Woke up after a good 7 hours of sleep or so, showered and headed to the school.  Waking up had never been easier.  I just opened my eyes and realized “Holy crap!  I could be at circus school right now!” 

Got to the school about 10 AM and watched a bit of the high school kids’ training.  They all are very friendly, but I think they are amused by the fact that I can’t speak very much French.  That’s okay, though.  I’m pretty amused by it too.

The Contortionist was in the chapiteau stretching out.  I’m beginning to really appreciate her discipline and dedication together with her confident modesty.  We talked about the second day being the hardest, and she told me that her legs were sore.  I didn’t know contortionist’s legs got sore!  After about an hour or so of stretching, I started working on my handstands.

Working handstands for an hour is a luxury that I never had with an MIT student’s schedule.  Here, though, I can really fill the time with whatever I want.  I’m still finding, however, that no matter how much time I have to train, it’s never enough for me.  There’s always room to improve, and it’s hard to see anything but that deficit. 

Anyway, I was working handstands in the chapiteau with The Contortionist and was having a real off day as far as the handstands were going.  I was really having to bend my arms to planche my handstands and when I didn’t do that, I would fall over forwards. 

I noticed Byamba, the Mongolian equilibre instructor watching us from across the room.  He had been working with some of the high school kids in equilibre class.  Byamba doesn’t really speak French or English, so when he eventually came over, we communicated mostly via simple French phrases and by motions and gestures. 

Byamba moved the blocks I had been working on about an inch closer.  They were now only about eight inches apart.  A far cry from the eighteen or so that I had been used to in gymnastics on parallel bars.  “Hup!” he said, and then “groupe,” meaning that I was to jump up into a tucked handstand and then straighten up.

I did so, and immediately felt him making little adjustments, a hand to my head, tucking it under, pushing my hips under and my chest in.  Barely making contact, really, and he seemed everywhere at once.  The hard part was letting myself relax and just giving in to his sculpting of my spastic bodyline.  “Hup!”  And I was to come down again.  The next time, he had to make less adjustments, and ended with me holding a handstand for my own for a little while.  All I did was try really hard to keep from moving a micrometer away from the position he had placed me in.  This wasn’t about balance anymore, it was about focusing my energy towards freezing every muscle in place while maintaining a generally relaxed disposition. 

Byamba alternated between The Contortionist and myself, with a different exercise each time.  We did handstands on blocks and then lifted up one hand at a time, moving the blocks to the side and then back again.  We did handstands on towers of blocks, switching from hand to hand, knocking off one block at a time.  We did handstands on towers of two blocks, gently placing the two blocks to the side and then fetching them to rebuild our tower.  We jumped up into handstands on the balancing stems, groupe, and carpe, five times each.

As lunchtime neared, he would motion as if to ask if my wrists hurt.  “Do you have the time?”  I asked in French.  He nodded, and I said “Alors plus, plus!”  Asking for more of this private handstand lesson.  We finished up with one armed handstands, and with Byamba’s comforting guidance, I held a strong and sure one-armed handstand for a good two seconds!  Doesn’t sound like much, but for a first time really feeling the position, it was a great feeling.

It felt good to have Byamba adjusting my muscles in my back and shoulders as I held handstands and hearing him say “good, good.”  I can’t wait for my equilibre classes.

When it was noon, he said that he would see us tomorrow.  I thanked him for the lesson, and The Contortionist and I went to lunch.  I really do appreciate how willing and able our instructors are, and I feel terribly lucky to be in this situation.

The Contortionist and I talked about all kinds of things.  She wanted to know if there was an Abercrombie and Fitch in Montreal, I asked her if she had seen “The Fifth Element.”  We agreed to always remember how lucky we were to be able to study at this school.  We walked around for a while trying to find a good and cheap place to eat, but ended up at the same place we had eaten at yesterday.  This time I brought money, though.

When we got back to the school, it had once again exploded.  When we left, we had been the only college program students around, but now there were probably about twenty in the gymnasium.  Four of the other first-years had been to a party the night before, as far as I could tell, and were feeling it a bit today.

A bunch of the older students were there as well, including a crazy-looking guy who looked pretty big and strong as well as a smaller guy who did straps and trampoline and equilibre.  They were fooling around and eventually brought out a teeterboard.  I was playing around on floor and on still trapeze after seeing some of The Contortionist’s work (she is incredibly talented with beautiful lines, and the contortion on trapeze is languid and lyrical.  Can’t wait to see her act!), but noticed that some of the first year’s were trying the teeterboard.  After learning the words for easy and hard (fascil and difficil), I asked one of them if it was hard.  He said “No, just very dangerous.”  He told me that all I needed to do was keep my legs straight while one of them would tilt me back enough to do a backflip “whether you want to or not.”  I listened, but ended up not driving my toes in the air and only did a back dive, much to the amusement of the other students.  “Do something,” they implored, implying that I still needed to drive my toes into the air.  On the next one, I did a flip, but barely made it into the pit.  Evidently I had not been letting the spotter move me well, so on the next one I really relaxed and travelled a bit too far.  On my last try, I hit one really well.

 It’s amazing how much air time you get, and how bizarre it feels to get such an impulse off the board.  The older students were doing some sick skills, triple twisting double backs and the like.  Amazing.

One of the other first years wanted me to tech him how to do gainers out of a walk, so I worked with him on that for a while.  In return, he tried to teach me how to sidesummie out of a walk.  Hard stuff.  I also got out the minitramp to try and do some dismounts into the pit.  After working up a front full, I did a Rudi and a then a double twisting front for the first time in my life!  A clowning student had tried to do teeterboard as well, but had bent his knees and ended up not getting height and whipping around like mad.  I worked with him on front twisting a bit, but after the excellent coaching I had received that morning, I felt like an idiot trying to coach anyone on anything.

I also climbed a circus rope for the first time and tried the La Nouba-like trampoline on the wall.  I also saw an amazingly strong woman on flying rings.  Wow.  Great technique.  I keep meeting some of the female students, but somehow their names never stick.  They are all very confident and  carry themselves with such confidence.  They are amazing artists, all of them, but not as competitive and inclusive as they guys are. 

At the end of the day, I asked one of the older students if he would like to try some hand to hand again since I had worked with Byamba.  We managed to “benchpress” my handstand, and to do a foot to hand bench press and then walked, turned and jumped with me standing on his shoulders.  I feel a bit of pressure to do hand to hand, but it really is enjoyable.  I talked again with a girl, The Flyer, who was maybe going to be my hand to hand partner.  She is really sweet and friendly.  Forgot her full name already, though.

I like the encouraging amusement that the student and teachers have here.  I never feel afraid to try anything with them all standing around me.  I am also the happiest that I have ever felt professionally in my life.  It is 11 PM right now, and I can’t wait for tomorrow’s practice.  Sylvain was telling me that the first few weeks are tortuous.  The teachers all laugh at the student who are all still smiling, but walking slowly.  I am walking slowly, and I’m very sore, but “plus, plus, plus!”  I feel like I’ve been running on empty my whole life and that I have suddenly been infused with high-octane fuel!

The rope student, The Aerialist, was not in school today.  I saw her as she was leaving, and she said that she had been in physio for a prior knee injury.  She seemed really sad, and I felt bad for her.  I hope that it will not hinder her here, because in the short time I have known her, she really seems like a great person and that she will be a great friend.

The cast of characters: 

The Contortionist – The youngest, and very sweet.  Has beaten me into the gym two days in a row.  Tomorrow is my day to get there first!  Very dedicated and serious in her work, but so naturally talented it blows me away.  A real observer, she seems pretty shy.  I like training near her because she is so quiet.  She drinks a little, but nothing else, not even meat!  We both indulge in chocolate, though.  Night people, not interested in partying.

The Tumbler – Funny and social, good at trampoline and tumbling.  A show-off in a very good way.  Always willing to teach you things.  He is the most bilingual of the first-years that I have met.

The Clown – Really funny clown who really wants to learn tumbling!  He seems a little timid to try things yet, though, probably because he has never had the opportunity to train in them before.  I’m intimidated by the things I see people doing!  He is easygoing and always smiling in a mischievious way. 

The Aerialist– From France, she is very patient and kind when I try to speak with her in French.  She is injured, and that bothers her.  I really want to get to know her better, she is very mellow.  She does corde lisse. 

The Frenchman – Not sure what his specialty is, but he will jump in and try anything.  Goofy, affable and fun to be around.

The Artist – Don’t know him too well yet, but he speaks French.

I learned that the audition was video taped and that the school has them all on file if you want to see them!  Crazy!  I want to see them, but will cringe when I see mine.  The Flyer saw mine already!

I keep meaning to check out a tape to watch, but there is always something to watch or to try.  This is definitely where I belong.  I want to milk every second of it.  Every second.  Night!

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