Archive for February, 2013

The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: How to Choose a Trapeze Partner

February 26, 2013 Comments Off on The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: How to Choose a Trapeze Partner Memory Lane, Uncategorized, Working in Circus

I’d like to say that Laura and I conducted long, well thought out interviews with each other before joining forces, discussing in depth our views on commitment, marketing, and Febreze.  In reality, it happened something like this:

Ring ring, ring, ring, ring..”Hello?” (Remember when we only had home phones?! Yes, that’s how old we are, shut up.)

Anyway, “Hello?”

“Hi, this is Laura, the other redhead you performed with last night. Join me or I break your legs.”

“Wow, I’m flattered. How does Monday look?”

No prenup was signed, no references called, just a not so vague threat of violence and it was love at last. Some might tell you to sign a contract with your potential partner and to work out who gets the costumes and the trapeze if one runs away with the circus. That is probably the most prudent thing to do, but I honestly don’t know that it will lead to a successful partnership. Maybe we just got lucky, but we’ve never had a contract, nor do we plan to.  I like knowing that we have enough faith in our communication to say honest if awful things to each other in strained tones, then hug it out without fear that one of us will empty the coffers and make a run for the border (although truthfully, our coffers might get you a nice dinner in Texas, but doubtful you’d have enough gas to actual get to Mexico).

Can you make it work if the two of you are completely different people?

Yes and no. on the surface, Laura and I are very different. She’s dramatic, I’m cool-headed. She’s a Christian, I’m a Yogi. She comes from theatre, I come from modern dance. She’s from Carolina, I’m from California. You get the idea.  At the end of the day, none of that stuff matters.  Here is what is important to us: commitment, honesty, sense of humor, sense of priorities (cup o’ joes before throws) and a flexible schedule. All the rest can be negotiated.

*An Aside on Drugs and Alcohol. 

If you are Russian, skip this section because all bets are off for you people. Russians can drink vodka all night and it only makes them more precise.  Freaks.

However, nobody in the rest of the world actually has those abilities. They only think they do. So if you aren’t Russian (grandmothers don’t count) and neither is your partner, you will have to keep it in check.  If your significant aerial other is doing blow off a someone’s belly at 4 am and showing up to rehearse at 10 am, you might not get a lot done.  Or worse yet someone gets bounced on their head which isn’t a head’s general purpose.

*Okay, thank you Nancy Reagan for that uplifting message. 

The good news is that the honeymoon period where you think you’ve found the best partner in the entire world lasts exactly a minute and a half. A few nights in the middle of Indiana in a hotel room that smells like your grandmother’s nightgown and you should find out pretty quickly if you have what it takes not to kill each other in your sleep.

Use the first few rehearsals as a way to feel each other out.

You never know what they are into until you try each other out.

You never know what they are into until you try each other out.

Have plenty of mats underneath you and listen to your gut. Your life is quite literally (and I do mean literally) in each other’s hands.  Notice how your partner reacts to your fears and your creative ideas. Start with one act and make it really good. Don’t invest a huge amount in costumes and websites until you think it is going to work. Figure out you work together, who is in charge of what. Time and experience will only make you better, but it is worth taking some time to refine your process. Laura and I worked on our first act every day for about a year.  It is the one that we have also performed the most and remains probably our best act both choreographically and in performance quality.

Well, Aren’t You Two Just so Awesome?    Wait until next week, when things get down and dirty. See, this is better than Jersey Shore.

Our First Act:

 

Circus Duos: The prurient details (you think Snooki’s dramatic!) Part One

February 19, 2013 Comments Off on Circus Duos: The prurient details (you think Snooki’s dramatic!) Part One Memory Lane, Uncategorized, Working in Circus

“Mawage is wot bwings us togeder tooday. That dweam wifin a dweam.”

It's a delicate balance

It’s a delicate balance

If you don’t know where the above quote is from then stop reading. This content is for mature audiences only.

When I got married, I wasn’t a nervous bride.  I figured there was just no way marriage could be harder or less rewarding than having a trapeze partner. In fact, I feel extremely lucky that I got to exorcise (and exercise!) all my relationship demons first, before unleashing them on my husband.  My aerial partner, Laura, and I have endured bad coffee, missed catches, single beds, sub-zero temperatures, oxygen deprivation, and a missing trapeze.  After ten years, we know each other’s pushable buttons and smelly armpits (as well as other bits) intimately.

I don’t know the stats, but I would guess the success rate of circus duos is probably on par with the success rate of marriage in LA.  The two of you have to be compatible on so many levels that it is not surprising that most only last one to two Kardashians (an excellent marital unit of measure, thanks Robert!).  Although, truth be told, deciding to go separate ways dramatically increases the probability of ending up with a two-year binding Cirque du Soleil contract together. Seen it happen.

Staying Together for the Act’s Sake

There is a lot you endure.

There is a lot you endure.

However, for every split, there is a dysfunctional duo that stays together for the sake of the act.  When we were performing for a casino in Portugal, there was a hand balancing duo (together for 20 years!) that regularly missed their curtain call, because they spent the time after their act screaming at each other in Russian backstage.
We’ve even seen identical twins who had absolutely everything going for them, youth, looks, lickable abs (we tested them), sunny dispositions, and oodles of talent skid to dissolution. Everyone wanted to hire them, and yet they couldn’t hack it together for more than a couple of years! For the love of Pete, these two are the same genetic material. You’d think you could avoid fighting with yourself. Sigh… but no.
In order for a duo to make it, so many pieces have to fall in place. You have to want the same things, see a future together, have aligned priorities, look aesthetically balanced, see eye to eye creatively, and approach the business side similarly. You each also have to have a fairly large arsenal of fart jokes handy.
There were times that Laura and I really thought we might be getting a divorce, then the thought of building a new website sobered us up right quick.  No, seriously…We did what any savvy couple in trouble does, we whored out our innermost feelings to national television (aren’t you proud, Mom!)
See below:

Not content with one medium, our conflicts are also featured in The Blame Game by Ben Dattner (there is way more than us in there!).  People who recognize us in the street are often surprised to hear we are still living the dream. And we are. Our relationship is stronger than ever. I have a cute mug with pictures on it as well as a YouTube video made just for me to prove it.

Two of a Kind

Two of a Kind

In the next few weeks we will explore these topics:

Why and How to Choose a Partner and Start a Partnership

How to Fight with Minimal Bloodshed

How to Thrive and Keep the Romance Alive

Please share with us any crazy stories about your partnership or partnerships you’ve witnessed.

Getting Work in a Tight Market

February 14, 2013 Comments Off on Getting Work in a Tight Market Uncategorized, Working in Circus
Anyone who has been in the event scene for more than a hot minute will probably wax nostalgic about pre-2008, when gigs fell straight into your lap.  In reality, it wasn’t exactly that easy, but there was enough to go around back then without fear of being chopped off at the knees by your competition (although truth be told that wouldn’t be such a sad state of affairs because dwarves can pretty much write their own ticket).
 So how do you rise above the competition without Tanya Hardinging (say that 7 times fast) the other guy or changing your genetic structure? Simple. Don’t do what everyone else does.
But!    You might say…..My solo silk act is a totally unique expression of me!!
Bet you it isn’t.

 

So, how do I stand out if I don’t have an identical twin or can’t sit on my own head?

Not to get too touchy-feely-circus-as-spiritual-movement on you, but you have to find what Julia Cameron calls the “Vein of Gold.” The vein of gold is some aspect of the art that you are really good at and makes you uniquely you. Then go find a market for it. Easy.

That should keep you busy for  the next ten to fifteen years and out of our hair.  You will get to enjoy a lot of work in the five minutes left before you retire.

 

 But seriously, how.

Okay, okay.  If you are naturally freakishly strong or freakishly limber then it’s easy. You train like crazy and go for virtuosity. However if doing a double back flip from the top of a rope as you plummet toward the bottom doesn’t look like it is going to make for a fun rehearsal process and you value the your cervical vertebrae, then what?
   First, ask yourself what you enjoy and are good at and how you can build on it.

 

1. Use what you naturally got

Laura and I performed in a competition at the Krystallpalast in Germany.  There was a young front bending contortionist named Fleeky who was really kind of freaky (you can’t make this

Fleeky the Contortionist

Fleeky the Contortionist

crap up). An androgynous front bending contortion is a bit odd anyway.  His act however was dark, grotesque, as well as skillful. Americans have sensitive tummies, and I could see it would have been a bit difficult for him to work in the US.  However, having a German mom myself, I knew immediately that with his edginess  he’d won the hearts of the Germans. And sure enough, he took home the gold.

2. Don’t be afraid to be funny if you can

Another great example is a duo trapeze act I saw at  Teatro Zinzanni.  The male partner was super skinny with the worst boy point I’ve seen and she was tiny with short legs. They could have never pulled off a cirque style act.  However, they created a maid and butler act that was absolutely hilarious, delightful, and choreographically surprising.  I’d never seen anything quite like it. However, if you aren’t funny, don’t torture people.

 

 3. Try a unique apparatus

This directive comes with a caveat.  I’ve seen lyras and silks and chains all tied together in a giant knot. You don’t want your audience asking “What the hell is that?” the whole time.  Unique apparatuses are generally simple and require someone who knows what they are doing to build it for you.  It is an investment, but is usually worth it. Don’t jerry rig something. It makes people nervous.

 

4.Use interesting music

Just make sure you know your audience. Obscure hip hop may not land so well in Hazard, Kentucky (I speak from experience).
Comedic Triangle

Comedic Duo Triangle

 5. Work with others

   Solos are harder to make interesting than multiples. Just make sure you get along. You don’t want to spend a year creating an act only to have it fall apart over a disagreement about whether you are going to wear matching phony tails or not.

 

6. Learn another skill

   Even if you have the best, most unique act on the planet, you still might not get hired. Harsh reality, but true. Practically speaking, having an aerial and a ground act just offers more relief to already tight budgets. I can guarantee if you can really hula hoop and do an aerial act well for example, you will work a lot.

 

7. Spend time developing one act

   The best acts I’ve seen all have been performed and tweaked over and over. Be assured your act isn’t going to hit its stride until you have been working on it consistently for a solid year. What?! You know how old I’ll be by the time it’s ready? Yes, the same age you’ll be if you have ten derivative acts instead.

 

So go out there and make your star shine!!!

 

Yes, I just said that.

 

The Dark Secret of The Trapeze World that No One Dares to Talk About

Double Trapeze

Double Trapeze

I’ve seen some great discussion lately about drops and aerial tricks that might be too dangerous to teach.  While these discussions are important, there is a danger out there that all professionals know about, but is rarely discussed or brought out in the open. You certainly can’t find any youtube videos showing the fails either.  You don’t believe until it happens to you. We are talking about the very real danger of one particular move on the trapeze which results in THE LOSS OF YOUR PANTS.

We aren’t just talking about your pants kind of sliding off your body quickly and fixed with a hike back up. Not a little accidental plumber butt. We are talking about exploding out of your pants in a violent and awkward fashion.  Trapeze artists, you know what tricks I’m referring to:  the infamous duo “roll around the bar” and solo “hip circles”.  The moves are similar to each other in that they require you to push your pelvis into the bar and circle many times quickly around it. The move done successfully is featured here.

  Why do you sickos keep doing this trick?

We don’t avoid this trick because, well, it brings the house down. Let’s face it, for us applause hounds, people thinking you can defy gravity is worth the possibility of little gluteal cleft exposure.

  Three walks down Memory Lane

I have been fortunate enough to experience this living nightmare on not one, but three occasions. My first initiation was when I just began trapeze

Not this move either!

Not this move either!

lessons. I had done the trick before but was still not entirely familiar with its unparalleled ability to make the world snicker. I was at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, a large open space in which trapeze, rock climbing, and gymnastics are taught. I was taking my private lesson in the evening when it was at its busiest. I started my hip circles when I heard a large rip. I knew to hold on, but soon realized I was dangling from knees by my leggings with the elastic waist band still around my waist and nothing in between. I think someone catapulted off the rock climbing wall. My trapeze teacher came running over to me and tried to toss me her sweater to cover my bare ass hanging ten feet up. Add to the awkwardness my general lack of hand-eye coordination as I attempted to catch in a desperate and ineffective manner, the sleeve of the sweater she was repeatedly trying to throw me. What kept me sane was the absolute conviction that my alarm was going to go off soon. My trapeze career suffered a minor setback as I didn’t return to class for a solid month.

The second time was with my partner, Laura. We were practicing the duo roll around the bar trick at our rehearsal space (SLAM in Williamsburg). What happens with this move is that you both have to press your pelvises to the bar in order to get a clean, fast motion.   That fateful day, we might have been trying to make the move even tighter and cleaner, or it may have been a little humid, or my leggings may have just been a little too old. Whatever the magical combination, Laura and I ended up with our hoohaws entangled and one cheek exposed as a group of five-year olds marched in for their acrobatic class. Five-year-olds can’t even say the word “underpants” without giggling.

The worst part is that you don’t get to just flush red and run for cover. No, you get to dangle while begging someone to lower the truss down. Then another year and a half goes by while you are lowered down until you can take the trapeze off the truss. Next, you hobble together entwined with the trapeze like you’re on some weird japanese game show.  You finally make it to the safety of the bathroom, where you have to figure out how to extract yourselves from each other and argue over who is going to run back into the space in her underpants and get clothes for the two of you.

A good moment in Romania

A good moment in Romania

The last time this happened to me was in performance. What can I say, I’m a slow learner.  I was performing a duo trapeze act in Romania for a circus there with Kristin Young who was replacing Laura for that stint. It was approaching summer, we were high up in a real circus tent and it was very hot. By the second week our costumes had started to stretch a bit. We knew the danger, so we started to sew them in tighter and tighter. Well, we let a few days go by and sure enough, at the end of our act, BAM! We were dangling by our crotches. As soon as people caught on to the fact that we were stuck (and we were very very high up), nine circus guys in bright green neon shirts came shimmying up the rig wires to come rescue us. When they got there, I told them, “I hope someone remembered scissors!”  No one did, but luckily they managed to support us enough so we could unwind ourselves and get off without falling to our deaths (file that under the best way to receive a Darwin award).  It must have been a good five to seven minutes until we actually got to the floor. The clown afterward told us that he had covered and didn’t think anyone noticed…

  Tips to Prevent Early Pants Loss

1.Keep your junk tucked in (yet another reason for a dance belt if you are a boy, don’t even contemplate that sort of wrapping).

2.Do not wear low rise, old, thin, or loose leggings.  If you have a long run, sew up your costumes and chalk up the center of bar.

3.Lift and Separate! If you start to wrap, stop rolling or reverse it.

4.Have a signal if one of you notices what is happening so you can stop it before it gets bad.

5.Finally, If it does happen to you, think of it as a cheap way to get a Brazilian.

Share with us your most embarrassing moments in the air or youtube links of funny stuff other people have gotten themselves into.