This week, I got to go to Circus Space in the only way I believe (now) that I ever could. Circomedia took me there on a field trip. Upon arrival, I was struck by the shiny glass door and hardwood flooring and yellow light. It felt more like arriving in a posh doctor’s office than a circus school. A fishbowl-like window showed me otherwise, looking past the permanent Petit Volant and into a large, blue-floored space occupied by a variety of very highly skilled circus people. The skill level struck me first. This place is a big deal. The first person I saw through that window was juggling three balls in one hand, spinning a ring on his foot, and balancing something on his head.
No, said the sarcastic voice that dominates most of my thoughts, we’re not intimidated at all.
The next most salient thing about Circus Space is that you don’t have to go outside to get anywhere. Not to the next studio, not to the next toilet. Though it was funny when the head of Fedec who also runs the school gave us faulty directions to the toilets, leaving 20 people who had no clue how to get around to storm the locker rooms in search of loos.
Given ten minutes to eat after our 3ish hour coach journey, we were whisked off to our first classes by students displaying various degrees of confusion and inconvenience. Clearly our visit was as hastily announced to our hosts as it was to us.
My group first went to ballet. I have never been so afraid of anyone in my life as I was of that teacher. I have also never so successfully performed ballet barre work. I thoroughly enjoyed the class, even if I struggled a bit (a lot). The teacher just plugged along, attending only to major disasters, speaking mostly in french ballet terms regardless of the blank looks. We imitated, she directed, we proceeded, she corrected. I want that every day. We had to leave early, alas and alack, because our poor bewildered host girl had to drag us to our corde lisse lesson.
Somewhere between ballet and the aerial lesson, I noticed that most every Circus Spacer was tall/or hench, pristinely thin/or hench, and stunning. I wondered if the quality of your headshot was part of the audition process.
The aerial lesson… there was blood (not mine) and tears (mine). I won’t even try to defend my physical state (though I had beasted myself for the last two days after a 2 week vacation on three separate aerial apparati and was coming down with a cold and still fighting off the 9 hours jetlag, the recovery from which was hindered by some serious time travel on NYE), but I did not expect to be that embarrassed. Our host girl was working on incredibly cutting edge, mostly wrap free, open balance, strength trick stuff that I had only seen in limited quantities on YouTube. I began to feel like I may have been lying for the last year when I said I did corde lisse.
I do this thing, when I’m really frustrated and short on serotonin and in a fair deal of ambient pain and also embarassed. I cry. I can’t control it. I can’t stop it. I can barely speak once it has started. Anyone that knows me understands that this is my Achilles heel bar none.
Back to the lesson. We start out with stuff I can do. My hands are caning me, but the other two in my group are fine so I whimper along. I show that I can climb and I can do front balance to splits. It is quickly pointed out that my splits are terrible and my shoulders creep up when I get comfortable in my climb. The instructor points out muscles in my back that don’t work very well. Why yes thank you, I think. But then the overly critical bitch in my head started yelling about how can I possibly suck so much so early in the lesson and from there it just spiralled out. The next few moves were things I could not do because my body wouldn’t do it or I wasn’t strong enough or what have you. But the key observation here is this: I could not do the most basic things that the rope teacher could come up with just to make the taster class possible. Thus I felt like shit. To her credit, she was incredibly sweet about the whole thing.
I had never felt so fat and uncoordinated in my life.
Joy of joys, theatre class was next. The instructor had gone to Le Cocque, the same school as Bim Mason (Circomedia’s head guy). I had pretty much resigned myself to sitting this one out, what with the misery and increasingly runny nose. But I thought I’d play along for as long as I could stand it. That lasted about 5 minutes. We played the jump-game (if you don’t know what that is, it doesn’t matter and you aren’t missing much). I happened to be standing right next to the teacher. I had done something wrong. The entire class was laughing at me. I did not care. They usually do that. What I did care about was when I was confused and did it wrong again, she grabbed on to my wrist like I was recalcitrant child about to be beaten with a ruler. I quickly plucker her grip off me with a vocal directive of “Excuse me? Don’t touch me. I don’t know you.” And proceeded to leave the game and “observe” the rest of the class. I might have received more of her direct attention than anyone else in the class. After handing out a directive to their smaller groups (they had to sculpt letters of the alphabet out of their people), she totally ignored the groups and chatted excitedly to Bim as if they were old school chums. Then the two of them would watch the letter construction, assign new letters, and get back to chatting. I hoped this wasn’t representative of the normal class.
But wait, I’ve forgotten the entire mission of this review. The floors. It’s like they actually believe their students are athletes and that injury is more likely when people are cold. The floors are heated. The rooms are heated. I was not cold anywhere in the building. People all around us were making very highly skilled and epic (if artistically atrophied) works of circus, and the Circomedians were admiring the floors.
I think, as a Circomedian who has briefly experienced Circus Space, that this observation is very telling of the two schools. Tim said “If it looks like nice and it’s safe, we like it.” Circus space is making “competent skill sets”. The Circomedians asked what the mission of the Circus Space was and that’s what we got. Circomedia makes artists with numb toes and open eyes, who can churn out challenging pieces every two weeks. Circus space makes skilled athletes who can make a Cirque quality piece with Cirque quality skills… in 5 months. I’m not saying either of these things are better. But I’m surprised that in the womb-like warmth and towering height of the main studios, there isn’t more art breeding in the corners; that the “looks nice, is safe” idea has elevated itself to aesthetic.