other

ffffound.com

Yes, yes…the circus is bright and magical and glamorous, with all of the trappings and trimmings of the Big Top’s majesty…but there is a seamy underside to its outskirts. As you make your way toward the periphery, you find yourself toeing the margins of society and yet, also spiraling inward, more deeply aware of the sense of self. It is here that you witness what may only be summed up as ‘other’. Is it a mirror for your own secret suffering? Is it your greatest fear made manifest in human form? What the hell is that?! Why, it’s a freak show of course!

The defining factor for the term freak is that it refers to something unusual–a trait, behavior or event that is out of the ordinary. This deviation from what is considered normal or common creates a certain tension…a tendril of curiosity grows toward these slightly “off” subjects, inciting further observation even when the subject is macabre, unsettling or otherwise repulsive to the observer–so much so that they may find it difficult to tear their eyes away.

The kinds of things that traditionally categorized one as a freak were often medical anomalies, but I wonder if these physiological conditions weren’t more prolific than the general public knew. Shame likely caused people to hide or minimize such attributes. However, these anomalous characteristics have been displayed for entertainment purposes as living (or preserved) human curiosities for many centuries.

Below is a trailer for Tod Browning’s 1932 film Freaks which essentially tells the entire story in so many clips. Unfortunately, this film was met with much dissension in its time and was regarded as a blemish on his film-making career. I personally really enjoyed it, though it is darker than I tend to prefer.

Jojo; phreeque.tripod.co

Anna Jones; sideshowworld.com

Humans are animals–mammals to be precise, and one of the things that distinguishes mammals from other organisms is that they possess hair. Our ancestors were hair-covered creatures and some of us have retained more of that trait than others, which means practically nothing in the grand scheme of things. We have built certain cultural stigmas around the presence of hair, especially around gender. I know countless females with body and facial hair that exceeds cultural norms (myself included)–some to rival that of males; I would like to posit that facial and body hair (even relatively profuse amounts) is not inherently a masculine trait, since females commonly possess it. That just makes sense to me. I’m glad that I tend to live amongst communities that accept feminine fur as normal and wouldn’t bat an eyelash if I brandished my unshaven armpits or the whiskers on my chin. Three cheers for radical rationalism and acceptance!

Bearded ladies were always a hit at the freak show–some famous ones are celebrated at sideshow world.

phreeque is a fun website that offers the biographies for some of the most well-known sideshow performers throughout history. It’s done up in an artistic style true to the traditional hand-painted banners which advertised acts.

One of the reasons I am so interested in the history and culture of freaks is that I identify with them, given the handful of freak categories I fit into.

As a child, I was generously outfitted with a head of long, thick hair as well as dark, unruly hair on my arms and legs. This was passed down to me by my mother, who got it from her mother, and so on. It was around the time that I started being made fun of for my hairy little body that I realized my particular differences could be the source of ridicule and also have the unfortunate side effect of making me less attractive to others. Tah-dah! Enter self-awareness. I came to understand that my body hair was perceived as unsightly and masculine, animalic and even considered to be the trait of a monster…perhaps a saskwatch or a werewoman, as some mischievous kids had dubbed me. The hair was but one part of what estranged me from that ever-important topic: my gender. I didn’t feel like a “normal” feminine girl but I was definitely not a boy either. There were other elements involved.

I grew up in a small factory town in the midwest, surrounded by rows upon rows of corn, soy beans and hog farms. Almost all of the people I regularly saw were white, able-bodied, heteronormative and Christian. There was a sense of homogeneity into which I could tell that I did not blend.

ThePlatform.info

As an eight year old, I realized that as far back as I could remember I’d engaged in sexualized play with female friends and that I had very strong desires to continue doing so…I frequently had lustful dreams about faceless or unfamiliar girls. I didn’t know anyone that was homosexual, so naturally I had an emotional breakdown–I had absolutely no way to comprehend what that would mean for me and my life. Television was my only window into the world at large and Madonna was the only person I could think of that was queer; for whatever reason, she wasn’t any consolation. I felt deeply ashamed and certain that my whole world would disintegrate if I admitted my desire for members of my own sex, so I let it slip from my conscious mind for about seven years. I thusly lived in the strange land of repression and denial, where mental illness anchored itself and unleashed its chaos.

In my mid-teenaged, non-conformist rebellion, I was able to let the truth surface about all of my perceived differences which threatened to cause me shame. I did so with flourish and psychotic abandon because I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I was a freak. I wore it in my garish or goth-inspired appearance, my brazen attitude and shocking behavior, in my self-inflicted scars. Though it might have served a similar social function, my freakishness wasn’t confined to a platform in a tent and I wasn’t being paid to perform. It was purgative volunteer work in the field, I suppose.

sideshowworld.com

Sexuality and gender tend to be intertwined in quite the tangle. Gender ambiguity has been addressed in freak shows through the typical representation of a truly bisexual person: the Half and Half. Split precisely down the middle, these characters are the freak show’s way of exhibiting hermaphrodites (without showing genitals). This is obviously a fabrication–the performers would simply use makeup, costumery and acting to highlight their supposedly separate identities; some actually exercised their “male half” exclusively to achieve a more defined difference between the two. These performers may or may not have actually been intersexed.

Barbette by Man Ray

According to the Intersex Society of North America, approximately one in 1,500 – 2,000 babies are born with ambiguous genitalia (more info here), though this number is likely inaccurate if you consider that symptoms can be expressed later in life. Doctors and parents often make the decision about which sex the child will be and the child doesn’t always grow up feeling like the assigned gender. Many people don’t identify with their assigned gender even without the physiological ambiguity; there are a whole selection of labels one can apply when shifting into what feels more appropriate.

“Third sex” or intermediate gendered people often don’t fit into either category of male or female. This is a particularly interesting subject because our society is so heavily influenced by and reliant upon its binary gender system. Many other cultures recognize another gender expression that is neither male nor female, or sometimes both–the hijra of South Asia, for example, or the Two-Spirit people of Native American cultures. Gender and sexuality isn’t as clear cut as some would like to make it and the freak show allows us a place to examine caricatures of this aspect of being.

Saartjie Baartman, graegram.com

People of ethnicities other than Euro-American have been displayed in pseudo-scientific “ethnographic” exhibits, both in the U.S. and abroad. The representation of people of color as “wild savages” was created through the use of props, costumes and imposed behavior; these exhibits were allegedly intended to teach about the anthropology of other cultures, though the “specimens” and information were often falsified or erroneous. Mostly, it peddled sensational ignorance and pandered to colonialist fantasies and fetishized exoticism. These demeaning, dehumanizing exhibits only served to further deepen the racial chasm, causing outrage in many audience members and, conversely, providing justification in the minds of the bigoted ones.

Whereas most freak show performers were exhibiting themselves consensually, there are cases where some were not free to choose otherwise.

Saartjie (Sarah) Baartman was a Khoisan woman sold into slavery and then exhibited in England and France as the “Hottentot Venus”, both as a scientific specimen and as a freak. Read a synopsis of her story by clicking this link: graegram.com

Ota Benga "Cannibal; Gerhard Sisters

Ota Benga was a Batwa man who was exhibited at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, and then at the Bronx zoo in 1906. Although the zoo is not technically a freak show, Benga was held captive in the Monkey House where he was given the “wild savage” treatment by the employees of this institution, making a solitary act of him. Click the link below to see a brief version of his story: environmentalgraffiti.com

Freak shows are an excellent platform for witnessing how we as a society and as individuals perceive all things “other”. People may fear the display of differences because it threatens their own perceptions of what is normal, ideal or beautiful. Are many of these perceptions merely an adherence to somewhat arbitrary cultural norms which dictate what is acceptable? Mainstream standards tend to favor a very narrowly conceived, airbrushed “perfection” to what is real–to what is actually normal. It’s certainly more convenient to go along with the powerful majority than it is to define for oneself what is good, true and beautiful, especially at the risk of being rejected and alienated.

We all hold fears that something about ourselves is abnormal or shameful; perhaps our fascination with and rejection of such differences is related to that fear. Freak shows have exploited this insecurity–this hunger to identify abnormality–and have used it as a means by which to pay their performers’ wages. In essence, the audience tries to buy the illusion of reassurance that they are normal, under the guise of entertainment. Were it not for this system, the performers might have suffered from unemployment due to whatever characteristic they possessed that got them into the freak show. From this perspective, the performers own their unique qualities and turn the power paradigm on its head.

I personally value assemblages of oddities and curiosities (including the freak show) because I want to acknowledge and celebrate the immense and glorious variation in humans and nature in general. It is precisely this variation–this diversity–which keeps us stimulated as individuals and which makes our species and cultures resilient.

For more information, I encourage you to read Sideshow U.S.A: Freaks and the American Cultural Imagination by Rachel Adams, which has been my best source for academic research on freaks. I appreciate that she brings examples from other art forms into her analysis of freak culture, such as cinema, photography and literature. She discusses much of what I have touched on here in far greater detail and superior eloquence.

I also encourage you to leave comments!

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cirque nouveau

Circus Circus Pintarest

For eight weeks, I’ve been immersed in the wonderful world of the circus past; though its historical grandiosity remains unmatched in the present day, I am aware of a few remnants which bear the particular flavor I favor. Though few and far between, they do exist–vestigial traits persist.

Evolutionary offshoots are lower-profile these days, often eschewing the three-ring style. Some are even outdoor performances unassociated with that nostalgic beacon of joy–the big top tent. They no longer send agents to plaster your town’s buildings with thousands of advertisements and they definitely forgo the morning parade, replete with menagerie…most don’t even have a menagerie. Circuses and their descendants crop up from time to time for those who pay attention, be it in the ads of alternative rags or those who are magically called to it pied piper style.

The circus shares many similarities with traveling carnivals, which feature similar types of acts, often in addition to an assortment of rides. It’s also related to vaudeville and has been since it was born–the same for burlesque; vaudeville acted as an outlet for performers of all types, including acrobats, burlesque dancers, animal acts and sideshow performers. These circus cousins have proliferated and seem to have picked up the entertainment slack in these modern times, all encrusted in Swarovski, humor and sexuality, making old tricks look new again amidst anachronistic affectations.

Burlesque has gained quite a following and is now accepted by more of mainstream culture than ever before–it is an empowering art, hoisted up jubilantly and thrust heavenward by thousands of sex-positive feminists, by body-positive people of all colors and genders, by doctors and lawyers and mothers and…well, you get the picture. I’m most familiar with the burlesque community in Seattle, which is rather rich and thriving. I attended last year’s Capitol Hill Chamber of Commerce fundraising event which featured burlesque performances and at one point, the MC talked about how it was totally appropriate and in good taste for the fancy business owners and city government folks to be celebrating with and supporting these performers. There are many youtube videos that you can find of some of my favorite performers–Miss Indigo Blue (the reigning Queen of Burlesque), Shanghai Pearl, the Luminous Pariah, Waxie Moon, and so many other greats…or better yet, go see their shows! Many of them tour!

Speaking of Seattle, I’d like to tell you a story. Ahem: One fateful, late-summer evening in 2006, I was sitting on the porch with my roommate when a big van approached our curb. Out jumped a motley bunch who asked if it was alright if they parked there; we blinked our wide eyes (blinkblink) and managed to agree. I felt dumbstruck for some reason; I could feel an air of peculiarity swirling about them that I couldn’t quite lay my finger upon. Alas, they were very friendly and we engaged them long enough to receive an invitation to their performance at the New Belgium Brewery’s Tour de Fat the next afternoon. The next day came and off we went, our beers in hand to stand in the hot sunshine and witness an old-time revival of circusy, gypsyish vaudeville. I was mesmerized and so, so sold. That was the Yard Dog Road Show. They’re still out there kickin’ up dust and keeping the magic alive today, tickling the imagination, spreading wonder and a general sense of mayhem. They’ve made some videos and will soon release a documentary of sorts. See them being charming here:

Aerial dance has also become quite popular and many cities have a studio or performance space and local celebrities to fill it; everyone should go and marvel at their strength and grace. Here is the one that I go to:

http://emeraldcitytrapeze.com/

I recently went and saw Cavalia. When I first saw the billboards for the show, I was kind of disgusted by how much the horse looked like an airbrushed lady with perfectly wavy tresses, meant to tempt something in consumers that I’m not quite comfortable with.  It seemed to have a weirdly imposed sensuality to the image; maybe I was reading into it too much?! I later found out that they don’t have any mares and so it was a male on their billboard, which then shifted my perception and it suddenly seemed slightly more acceptable to me–I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m biased. I like recognizing the flexibility of gender and its many variations. I feel happiest when it is ambiguous or mysterious.

In any case, here’s a link to their website, where you can get a sense of the show:

http://www.cavalia.net/en/cavalia-show

It’s a production by Normand Latourelle, a Canadian known for his work in founding Cirque de Soileil. The show’s theme is the relationship between humans and horses, which hearkens back to the origin of the circus and its displays of horsemanship. In fact, there was much about traditional circus present, though it had a kind of new-agey, ethereal elegance to it with some modern flair. There was no ringmaster, only silent performers with horses and a live band (mostly hidden) led by an angelic-voiced lady that never sang in English. Lots of fancy trick-riding and moments of funny improvisation; I watched horses defecate on stage for the first time ever, so that was neat. They lifted their tails to do it, which I’d never observed…keeps the pony tail clean, you know!

I have never been to such an expensive performance and I guess I expected a bit more from it. Overall, it was cheesy, often visually interesting, even beautiful, though a bit overwrought with emotions that never quite landed for me (and I’m a rather susceptible empath). My biggest complaint is that it was uncomfortable to sit on the hard plastic chairs for so long and be practically on top of my neighbors with no extra leg room whatsoever.

Other contemporary circuses and similar troupes:

Teatro Zinzani

http://dreams.zinzanni.org/

Circus Amok

http://www.circusamok.org/

Circus Contraption

http://www.circuscontraption.com/home.html

Carpetbag Brigade

http://carpetbagbrigade.wordpress.com/

Our Ladies of the Circus

Lady Octavia by Frederick W. Glasier

In my fond imaginings of the circus’ golden age, I envision myself tightly woven into the fabric of its big top community for decades.  I think I would have chosen to devote a sequence of my past lives to various acts: I’d undulate sensuously, bedecked in gigantic snakes; tumble through the air to meet the catcher’s rosined grip; arabesque in gaudy costumery atop a bareback horse; shine and shimmy as a dancing chanteuse showgirl; and reveal the fortunes laid out by my favorite divination tools. I would’ve been in good company amidst other females sharing a similar disposition–a taste for adventure, for performance and the freedom inherent in rejecting social norms. Whether out of rebelliousness or through adherence to familial tradition, a great deal of circus women have carved a fulfilling life from the heavy, confining structure of society.

Women were performing in the circus before they were ever allowed to have careers outside of the home. Before they were considered anything other than the delicate lesser sex in need of moulding and protection, they wore revealing costumes (for their time) to perform feats of strength and daring alongside their male colleagues.

Miss Charmion by Frederick W. Glasier

They were expected to master their craft and execute their acts with as much prowess as the male performers, which they most definitely did. Females weren’t even allowed in the audience during a certain period of circus history because of how impressionable they were perceived to be. During a time when the average woman was oppressed into the corners of a very few specific boxes, circus women were respected as hard-working, talented people to be applauded and admired. They earned a living for themselves and traveled around the country, untethered. Even when the time came that women were able to get jobs and have rights, the available choices and social expectations of them were still so limited and limiting. While it’s true that the circus offered women an alternative lifestyle, it wasn’t supported by all and definitely carried a stigma–many regarded this subculture with contempt. Puritanical groups and others attached to Victorian era prudishness were obviously opposed, though not as vehemently as they were to burlesque and vaudeville. “Family” style circuses, like Barnum and Bailey’s Greatest Show On Earth, were purported to offer “clean” shows, which still included the scandalously clad female form, but advertised their wholesomeness, invariably referred to their marital status or domestic natures and even imposed seemingly excessive rules on their single female dancers’ free time.

One of my sources for understanding the social implications of the circus has been The Circus Age: Culture and Society Under the American Big Top by Janet M. Davis. See an article about her work here.  There is a chapter entitled “Respectable Female Nudity” that gives this subject a thorough examination. This book is pretty academically focused (she’s a professor at UT Austin), so it’s mostly for the serious circus lover or avid history buff.

One of my favorite circus stars was Mabel Stark (1889? – 1968). Her story is similar to many other circus celebrities in that it isn’t clear–the details are different depending on who tells the story and one can expect that they were likely embellished. The one I’ve pieced together goes like this: after spending a few years in nursing, she joined the circus and allegedly became a “cooch” dancer, where she found much success. She eventually fell in love with the big cats that traveled in the circus’ menagerie and learned how to work with them by assisting one of the greatest trainers in the industry, whom she later married.  She ended up marrying 4 or 5 times in her life, which is remarkable for the decades in which she lived. She became one of the top cat trainers herself, famous especially for the tight leather bodysuit she donned in the ring, which was actually practical as extra protection against claw swipes. Mabel was blonde, tiny and very tough and it seems this combination may have contributed to her immense popularity. She continued this brutally difficult work for six decades, devising and performing acts that had never been done before; she was severely mauled many times in the process.

Mabel first became a trainer with Al G.’s circus.

She was friends with Mae West (pictured below), another of my favorite women. She acted as Mae’s stunt double in I’m No Angel.

Mabel and Mae on location for 'I'm No Angel' http://www.stagecoachmuseum.org/people_links/mabel_stark.htm

The Final Confession of Mabel Stark is a fictionalized account of Mabel’s life, which I got most of the way through but abandoned because it stopped holding my attention and I knew it wasn’t accurate. Some of the people who loved Mabel and knew her personally were really appalled by the way this author chose to portray her. She wrote an autobiography called Hold That Tiger, but it is out of print and very expensive, and thusly, out of my reach.

There is so much more to say on the subject of gender and the circus, but I fear for your attention span and would need much more time than I have. I’ll leave it to you to investigate further and hope you will leave a crumb trail in the comments!


of sparkle and shadow

I am frequently consumed by the search for that which stands out as fascinating, bizarre and beautiful about the world because, quite simply: it stimulates me. This big hunk of brain I received by the sheer circumstance of being born human–it can do so much! It just wants to go. It wants to be tickled, awed, amused, puzzled, inspired and surprised…or else! Or else it will grow listless and start picking…picking old wounds, picking up rocks to throw, picking apart the faults of any and every little thing, weakening important structures until their ultimate demise. If nothing else, lack of stimulation causes a hellacious case of the doldrums.

Circuses and sideshows have provided for such needs and desires for centuries with an array of sparkling and/or perverse diversions. At the circus, we find lights illuminating daring, titillating movement; the spangles, puff and gleam of dazzling costumery; displays of the foreign, exotic and unusual; the enchantment of illusion and of witnessing feats that somersault over the boundaries of possibility–all contained within the grandeur of a giant tent to astonish, entertain and provide a few hours of work-free revelry. Frivolity.

Emily Winfield Martin

Like spun sugar, it dissolves with a sweet satisfaction, incomparable to any other natural experience. Its soft, airy texture melts away, gets you giddy and then vanishes like a phantom, leaving you wanting more and wishing it were a sustainable taste–a lasting sensation. And like spun sugar, the circus also has its dark side. The big top is a shadowy place. The backstage realities of the performers have often been far from sugar-coated, many of them seeking asylum from life’s myriad unpleasantries in the nomadic anonymity. The life of a traveller with a physically demanding occupation eventually takes its toll; some of the more dangerous acts have resulted in injury, disability or death for an unlucky roster of performers. On the other hand, physical abnormalities and strange talents actually provided some with work in the sideshows–outfits which often traveled along with the circus, presenting oddities normally relegated to the cultural shadows. I have been learning about this subject as well, but think it best to treat it in another post.

I gifted myself an enormous, rather heavy book that is as rich in information as it is beautiful. Taschen’s The Circus Book: 1870-1950 by Noel Daniel is full of gorgeous old photographs and prints from the golden days of the circus. Each chapter and caption is written in English, French and German consecutively, which accounts for its extra-large size. It goes into depth about the historical roots, the backstage culture, different types of acts, the way it influenced feminine “emancipation”, and so much more. In fact, this is the book that helped me identify one of the reasons I love the circus so much: women could be tough, brave, clever, talented and glamorous. I’ve noticed that most of the images and stories I’m drawn to feature feminine subjects (impersonators and half-and-halfs included); I acknowledge my bias.

Chinese entertainers

The roots of the circus can be found in Egypt some 5,000 years ago, where acrobats and jugglers were immortalized in graphic depictions. 2,000 years ago, Chinese jugglers, acrobats and magicians performed during the harvest celebrations of the Han dynasty.

Other historical ties include the priests of Cybele, an earth mother goddess cult in Asia Minor comprised of either transgendered males or eunuchs that traveled around trying to convert people by way of their blessed performances. The idea was that the seemingly super-human skills and magic of their performers were a product of divinity. Eventually, the performers realized that the audiences appreciated their acts for what they were–exhibitions of human talent and practiced skill. In time, the performers cleaved their acts from their religious affiliations and were considered witches and consorts of the devil thereafter–a disdain which seems to have followed artists of this ilk for centuries.

Phillip Astley Esq.

The first technical circus was created just outside of London near Westminster Bridge by Sergeant Major Philip Astley in 1770. It was originally a place where he displayed his “equestrian prowess”, being a horseman with flamboyant style and a head for business. He later developed it into a riding school, and then eventually decided that his performances could have more sway over audiences and continue to make money if he brought in other acts, like jugglers, rope dancers, and acrobats from London’s theatres. The term ‘circus’ is Latin for circle, which is a nod to the ring that horses are traditionally ridden in and which has remained a tradition up to the present day, thanks to this enterprising bloke. While Astley was the first to bring performances to a ring in this fashion, it was in 1782 that Charles Hughes and Charles Dibdin first used the word ‘circus’ to identify their performance space ‘The Royal Circus Equestrian and Philharmonic Academy’ or simply, ‘The Royal Circus’, which was a permanent structure situated conveniently nearby Astley’s Amphitheatre.

Astley's Amphitheatre

John Bill Rickets was a protege of Astley’s who brought the circus stateside to Philadelphia, Boston and New York, though these early stirrings were housed typically in wooden structures that were built in advance of the circus’ arrival. Due to high construction costs, this was a burdensome model, and rather disadvantageous, especially since people couldn’t smoke in these structures for fear of being enveloped in flames ignited by a single errant butt. So then, the circus began to pitch tents and travel from town to town. Then, they spread like a wildfire of delight across the entire countryside.

These diversions were most popular when transportation was limited and there were few entertainment options available to the landlocked, moderately isolated country. Covered wagons and rivers were used to move the show before trains came along. When the tracks were laid, the circuses became big business.

In fact, the circus was the original show business. When the circus came to town, everything else would shut down to enjoy the one time a year that such extravagant spectacularity was readily available.

Moving picture shows stole the crowds quite a bit around the early 1900s.  When the film industry took off, the circus followed suit and promoted their stars similarly; celebrity status was given to the biggest acts and the tabloids followed their lives accordingly. This helped them compete for a time but when most households acquired radios, the number of circus-goers further diminished. Television was another devastating blow to the circus industry. Strangely, during these waning years, war tended to revive the ticket sales, as everyone was hungry for something to take their mind off of hard times and missing loved ones. Since the beginning of the end, the circus has seen a steady decline in popularity and thusly, revenue. Sadly, it is no longer as viable a way to earn a living, yet there are still some stragglers perpetuating these traditions and making circus magic happen in the modern world–I will write about these circuses and other potential evolutionary offshoots in a future post.

Speaking of films and circus, I recently watched Water for Elephants. I had heard wonderful things about the book and thought I’d just have an abbreviated experience, enjoy the aesthetic of the film and get the bones of the story. I would still like to read the book, as I imagine the story would be stronger and then I wouldn’t be distracted by my mild distaste for Reese Witherspoon’s performance. To be honest, I didn’t love the casting for any of the lead roles but I did think the cinematography was good and I liked the styling. Ultimately, the animals were my favorite characters.

I much prefer Cecil B. Demille’s The Greatest Show on Earth, which I believe better captures what I’ve surmised to be the spirit of the circus. The narrator gives an excellent discourse on this subject and the direction of the film beautifully illustrates so many of the essential elements. Plus, I love the songs and dancing; I really appreciate how talented actors had to be in eras past–singing and dancing well was part of their job. Multi-faceted talent is so much dreamier.

In addition to my studies of the history and culture of circuses and sideshows, I am also building my very own circus skills. It’s terribly exciting! I did my first unassisted handstand after practicing for weeks with the door frame; I seemed to have randomly found the perfect point of balance where my legs were both extended above me and, for a few moments, my upside-down, vertically oriented body was comfortably still. Totally thrilling! I’ve been able to replicate it, though with slightly less success. The key is in not thinking about it–just doing it without trying too hard (which is applicable to many other activities and processes). I also started attending an aerial conditioning class, in which I learned how to climb the silks and do a pike position while suspended from my wrists, parallel to the floor. I’m scared of heights as well as the pain and humiliation of falling/failing in front of people, so this was quite a victory for me indeed. My goal is more to confront these fears as well as to gain strength, flexibility and confidence–it’s less about becoming an aerial dancer. Who knows where it will lead, though…I’m super excited for my next class!

I’ve also been practicing my musical saw and singing incessantly. My saw-playing is still a bit rusty (get it?!) but in time, I will be ready to share it with others. Here’s a charming saw duet:

And here are a few circus babes for good measure.