Getting Work in a Tight Market

Posted by: on February 14, 2013
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.


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