Where Failure Is As Real As Success
Hey circusers, and happy auditions! It's a busy week here at Circadium as a whole new round of potential students who believe in this program spend the next 2 days with us, giving their all. It's inspiring in multiple ways, the most prominent being that after our small class of 9 has stumbled through six and a half months of a first year program, a whole new round of aspiring circus artists still believe in the program.
But the secondary effect is that it's made me finally finish this post (shoutout to Mae for the kick-in-the-butt I needed)! I've been trying to write this next blog post for almost a month now, and my biggest problem is I that I end of straying off my original idea. I veer in too many directions to the point where I'm overwhelmed by how many topics I'm trying to cover and end up pushing the whole thing to the back burner. So this post will be a bit shorter and more focused, and continuing like this will hopefully let me write more frequently in the future. That being said...
With a new round of circus artists coming in, friends auditioning have asked me what Circadium is looking for in their students. It was something I wanted to know when I came in, not only during the audition process, but during the decision process when choosing a school. What the program is looking for determines what they foster and encourage, and what kind of artists emerge. Throughout the year, I've had this conversation multiple times with different coaches, each time morphing slightly my understanding of contemporary circus and where I can go with it. Most of it stems back to what I find inspiring and captivating about contemporary circus performance. Though clean lines and interesting timing may help take an act from good to great, they're not necessarily what makes it captivating to watch. That comes from something deeply rooted: investment.
Circus adds a layer of investment that is so difficult to achieve elsewhere. As Luke Hallgarter writes in CircusNow, “Substantial investment is inherent in all circus disciplines; you cannot perform a 5-meter drop towards concrete or throw and catch seven objects without complete investment in what you are doing. And this investment has a quality of honesty and proximity in that the artists themselves are in a position where failure is as real, non-negotiable and tangible as the possibility of success.”
I'm still in the process of figuring out what that investment really means for me, and I know that my relationship with circus and performance will continue to morph over time. In trying to put into words my thoughts about contemporary circus, I wanted to get a better sense of what others my age were inspired by through this art form and the investment they saw, so I reached out to a few friends pursuing circus to varying degrees. This, combined with my ideas on what is inspiring to me, is a culmination of what I got:
Contemporary circus makes us watch for fear of turning away. It says “here is the risk I’m taking, and here is the outcome if I fail.” It’s all right in front of you. Add a layer of artistry on top of it by taking some of the most thrilling, skilled, and suspenseful moments that are so integral to what makes circus so entrancing and create a cohesive story or theme with a deep meaning or emotion tied to it, and it will mesmerize you. In its simplest form, contemporary circus is storytelling with nothing to hide behind. There's a layer of vulnerability that emerges through the risk taking that only the circus can provide. Contemporary circus is both powerful and graceful, in and of itself creating a balance. The athleticism combined with the artistry creates this incredibly fulfilling world for both the audience and performer. That rawness that comes from trying to connect with the audience while simultaneously pushing your body to the extreme is electric. That direct relationship the artist has with the audience is unlike in any other discipline. When you fly, you truly soar across the room, and when you fall, you drop within inches of the ground. And the audience is there for it all.
(contributions from Claire Dehm, Rena Dimes, Rachel Fierman, Nina Gershy, Emily Healy, and Elan Reuven)
So what is Circadium looking for in auditioners? What are they looking to create in future artists? I don't really know yet, but I'm excited to see.