Relationships – The Real Art of Juggling Hats in Circus

Posted by: on September 5, 2017

In any given week, I wear A LOT of hats. So do all the people around me. For example, take my dear friend Chris! In just one week, we were:

  • Good friends
  • Teacher/student
  • Boss/employee
  • Both students
  • Both employees
  • Both teachers
  • Director/performer
  • Co-producers
  • Counselor/train wreck

…. and the list goes on and on. We’re not romantically involved, but for many circus artists, that’s added into the mix as well (or parenthood, family relationships, agents, advisers & mentors, etc.). It’s a crazy world, friends! We juggle a lot of relationship hats – more than most folks. How do you keep them all sailing smoothly and avoid cringe-worthy collisions?

A Hierarchy of Hats

It behooves you to get veeeeery clear about who’s wearing what hat when, and the balance of power associated with each one. Behavior that flies when you’re in friendship mode may not be acceptable when someone is your director or teacher. To make things even more confusing, there are often shades of appropriateness depending on the situation. An agent I love working with often calls me “Beautiful Goddess” when I answer the phone, and I call him a silver-tongued devil; we would both keel over dead if that happened in front of a client, but it feeds our professional relationship when it’s just us on the phone. Joking and chatting may be fine in a private with my handstand coach, and can serve to deepen trust and coach/student bonding, but not in a group class where more respect needs to be given. When I have my Boss Lady hat on, I’m your boss, but PLEASE don’t treat me like the boss lady when we’re all at the bar after the show! See how murky that can get?

Working in circus, you have to get VERY COMFORTABLE switching those hats out fast. Pay close attention to behavior, boundaries, and where respect and deference need to be given. Do it right and you can enjoy a strong circle of phenomenal coaches, friends, cast-mates, artists, etc. Do it wrong, and brace yourself for some far-reaching ripples (don’t ask me how I know…..).

Should I Date My Circus Peers?

Well, that depends a great deal on you. Circus folks – well, all performers really – are a pretty incestuous bunch (not literally – don’t be gross). We all know at the beginning of the tour that SOMEONE will hooking up with someone else, am I right? I’m right. Plenty of us met our spouses/SO’s at work! You’re together all the time, you totally “get” each other’s lives, and let’s face it – we’re all gorgeous. 😉

I, for one, think that, so long as everyone can be professional adults, date away! But with a couple of caveats:

  • I’ve never heard of a circus performance company forbidding cast dating, but I’m sure there’s at least one. Find out if there’s a policy (and follow it to the letter), or whether it’s frowned upon.
  • Have the conversation about how you’ll continue to work together professionally before you see each other without your costumes on (wink), or once things seem to be getting serious – whichever comes first. No judgment.
  • Know that, if things go south (in the bad way), you still have to work together. You cannot make waves, make others uncomfortable, or cause drama in any way. If you KNOW that’s not you, then when you’re feeling the urge to merge with a co-worker, I want you to take your Metrocard out and hold it firmly between your knees for the duration of your gig. #problemsolved 😉

 

It Gets Easier

As with so many things, juggling those hats gets easier and easier the more you practice – I’m still figuring it all out, but it really does sort itself if you pay attention.  You will make mistakes – own it, apologize, and move on. We live together, train together, perform together, teach together, learn together. Embrace it! Dare to imagine, Laura

Filed Under: Uncategorized
Comments Off on Relationships – The Real Art of Juggling Hats in Circus

Comments are closed.