Circus acrobat does a handstand on a trashcan in the old port while a student at the National Circus School of Montreal

The Circus Life

Everything seems to be falling into place, and I am definitely finding my place here in the school.  I woke up this morning and felt like crap.  Flexibility was a chore, and I had to tell The Acrobat, my flex partner, to take it easy on my right leg.  Sucks to be injured.  Dance is usually fun, but as I was telling people, I think that Fridays are more a matter of being mentally exhausted.  Additionally, my legs are still sore from physical conditioning.  It sounds like I’m complaining, but I’m really not, it’s just that this is what life is like these days.  Your physical condition is constantly monitored and deeply affects every aspect of your life. 

In the middle of tumbling class, though, when we were doing a vault-like drill, I all of a sudden got a second wind which carried over into my trampoline class.  In tramp we have half an hour of conditioning and half an hour of tramp, but I finished the conditioning so early that I sat in on the flex 3 class just to stay active.  It’s pretty fun to have all the classes going on at the same time. 

After classes ended, I did strap and planche strength, and then hung out and worked on my juggling which is getting much better, actually.  Finally, I hung out with The Clown and The Artist outside while they had a cigarette.  They were “teaching me how to relax.”  The Clown says that I am too fanatical about training.  We then hit the weight room and I did my workout there.  I think I will try to do it twice a week and the straps and planche three times a week.  We’ll see.  

The secondary kids are really fun.  The Clown and I did banquine with some of them without the coach, and with one of the younger boys running all around saying “I’m a little girl.”  I tried porting for it too, and it hurts like hell.  All the more reason to be a flyer, I think.

After going for some McDonalds (expensive, but fast), The Clown, The Frenchman, and a few of the other older students drove to a cabaret show that one of them is somehow connected with.  With the five people in the car, it really did feel like we were circus students! 

The cabaret was all in French, but the little I did understand was pretty funny.  There was a contortionist/clown in the show who I thought was really funny.

Hopefully all of the first years that I know will get together tomorrow to hang out around montreal. 

The trip how was fun.  The other muscular guy was with us, and he was making like he was going to do side summies off of tables and did handstands on the table and on the metro.  The Frenchman and him and I were doing some Chinese pole on the metro too.  The Clown and him and The Frenchman and I were doing the pink panther theme and putting on a show for The Aerialist who says that we are all “pas possible.”  She’s funny. 

When I left, they dared me to do something cool to get off the train, and with no time to think about it, I managed a back tuck from the train to the platform without hitting the door frame, which they seemed to think was satisfactory.  So there you go.  Circus students on the street.  We’re not like those normal people.  Thank god!  I’m in heaven right now! 


Circus school students playing around in the shower of the Ecole National de Cirque de Montreal

Time To Step It Back a Little

My damn calf injury is still bothering me, so I decided to take it easy today.  We started with physical preparation, and today was a bit of an assessment.  It was not too hard, but it still took a lot out of me for the rest of the day.  We had to do a lot of stuff as many times as we could in a minute, and then we had to do 3 sets of push ups and two sets of 5-15 pullups.  I managed two sets of 15…  I really need to figure out this weekly routine for myself. 

Tissu/tramp was fun.  Working one-on-one with Caroline is much better than the little bit of help I get in the half hour regular trampoline sessions.  I hope she’s not too frustrated working with me since a lot of this stuff is coming very slowly, but she says that she likes starting from the beginning so that there are no bad habits to overcome.  I can understand that.  There is a lot of technique, but I learned that you really need to gainer back rotation stuff and that everything should be allowed to take a lot of time, unlike in floor tumbling. 

Juggling is okay, better than I thought it would be.  I learned how to bounce juggle three balls!  What I’m really enjoying right now, however, is rolling juggling, where you roll three balls around in these cool patterns that make them look as though they are following each other around. 

ITA was super fun, but again, I’m stuck being a porter when I want to be the flyer.  We did regular cradle today, which is where you hang from your knees.  It was fun.  The Clown is so funny because he is so terribly afraid of heights.  And The Trapezist, (the flying trap girl), was his partner.  She really is good about hiding her experience so that no one feels like she is sick of us.  The Clown was sweating like mad, but trying to be so positive.  It was great. 

I teamed up with another first-year at the end to do double cradle (two porters, one flyer) pretty fun, and we were successful.  We did it with two other first year girls.  They are really cool.  I also did swinging trap, but nothing cool.  Didn’t get a chance to do and high bar work, but oh, well.  I did do some basic banquine stuff with another first year, though.  I liked the way the Russian coach corrected my technique.  “Tanabe. Understand.  How can I give push if I am under like this?”  Very cool. 

People continue to be amazed at the amount I eat.  I really don’t think that it is too much, but I am feeling great. 

Hand to hand was fun, but again I am stuck being the base.  We did two person column, knee balancing, dynamic lift from behind into two person column, foot to hand, and some easier pyramids in which the top hooks their feet around the neck of the base.  Hand to hand is much more tiring for the men, I think! 

I was working a bit on straps, just to get these damn front and back levers, when I was taught a sort of sideways lever by a guy I don’t know.  It’s hard.  Additionally, I keep getting planches requested from two of the high school students.  It’s a good way to stay in shape, that way, I guess.  I need to improve these things! 

Worked on handstands for a half an hour on my own today.  Shoulders did not hurt, but they were really tired.  I figure I can judge handstand endurance by the length of each individual trial as well as the total time spent in a handstand per day.  I still don’t know what will come of Byamba talking to Daniela, yet. 

Nutrition was boring, because it is all in French, but I took the opportunity to remember the names of everyone I had been trying to meet.

A bunch of us went out to pizza afterwards, and I convinced The Contortionist to come too.

Pizza was fun.  Despite the language and cultural differences I think being American gives me a bit of an advantage to be more extroverted, actually.  The weather here has been pretty cool, although I think today was warm.  It’s not like I ever get outside, though!

Ah well.  Good night.

Ecole Nationale de Cirque de Montreal's first year class


Back to early days, but I wimped out and left around 6:30 to shop and finish moving in to my room.  Had my first flexibility class with The Contortionist and a bunch of other kids.  I was the second worst in the class, but nonetheless, I think that I will improve quickly with Byamba’s help. 

I’m learning some cool stuff from my Brazilian (?) tumbling coach.  He’s helping me with a lot of my basic tumbling. 

Trampoline is going, but man, it’s frustrating to spend so much time learning these beginner skills.  Ah well.  Necessary. 

Also had my first dance class.  My only strength here is that I am pretty good at rhythm and memorizing steps.  I think that they are trying to develop our ability to memorize things right from the get go, which I am looking forward to.  I am also looking forward to developing correct body position and all that.  The teacher liked my definition of dance:  “movement or stillness with or without music.”  

I was eating my huge lunch today and The Tumbler was laughing about all the food that I had around me.  He said “in a week, everyone will be doing what you do.”  

I also talked with The Contortionist about how many times in a day we say “Un peu.” We estimate about a hundred.   

Byamba approched me today after my second hour of handbalancing to ask if I wanted to work with him officially more regularly.  With Straps Guy translating, he said that I have a lot of talent and the right body for it.  Also, I think he likes that I work hard.  During flexibility with him, though, I feel a lot of sharp pain in my calf.  I have to check that!  Anyway, I hope that he wasn’t talking about changing minors, because I really want to keep working with Caroline on tissus/tramp.  He and I will talk to the head of education tomorrow. 

Tonight I walked home with The Clown and The Tumbler, and we ran into The Aerialist.  They briefed me on Quebecer etiquette.  I learned that I need to shake hands when I say goodbye and kiss girls when I say goodbye.  I hope they don’t think that I’m a total jerk by now!  The Clown made up a really funny stupid clown character that cracked us all up.  God, he’s good at that stuff.

We also talked about girls and stuff.  The Tumbler has a crush on someone (don’t know who), and The Clown says that all the guys think that The Contortionist is beautiful, but they all agree that she and I would make the best couple despite the age difference, which he says doesn’t matter.  I don’t know.  It feels like summer camp gossip, but it’s fun.   

Anyway, looking forward to tomorrows ITA and Tissus/tramp.

X-ray of a circus artists's hand


Alright.  Let’s talk for a little bit about pain.  As far as I can tell, there are a few main kinds when you go to circus school. 

The first is muscle pain from strength training.  This one is the least of my troubles.  I think it is because I was already strong to begin with, and even when I do feel it, it is something that I am used to to the degree that it does not slow me down any. 

Then there is the pain from gaining flexibility.  For me, this pain is always going to be in the background of everything that I do if only because I am incredibly inflexible.  It’s weird, though, because you only feel it when you try to stretch out a muscle a little bit, and once you warm up, it is okay.  When you get cold, however, it is always happy to remind you that it is there! 

Ah, and the pain from being stretched out.  This is probably the sharpest, most intense pain that I feel.  It makes me feel like I want to pass out, and it just keeps getting worse and worse even though you are thinking to yourself “alright, that must be about as bad as it will feel.”  It makes you sweat, it makes you breathe heavily and loudly, it sucks.  But, the pleasure you feel afterwards is immense!  All those endorphins added to the feeling that you are just a little bit more flexible now really help you deal with the pain. 

Now we have the most annoying pain: apparatus burn.  This is what I currently have all over my upper thighs due to working tissus for the first time.  I learned about 4 figures today, but I need to remember to bring some nice sort of skin guard for my next lesson.  At least my teacher is cool, and she is really excited about this tissus tramp thing that was a complete accident.  This sort of pain just sticks with you and makes it hard to wear long pants and to sit with the skin touching itself and to take showers.  Every apparatus does it, though, it is a fact of circus life! 

Then there are old, familiar pains, like my back.  These will never go away, and one has to wear it like a badge of honor.  You’ve earned these pains! 

And, finally, the pain that everyone would like to ignore:  the pain from injury.  Easily the most important pain, but we still work through it like idiots.  My right calf and back are bothering me now. 

Some firsts to mention:  My first time bringing food to the school (almost ate a whole loaf of bread in the form of tuna fish sandwiches!) 

My first tissus class, my first aerial class (did korean cradle for the first time.)  Being a flyer was fun, but the tuck I was supposed to do really threw me.  You can’t hold it in at all, and you need to bring your chest forward, exactly the way that they tell you never to do in gymnastics.  Weird! 

First juggling class (will be boring, but a nice break!  The Clown is really, really good).  First hand to hand class, but I was a porter.  I think I’m pretty good at it, but would much rather be a top.  And finally, I had my first “movement” class.  It was basically contact improv with all the weirdness associated with that, but I actually got to see people who were really good at it.  Some of the older students are excellent.  The teacher is weird and was doing some exercises involving grabbing himself under his penis.  Whacked. 

I also got some lessons at butterflies and side summies from a bunch of people.  It was cool. 

Also got an invitation to take flying trap with one of my fellow first years.  Will definitely take her up on that. 

Ah well.  Tomorrow! 

First year circus students at the National Circus School of Montreal outside of a big top

First Full Day of Training

Day started at 7:30, got to the gym at 8:00.  Jeu class was awesome, and not nearly as hard as I had expected, probably because it is being translated for us right now.

I did three hours of voluntary handbalancing (my real handbalancing and my fil de fer class were cancelled due to teacher absence).  I am feeling pretty good with one arms right now, and my two arm feels really nice and steady.  I want to hit one two armed handstand for a minute before the end of the week.

New exercise:  balance with one hand on the stalk and one hand on the ground for one arm work.  Tough!

Tumbling was fun and not too hard, Noah, my second coach from the MIT gymnastics team gave me really good background for that.  Tramp was hard only because I do not have the technique, but I trust that I will get that down pretty quickly.

 Straps Guy asked me if I wanted to try banquine today, and I said “of course!”  I learned how to do a layout out of the porters.  It is pretty tough timing to get down, though.  Well it’s late, so here’s a few quick thoughts:

The Contortionist is turning out to be pretty cool and much older acting than I thought she would be.  We have a more playful and sarcastic relationship now which I enjoy.

The American is warming up a little bit, and she and The Contortionist have hit it off.

I have a lot of fun with The Aerialist and learning each others languages is proving to be a good way to become friends.

Alright.  Enough for tonight.

Circus acrobat doing a handstand in front of 77 Mass Ave (MIT)

Eve for the Acrobat

The party was pretty fun.  The best part was actually taking the Metro to the house with the other six of the first years who actually hang out together.  For lack of a better name, I’ll call this the “crew,” made up of myself, The Contortionist, The Clown, The Tumbler, The Aerialist, The Artist, and The Frenchman.

When we first got to the party, a huge cry went up, and all of the first years had to go through the initiation of drinking a shot of liquor while standing on their hands.  I stood there all nervous as one after another of the first years drank their shot.  I was the last one left, and Cool Guy said “Okay, now your turn.”  I told him I didn’t drink, and he was disappointed, but when I told him that I had kiwi strawberry juice, he said to use that instead.  I went ahead.  I guess I had the biggest shot of the night, because the people we fooled were pretty impressed.  I further impressed them by doing a one-armed handstand to drink it all down (people were holding me up).  I’ve been pretty happy to find that no one really seems to care that I don’t drink.

The Mentor did a really funny dancing character while two of the girl students danced around him sexily.  Pretty funny.  He also got into a silly altercation with Cool Guy, and ended up trying to tear Cool Guy’s hat.  Cool Guy said “He is a fucking clown  I think I am hating clowns.”  Got to talk more with The Aerialist, and also met a few of the other students.  I’m glad I went.  Classes start tomorrow, and I want to get to e-mailing people, so goodnight!

Interiro of the Ecole Nationale de Cirque in 2001

What I Did Over Summer Vacation

Didn’t sleep well due to muscle pain.  Oh well.  Got to the school about ten to ten, and there was a huge gathering of students outside.  Met up with The Clown, The Contortionist, and them, and just sort of hung out until they opened the doors at 10.  We all made our way into the school and they herded us into the chapiteau where mats had been set up as bleachers of sorts.

Finally got to see The American again.  She is a bit of a snobby seeming person.  Too bad, really.  I hope she can thaw out a bit so that she might fit in a little better. She has been teaching yoga in NYC.  Good money, she says, and she just happened across the school doing an internet search.

All of the staff of the school came out behind little grates while the finale music from the annual show played in the background.  They all broke out into a parody of the choreography that closed the show.  Then there were general introductions of all the teachers (Byamba for some reason did not show up).  Then all of the student classes went up one after another to introduce themselves. There are a lot of students at the school that I have not met yet.  Some people seemed pretty funny.  The Mentor showed up late on purpose and did a funny sketch in a clown character.

After that we had boring boring boring stuff where we had to get herded from one classroom to another.  Basic registration, safety introduction, artistic basics.  All in French and all boring.  I was happy that The Contortionist sat next to me of her own accord for the opening and for the first classroom crap.  I think that The Artist also thinks she is kind of cute. 

It was hard to really meet anyone or anything due to the hectic nature of the day and all the reunions and stuff. 

I do know now The Hotshot, who is the sort of brash but cool little secondary kid, and also his friend The Trampolinist, the eighteenth ranked trampolinist in the world.

The Tumbler, The Clown, The Artist, The Aerialist, The Contortionist, and The Frenchman and I all went to Ban Thai for dinner.  It was fun.  I practiced French on the way, and The Aerialist wanted to practice English on me.  She is very nice.  We all decided to meet at the Metro at nine to go to the party, and that’s where I need to go in an hour or so. 

The seven of us are hitting it off well, we are now talking about potential matches in the school, and I remain strategically distanced.  They also had a crazy idea for the first-years’ presentation in which I fall off tissus and they all beat me to death.  Cirque Noir.  The Clown is the ringleader for this craziness.  I definitely have the reputation of being a bit straight edge here, but they don’t seem to mind, and I definitely don’t mind them.


Man, I better get some sleep before I go to this party.  There will probably be a lot to write about tomorrow.