Thursday, May 17, 2012
CircEsteem Spring Circus
I consider myself very lucky to be a long-standing member of the circus community. After all, it was sheerly a twist of fate that brought me to my first aerial classes, back when most people (including myself) didn't know what aerial silks were. (Or to borrow a musician joke, "I had circus on vinyl.") Unfortunately, my income suffered massively when the economy tanked, and I had to scale back my participation. No more weekly or twice-weekly classes for me. I narrowed my training to lesson exchange and independent partner training when schedules permitted. It was great and I learned a lot, but it was irregular.
Now that I've moved to a city where I don't have a lesson exchange partner or a training partner, and I haven't been able to afford classes to get out and meet people (I went from being a starving artist to a starving student), I've been feeling pretty out of the loop. So in a Facebook-ed effort to reach out to the circus community and try to find a way to become involved, someone told me that a children's circus training company might be needing an acro-pole teacher.
So on Saturday afternoon, I was invited to meet with the directors of CircEsteem, try out their poles, and watch their show.
CircEsteem is a group that teaches circus arts--spanning both physical comedy and aerial acrobatics--to children of all ages. (I was told their current age range was 7-17.) The company has a charitable bent to it--many bends, I'd say. They teach refugee kids circus arts, and help them with their homework. They send poor kids home with groceries for their families (thanks to a partnership with Whole Foods). I assume they have paying students as well, though I'm not sure exactly how it all works.
This performances was their annual student recital. No instructors performed, and the kids even wrote much of their own material. Even more impressive when you consider that there were about 90 kids performing. Yes, 90. Large groups, small groups, duets, and even some polished solos.
I arrived a few hours before the show to talk business. Walking into a room full of 90 child circus performers is an experience in itself. The room was full of juggling and unicycling. I can neither juggle nor unicycle (actually, I can't even bicycle), so seeing 9-year-olds do both with aplomb is humbling.
I got to help put up a tent! I love that about circus. The first thing that happened when I arrived was someone stuck a tent post and a handful of fasteners in my hands. I enjoy doing that kind of work, as long as I'm not the one who has to figure out the logistics.
The show opened with the whole full of kids juggling. Have you ever seen an entire stage filled with kids juggling (successfully)? It looks like this:
The pole act was mostly made up of 6 or 7 girls (and I think one boy) doing frog climbs as high as they could, posing in a frog hold (like a frog climb, except you do a back armpit hold with your inside arm so you can release your hands), and climbing back down. A few did foot splits ("Reiko splits") and one even did a half flag! It was especially cute because they had some sort of Charlie's Angels theme going on.
Even though the first half was really long (I told you, there were 90 kids), I didn't want to leave at intermission. I really wanted to see everything!
The second half was more individual work than the first--solos, duets, trios. It was great to see each student showcase their talent. You could tell many of them had been at this for years. I mean, can you imagine to be in high school and be able to do a complete lyra solo? Doing pole solos kills me, and I've been poling since before some of the kids in this company were born!
The highlight for me was that they actually had a German wheel performance! German wheel is one of my favorite acrobatic arts to watch. I've never tried it, but one of the directors, Carlo, told me that Chicago is something of a hub (get it?) for German wheel, so maybe someday soon! There aren't a lot of places to learn in NY, probably because it requires so much floor space--one of the rarest commodities in New York City.
Now for the info my friends will really want to know: the poles.
I'd say they are about 20 feet high, and they are sturdy but somehow removable (I didn't spend a much time looking at the rig, as that stuff tends to be over my head, no pun intended). They're just under 50mm, and are currently only spray painted, though they may become either powder- or rubber-coated in the near future. The grip is good, as I was able to climb to the top with no feet without using any product (and it hadn't been rosined up or anything), but could still execute spins. All in all, VERY fun to play on.
Anyway, they might be able to use me, depending on how registration goes. So if they get a lot of kids signed up, I should at least be making some guest appearances. Too bad it is so far--I know lots of poling moms out here in the West suburbs who would love to get their kids started on acro-pole!!