book he wrote all about circademics, called What Scientists Have to Say About Juggling.  This way if you’re really into it you can continue to study the research he briefly touches on in this book.

A Few Extra Things That Make This Book So Special:

Jay Gilligan & Fritz Grobe

Two amazing jugglers and writers, Jay Gilligan & Fritz Grobe, each write a chapter in this book.  Fritz Grobe gives you a few of his inside tips on How to Juggle In Front of an Audience.  While Jay Gilligan teaches you 10 Ways to Make A Trick.  These writers add an extra element that you just can’t find anywhere else!

An In-depth Siteswap Explanation

Siteswap is often one of those things you’ll never really learn as a beginner or hobby juggler.  You might have been taught a few different siteswap patterns and maybe even what the patterns were called.  But chances are you didn’t and won’t learn how these patterns were developed, many using a numerical system that is the foundation of many intricate patterns.  Siteswap is almost definitely not what you heard from your friend who’s brother knew someone who watched a YouTube video from some guy who didn’t really know what he was talking about.  This book explains siteswap in great detail, teaching you the science of siteswap.  

Great Diagrams and Photos

One of my favorite parts of the book is the great charts and photos that really enhance your juggling experience.  There are long-exposure photos, taken with LED juggling balls, that actually illustrate how your juggling balls will travel.  If you’re a mathy person or like numbers, this book has you covered, with number charts that will tell you how and when to throw and catch a certain ball.  But if not, don’t worry!  Thom also included some very simple, easy to understand, diagrams just for you!

The Icing On Top……It’s Not Boring At All!

By now, maybe you’re thinking, “with all this information, isn’t this just a big, boring textbook?”  Well think again!  Thom writes this book like he’s in the room with you, teaching you the ins and outs of juggling.  He’ll give you inside tips on technique and presentation, so it honestly feels like you’re having one of his top-notch private lessons.  It’s really great to have a super-amazing juggling Cirque Du Soleil performer write a book in such a personable, down-to-earth way.

In short, I truly wish I had this book when I was first learning to juggle.  Excellent information is presented in an eye catching, easy going fashion to support you on your journey to ball-juggling mastery.

Reviewer: Rachel Ostrow

Juggling: What It Is and How to Do It is an absolutely spectacular book written by expert jugglers that compiles everything there is to know about juggling technique, history, progressions, performing, and more. It especially focuses on being creative and building a good juggling foundation that can be added on to. I mean three ball tricks, four ball tricks, 5 ball tricks, balancing – this book teaches you the easiest way to do them, what you could be doing wrong, and what you never knew you were doing wrong. It has perfectly selected diagrams for the visual learners, and even mathematics to understand conceptually. I also found it fascinating how many of the tips could also be applied to training and performing for people who are professional circus artists or those who have no prior experience whatsoever. Wall eloquently explains the steps for creating an act, including how to avoid stealing sequences, which can and should be used by every performer. It was so evident that everyone writing, especially Wall, is so passionate and carry such expertise in all aspects of juggling, such that it was a complete pleasure to read.

But the true test, did this book really help with juggling? It totally did! This book is honestly such an amazing source of learning and inspiration that could get anyone excited about juggling, and the tips are so extensive and useful, anyone with a bit of motivation (which this book certainly gives you) can up their juggling skills exponentially!

Pre-order your copy here! (anticipated release date 8/31/20)

Book Review: Body Talk, Basic Mime by Mario Diamond

By Julaine Hall

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Body Talk, Basic Mime by Mario Diamond is a fabulous guide for anyone interested in learning about mime. I read it having very little mime, basic theater, and some clown knowledge and benefited from it very much. Sure, one can do impressive athletic feats on stage and their audience will clap, but as artists it is our duty to give the audience the best possible experience while still being true to ourselves. Adding a bit of mime, clown, more intention with your movements, or simply thinking about proven techniques to make sure the audience can read your message well can be a great way to elevate your act to the next level. In the beginning, both the forward and introduction had me hungry for more knowledge on the art of mime. After this was a small section of definitions all for the  very same word: mime! Very detailed chapters filled with thoughtful exercises for each body part will cause you to consider the intention you give your movements with a new light. Also included was a thorough portion filled with information on The Seven Axes of mime (The Axes are a way of dividing the body into smaller expressive sections which you will learn more about if you read this book!) We then dive deeper into postures, energy and movement, general exercises such as imitating Chaplin and animals, visual effects, pantomime, and finally, improvisation. From this book, I gained an array of ideas to try to add to some of my old acts or incorporate into my new ones. It is a wonderful resource and I highly recommend it for anyone even the slightest bit interested in anything that has to do with the stage! Or as the dedication in the front says, “To anyone with a need to express themselves and cannot find the words.”

Book Review: Juggling – From Antiquity to the Middle Ages by Thom Wall

Book Review by Julaine Hall

In essence, this book is an in-depth look at many ancient practices of juggling, how society saw jugglers, and other interesting cultural tid-bits! One thing that makes this book truly astounding is something Mr. Wall mentioned towards the beginning of his book, “As with dance, so with juggling—the moment that the performer finishes the routine, their act ceases to exist beyond the memory of the audience.  There is no permanent record of what transpired, so studying the ancient roots of juggling is fraught with difficulty.” His works cited section has over 20 pages of sources! Much like an act jam packed with difficult skills, this book is jam packed with interesting fact after interesting fact and must’ve took countless hours of preparation and hard work before it was ready to put in front of the audience. Countries and civilizations the book focuses on include; Ancient Egypt, Israel & Babylon, India, Turkey, China, Japan, Russia, The British Isles, Spain, The South Pacific, Mexico, the Vikings, and Indigenous and Nomadic Cultures. Countries appear as chapters and each chapter covers a new set of topics. I found much enlightening information such as, juggling appears to have been a mostly female dominated activity in ancient Egypt, the South Pacific, and other areas. Also, William the Conquerer established a position called Royal Juggler which lasted around 500 years! It is quite interesting to look back at each juggling culture and compare it to our own. I would recommend this book to anyone wishing for some background information on the craft of juggling and circus arts in general (because as I learned in the book, the word, “juggle,” defines a broad range of definitions)! Thom Wall’s “Juggling- From Antiquity to the Middle Ages” is not only an enjoyable and informative book, it is also quite an impressive one! I am astounded at Mr. Wall’s depth of research and love for the subject.

Click here to learn more about or purchase the book! 

REVIEW: The Greatest Showman

Warning: May contain spoilers!

If you have an interest in the circus, you probably know that there isn’t always as much hype around the subject as other sports or activities get, especially in the media. However, the new musical movie “The Greatest Showman,” told the story of mister P.T. Barnum, founder of the Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Circus. The movie brought the viewers through a heartwarming tale of how Barnum brought misfits together, through catchy songs and colorful visuals. The movie tells of Barnum’s want to have an amazing, magical life for him and his family. In the movie, Barnum is portrayed as a fun, inspiring man, but in real life that wasn’t exactly the case.

Barnum was driven to become wealthy and well known. In the movie, his first act towards this goal is the purchase of the American Museum. The movie leaves out altogether his first endeavor, the purchase of a black woman named Joice Heth, who he showcased claiming she was 161 years old. Encouraged by the hype around this impossibly old woman, Barnum then purchased the American Museum in New York City, which contained stuffed and wax animals and “curiosities.” Barnum built on the idea of the strange and unique, bringing in live attractions from all over that had something strange or different about them. Many were fakes and lies like the “Feejee Mermaid,” but others, such as the 25 inch Charles Stratton that we saw in the movie, were quite real.

In “The Greatest Showman,” P.T. Barnum left his museum to go on an American tour with the famous Swedish singer Jenny Lind. This was a part in the movie where we saw his flaws, as Barnum left his friends in order to be a part of a higher social class. Before the tour, Barnum had never heard Lind sing, which proves how desperate he was to be remembered as more than a museum owner. Like in the movie, the tour ended early, but not because of a scandalous relationship between Lind and Barnum. Neither were interested in being more than business partners, but they got in a fight that made Lind want to return home to Europe. After the scandal in the movie, Barnum returned to his friends, realizing he shouldn’t have ever left. In reality, he wasn’t the good man who learned his lesson that Hugh Jackman portrays in The Greatest Showman. Although a few “oddities” were also his friends, like Charles Stratton, Barnum was more obsessed with creating spectacles to the public, and making a name for himself. He got to where he was and became so successful mainly because of his lies and scams. For example, the “Feejee Mermaid,” was a source of attraction that he marketed as a beautiful woman with the tail of a fish, but was actually the head of a monkey sewn onto a fishtail.

In 1865, the American Museum burned down, like in the movie. All the employees escaped and no human lives were lost, but some animals weren’t able to escape, and the museum was unsalvageable. Barnum set out to reopen a new museum within a year of the burning of the first one. However, the new museum was heated using boilers, which were new and not very well tested. The second museum burned down to a boiler explosion in 1868. It wasn’t until the end of his career that Barnum became affiliated with the circus. He was in his sixties when he first teamed up with a traveling show in 1871 that he called “The Greatest Show on Earth,” something you’ve probably heard before. By 1875 he had full ownership of the show, and in 1881 he teamed up with James A. Bailey and James L. Hutchinson from the Great International Circus, to form and manage Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey’s Circus, which is still referred to as “The Greatest Show on Earth” today.

Although the real P.T. Barnum wasn’t the good man we saw in “The Greatest Showman,” he celebrated the odd and the unusual the way we still do in the circus. By creating a museum of things that people hadn’t seen before, he demonstrated the spirit of accepting and praising people for being unique. The movie may have not been one hundred percent accurate, but it honored the beautiful message that we have in the circus today. Every single person is at least a little different, learns a little differently, performs a little differently, or has different strengths. Like the movie demonstrated, we all have a place in the circus because all our strengths and specialties end up fitting together perfectly. As a quote from “The Greatest Showman” says, “No one ever made a difference by being like everyone else.”

– Annika

REVIEW: A Cirque Nutcracker

A Cirque Nutcracker is the traditional tale with a twist, the original story presented in a humorous new way! A seasonal production at the Mesa Arts Center in Phoenix, AZ featuring Troupe Vertigo and the Phoenix Symphony, one word to describe A Cirque Nutcracker is ‘creative.’ The choreography, the storyline adaptation, and use of costumes to accentuate movements were all very inventive. As a lover of glitter, I adored the shiny and sparkly costumes. The main acrobat’s costume was wisely and carefully crafted. Her black and white striped tights emphasized her bizarre flexibility.

I found it comforting and inspiring as an aerialist to hear the crowds’ gasps whenever the entertainers displayed their unordinary talents. The passion and determination each artist held was revealed through their art. The performers were not the only impressive piece of the show, however. The Phoenix Symphony played beautifully and no mistake was heard to the untrained ear. Aspiring performers should audition for next year’s performance to gain experience!

– Cailey

INTERVIEW and REVIEW: PARAMOUR and KYLE DRIGGS

Kyle Driggs and Allie, photo by Lilly Voltaggio

Paramour is a story of a simple love triangle, but the activity around the story makes the show a spectacle.  Not only are the music and dancing beautiful, but like any circus show, there is activity on every inch of the stage and from the ceiling to the floor!  I had the same feeling I have at any circus production — wishing I had multiple sets of eyes so I could see everything at once and not miss one performer.  Also, having tall people in front of me became a special challenge at Paramour because every inch of stage that’s obscured means missed action!

The show includes so many circus skills including juggling, acro, unicycle, mime, CYR wheel, pole, lyra, trapeze, clowning, contortion, Spanish web, and straps.  The aerialists hanging from the chandeliers made me want to go home and find something in my house to hang from.  During a dream sequence, a zombie came down from the ceiling over my head!  The show also incorporated flying drones decorated like lampshades that “danced” around the actors as they were singing.

Paramour is set to close April 16, 2017, one year from its opening date, due to planned renovations in the Lyric Theater where it is playing.  You have just a short time left to see it! I hope it will reopen in some form down the road so I can go see it again!

Thankfully, an AYCO board member helped me arrange an interview with one of the performers, juggler Kyle Driggs.  Kyle was very generous with his time and not only answered all of my interview questions about Paramour and his career, but offered advice for me to share!

Kyle began juggling as a teen and was supported by the Philadelphia Juggler’s Club.  He was also involved with AYCO member school, Philadelphia School of Circus Arts.  By the time he was a high school freshman, he knew juggling was his future.  He attributes his successful start in circus arts to the unwavering support of his parents.

In high school, Kyle mostly juggled juggling balls and clubs. In his senior year, he became interested in using rings because of the 1950s technique of rolling them around the body and over the back, coined by the Bramson Family. So when it was time for Kyle to audition for École Nationale de Cirque (ENC), the National Circus School in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, he auditioned with rings.  For three years at ENC Kyle developed his skill base and routines.  Kyle also minored in dance at ENC, which was evident in his beautiful Paramour acts.

Kyle took my family and me on a backstage tour and showed us small dressing rooms, halls lined with tons of costumes, and a wig room complete with wig drying machines, telling us, “The wigs are constantly washed and styled. They are all human hair.” He took us below the stage where eight musicians play multiple instruments each.  Violinist (and mandolin player) Paul “Woody” Woodiel described how when fellow musician Seth Stachowski is unable to perform, his position must be covered by two replacements because he plays five instruments!

The costume room at Paramour taken by Allie

The wig room at Paramour, taken by Allie

Violinist (and mandolin player) Paul “Woody” Woodiel, taken by Allie

Paramour schedule, taken by Allie

Kyle described working on Paramour as intense.  After four months of rehearsals, the show opened with eight or nine performances per week.  Usually Kyle has one day off per week and only had two weeks of vacation during the whole year.

At the end of our tour, Kyle led us to the stage and enthusiastically described his career path. Of course we wanted to know how Kyle started juggling with umbrellas — his signature object!  The story is just how you might imagine:  he was playing out in the rain one day with an umbrella, and he discovered he liked the “feeling it had”.  Kyle describes himself as an object manipulator who looks to work with objects “with charisma and feeling”. He says that the story he is telling and the feeling he is portraying is more important than technique.  Kyle described the many emails he receives from aspiring jugglers asking him what kind of umbrella he uses.  He typically answers that he feels it’s a personal choice and that he had to break hundreds of umbrellas before he found what worked for him.

Kyle Driggs answering questions from Allie, photo by Lilly Voltaggio

Kyle left me with a few interesting thoughts about ENC (Ecole Nationale de Cirque, in Canada).  He described the audition phases which include physical tests (acrobatics, physical conditioning, and flexibility) and artistic tests (dance and acting).  Kyle recommends making sure the physical tests are “easy for you” before you audition.  I expressed my personal concern about attending a college with French-based communication when I have only studied Spanish in high school.  He eased my fears, telling me that the instructors don’t only speak French to students and speaking French is not a requirement.  He called ENC the best immersion program for learning French; however, and considers himself fairly fluent now.  Kyle cautioned that his three years at ENC were very challenging and that he had to work very hard.

Kyle lives a life of an artist entrepreneur.  He said, “It is hard to make a living as an artist in the US… in Europe, it’s different.  In France, for example, the government pays artists.  In the US, you have to constantly get gigs.  And you have to pay for your own medical insurance and cover your own liability. As a freelancer, you have to have a lot of hustle.”  He described that working for Cirque du Soleil is an entirely different experience similar to working for any big corporation: you have job security and perks such as very good healthcare, but that you surrender some creative control.

Kyle values his creative control and his ownership of his own routines. In fact, though currently employed by Cirque, he legally owns the material he performs in Paramour, a situation he describes as unusual and that required extra legal advice and negotiating on his part.

Once Paramour closes, Kyle will spend June with Circus Flora in St. Louis, Missouri.  He is spending his free time applying for grants to fund his independent projects and working on his next big step in life – starting his own company to produce shows himself.  He is working with a partner/theater owner in Philadelphia to bring that dream to fruition.

Advice from Kyle:

Network.  You can’t do it alone.  Reach out to people who might be able to help you.

Go for it.  “Whole heartedly go for it!” For me as an aspiring aerialist, for example, he recommended reading and viewing on line everything there is on my tool of choice, silks.  He told me to learn everything there is to know and to study it like I would a school subject that really intrigues me, above and beyond what is assigned.

Work hard.  Working as a circus artist entrepreneur is hard work.  Prepare yourself.  Make yourself an expert at your skill, and work until the physical parts of the ENC audition are easy for you.

Circus is an opportunity:  Circus is one of the few disciplines that is still “do it yourself”.  With dance and acting, so much has already been done that it seems like you are defined (in one style) before you even go to school.  You are pigeonholed.  Circus is still undefined and open to more creative interpretation.

Final interesting tidbits:

1) The performers actually do say “hup” (softly) on stage – I wondered where it came from!

2)  Kyle won the Paramour Blooper Award for once falling off the stage during a performance!

Thank you, Kyle, for spending so much time with me!  Best wishes for the future!  I hope to see you again down the road!

– Allie

REVIEW: Kurios

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A few weeks ago, I was able to go see the then-touring production of Cirque Du Soleil’s Kurios. It was my fifth Cirque show and one that I had heard absolutely raving reviews about from all of my friends, so my expectations were set high.
It was immediately apparent to me that it would not be difficult for Kurios to meet and exceed these expectations. I was captivated from the moment I took my seat and watched a clown gag play out in the row in front of me involving three performers handing a fleece sleeping cap, a pillow, and a mobile to an audience member and instructing him to take a nap on his girlfriend’s shoulder.
The show opened with a cradle act, which was masterfully choreographed to the music and had a clear, engaging storyline. As an aerialist, I loved this act because it was one of the most technically perfect performances I’ve ever seen. The flyer’s form was simply impeccable and each skill, from the basic to the ridiculously advanced and complicated, was executed flawlessly.
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Some other acts that stood out were the hand balancing and rola bola acts. The hand balancing act, led by acrobat Andrii Bondarenko, was as technically impressive as cradle — Andrii did not wobble once, even in a one arm handstand thirty feet above the stage on a stack of chairs without a safety line — but (without giving anything away) the act also had a clever and entertaining ending that, in typical Cirque fashion, pushed conceptual and physical boundaries with its creativity and ability to surprise an audience who are convinced they know what’s coming.
The rola bola act, in short, was the most nail-bitingly terrifying act I’ve ever watched in any theatrical production. I was on the literal edge of my seat the entire act. With the combination of the level of difficulty of the tricks performed and the exceptional, suspenseful presentation of them by the lead artist in the act, I truly could not believe what I was seeing. Even several weeks removed from seeing the show, I still cannot comprehend how it is possible to balance on five rola bola tubes thirty feet above the stage.
My favorite part by far, though, was the Acronet routine that opened the second act. Essentially an extra bouncy flying trapeze net, Acronet seemed, to put it plainly, like a trampoline artist’s dream come true. The artists, wearing brightly colored fish outfits with fins framing their faces, helped bounce each other up all the way to the cupola of the tent, doing some of the most complicated tricks I’ve ever seen. The act was fast-paced and high-energy, the perfect second act opener.
Overall, Kurios was by far the best Cirque show I’ve seen so far — thanks in part to the creativity, artistry, and amazing skill of the performers in their acts but also to the beautiful bright costumes, diverse and engaging but not overpowering music, and the seamless choreography of group numbers and especially of the transitions between acts (the juggler and yoyo man were phenomenal!). Kurios was, to put it plainly, as close to perfect as you can get in absolutely every aspect.
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– Marzi