Circus school student getting stretched for his center splits

Psychoactive Tuna

My computer died so I had to reinstall everything.  These two weeks of silence have stemmed from me feeling as though nothing I accomplish in life is going to make me that I’ve finished anything.  Weird to look ahead at a whole lifetime of feeling that way.  But what is, is. 

I’ve been feeling very misanthropic.  It’s just been frustration with people who seem to be at the school just to have fun and play around and pretend to be circus artists.  It makes it difficult to really train seriously.  I’ve been concentrating so much on the problems I have on form in handstands or that various tricks aren’t coming. 

We have a new huge coach for hand to hand, Ivan, who is taking over for Sylvain.  We call him “Ivan the Terrible” (behind his back of course), but we all really like him.  He worked in Australia for 9 years.  Sylvain is working with him now because he doesn’t speak any French, just English and Russian and it is obvious that there is a big difference in their styles.  I get to be a flyer and a porter which is all good.  

Today The Clown and I went on a “porter strike” in ITA because the Quebecois in our ITA class had been complaining that we never do trapeze or high bar.  So today,  we just did that and left the flyers to port each other which I’m not sure they enjoyed.  I think they got our point and we got to relax from porting for a day! 

We’ve had two Quebecois guests come to talk to us about substance abuse and balance and life.  We all had to bring in a can to make the case that you need to put big stones in your can first and then put the little stones in because if you put the little things in first there won’t be any room for the big things.  It was in French so I didn’t get any of that and ended up asking why we had to bring the cans in just after they had gone through that whole explanation in French.  Oops. 

We had a presentation about psychoactive drugs and The Clown and I had to do a sketch about stimulants, depressants, and psychoactive drugs.  W e imitated the nervous system before and after alcohol and then acted out what our classmates were reading in a monotone about stimulants which culminating in us running out of the room and stripping to our underwear in the hallway and then running back in.  Then, I read about hallucinogens as The Clown acted it out with me eventually joining in doing contact improvisation in our underwear.  The class next door told us we had to be quiet a few times. 

I’ll be playing Aladdin for our acting class’ final presentation and it’s hard getting people to have realistic characters – they always want to play cartoonish images like old people with bent-over backs and canes and things like that.  Its also a challenge getting them to be more perfectionistic.  Their point of view is that “everyone knows the story so why do we need to show everything?” 

Yesterday we had a good time doing our first workshop for the end of the year show and things went pretty well but it really comes down to who you work with.  If you work with the right people you know you’re ok.  I ended up working with a great group.  We’re working on things that we’re going to do in the outside part of the show.  We were in the car wash group, another group worked on VIP scenario, and another worked on a picnic animation that we’re doing with the public. 

The night before at a duo birthday party for The Tumbler/complaining session, The Gang were all worried that we were going to end up working with people we didn’t get along with. 

I think part of reason I’ve been feeling low energy the last couple of weeks or months believe it or not has been a lack of tuna.  I say that because after not much protein for a really long while I had a can of tuna today and found I had a lot of energy for the rest of the day, so I think there’s something about the protein in the tuna or something that really helps.

Circus artists in the National Circus School of Montreal's end of year show

Dead Cat And Monkey Style

All day I think about things that I want talk about and when I get here at night I can never remember it. 

Byamba was back and had a really nice couple of hours of handstands interrupted by a trip back home to pick up rice, which I had forgotten, whereupon I discovered that our cat is dead.  Probably sometime two nights ago.  It looks like he was hit by a car.  Poor guy.  Dead.   

Today I thought it would be fun to do equilibre all day, doing handstands against the wall, feeling the position, and sliding easily into one arm with legs together, one arm with legs apart, etc.  Felt good.  I held about 2-3 seconds on my right side in one arm with legs together and on my left side with legs apart. 

I saw a tape that Larissa had brought me of the Russian circus school.  Interesting to see them, their technique is really really really good despite some weird artistic stuff.  Some great Chinese pole kids from China were on there and rolla bolla acts.  Two of us in the first year train together and seem to have a natural equilibre mindset.  Another first year trains a lot with us, but has a much more relaxed mindset – this seems to make a big difference in speed of progress. 

I only did aerial cradle today and Alex had a new move for us which he called “monkey style” but which The Clown and I are calling “monkey sex” because basically on the upswing in front I pull up on his arms, grab his body, and push off into a back somersault.  Alex says we can do it without the line if we want and that it’s not hard.  It was fun but The Clown kneed me or hit his head into my groin like 4 times today, which you can imagine felt great. 

Juggling was normal and in hand to hand I got to be a flyer again; The Clown is glad to work with me because I’m not afraid to fall and don’t panic. 

I’m definitely slipping into more of a morning schedule, I woke up around 5 and went back to sleep but still woke up at a reasonable hour without an alarm clock.  Going to bed at around 9:30 or 10 at night.  

I really need to start writing things down during the day when they seem interesting so I have more to write about at night!

Head Above Water

Just trying to keep my head above water because I didn’t get to bed until around 2:30 last night and had to get up at 7:30.  I am not sleeping well at all – wasn’t up late or anything i just couldn’t sleep.  I’m sleeping like an old person.  After a really good day of flexibility yesterday flexibility class was ok, not great, but everything keeps rolling. 

In dance we presented the 2×8 piece that The Hotshot and I did.  It wasn’t too bad but the music was faster than I remembered so we had to combine some of the things and cut some of the things which all worked out for the best in the end. 

I was thinking about skipping equilibre with Larissa based on what Isabelle had said about not doing extra work if you are tired, but in the end, i’m glad that i did because i got to do a three person high handstand column with The Clown and The Dreamer.  Byamba wasn’t there again today but Larissa also showed us some of the things that we’ll need to do and said that she wants Daniella to view our class at this evaluation. 

Acro and trampo were typical, and had equilibre with Byamba’s student whose girlfriend was a student at the school who was the victim of a car accident.  He gave me some things to think about when holding handstands against the wall like keeping your hips against the wall and not having your arm moving in space but rather moving your body relative to the arm while the arm stays completely parallel in space – that was helpful.  He also suggested that I not remove my finger when doing one arm drills on the canes. 

Then I did juggling with The Clown.  Both of our legs are really hurting because of movement, we think, so we didn’t do much with the hats but worked on our intro with the clubs.  Alex was back today and it was cool to see him around. 

The Contortionist wasn’t in dance class today because her boyfriend came back from Belgium yesterday and she was sure to tell me that they were up late “not sleeping.”  The Clown and I also talked about the personalities of The Tumbler’s unique Quebecois family.  

I really need to sleep today or I’ll just die tomorrow.  Sleep is really important but really hard for me to keep constant.

Circus artist doing a one-armed handstand in the desert

Comfort and Habituation

One of the upperclassmen fell on her head today and people were really worried about her.  The EMT’s came but at the end of the day she seemed fine.  Just one of those moments unique to circus school that reminds you that it’s dangerous and that we’re mortal but that you have to keep going. 

Movement today was good, I got an A for my evaluation which he said he gives out very rarely and that I seem to have a knack for it.  It’s fun doing well in something and getting appreciation for it even though this was not a class that I thought I would enjoy.  Did the stick exercise today where you have the ends of a stick held between the fingertips of two partners.  We also did a giant round robin at the end because both classes were together.  Good trip hop music and enjoyed playing with some breaking-style movements. 

I also got to be a flyer in hand to hand because we were joined by The Frenchman and another first-year guy who could port me.  Also was able to work with The Clown and we’re starting to have a good rapport. 

Alex just got back from Belgium so he wasn’t in ITA today and two of his students won three gold medals at the Piste d’Espoirs Festival which is great news for them and The Contortionist’s boyfriend won silver.

Today I intentionally didn’t do any supplementary strength since so many teachers have been telling me that work outside of class isn’t good for my body and might make me sick, etc. etc. so I’m taking a couple of days with no extra strength but I did do a heck of a good flexibility workout today: my splits were better than they have ever been in my life, or at least since doing gymnastics at MIT.

I have this new technique for working flexibility now.  I have my oversplits so I do one with correct form as a warmup and then do one with overextension for one minute each, and then I do “comfort” or “habituation” training where you sit in a medium position of a split for 2 minutes.  I’m doing that right now for splits and pancake and center split but not center split pancake.  I think it will be useful for stalter on highbar and presses on equilibre.

I got to hang out with people while working on standing backs and standing 1 1/2’s again.  I also pulled around a couple of standing double twists to my face in the pit – not beautiful, but fun.

Byamba wasn’t here again today so I worked with The Clown again on some juggling.

 

Circus school friends

Working Hard At Not Working Hard

Lousy evaluation in Jeu: C for being tired and either late or arriving just before class starts.  I also need to work more on writing for various projects instead of sticking with the simple things.  I guess i agree with that but as I was telling The Clown, I haven’t felt comfortable doing harder things yet because I don’t feel I’ve mastered the simple stuff, but if she’s indicating that i need to try harder things i will take that as a sign and work at it. 

Preparation physique was fine, not too tough today. 

It felt like spring and as one of the first year girl’s has just broken up with her boyfriend which always changes the chemistry in the school I found myself at my charming and flirty best today!

In Equilibre i did some one-arm work with Larissa for the first time and she had me do cool drills where we actually held each other for the one arms to actually feel exactly what you have to do to hold it. 

Worked with Esteban on crosses again.   

Trampo was trampo and my pike barani is not too bad.  At the same time i was trying to work standing back fulls with Straps Guy and another of the upperclassman.  I meant to do back fulls but kept doing back full and a half so they were teasing me for that. 

Finished up the day with tightwire – I got A’s and B’s but the evaluation got weird when the teacher asked me why all the girls are trying to switch out of his acro class. 

I’m really exhausted I didn’t get much sleep last night because there was a big dinner with my roommates but it’s still good. 

I’m definitely eating better which boosts my energy.  since so many teachers said i was working too hard and tired all the time i’m going to take a couple of days where I don’t do any additional work just to give it a rest anyway and take some time for myself.  it’s against my nature, and the first time i’ve done it since starting the school, but they insist that its better so I’ll give it a shot.

Circus acrobat doing handstand on a tower of blocks

Recentering Day – That Acrobat Feeling

So I’ve remembered what it feels like to be a circus artist now after my first saturday recentering day back after vacation.  I’m actually not in as bad shape as I thought I was going to be in as far as strength and flexibility.  I just did a lighter version of my saturday recentering stuff: only one set of each strength series and only held flexibility positions for 45 seconds instead of a minute.  My kicks are still where they were and my pike isn’t as bad as I thought as it was.  I did lose side splits but those are just not coming easily at all.

Working with The Hotshot on our 2x 8 bars was fun and I think that what we’ve  put together is pretty cool.  The women in the class are going to complain some fo the one-leg fondus.  I like working with people that you don’t have to be too polite with and who are excited about what they’re doing.  It just makes the ideas really flow very easily.  It makes working egoless so you can just focus on making something that looks cool in the end.

i also worked on some rudi’s into the pit and discovered that if you actually look at the ground make a full rotation after coming off the minitramp before wrapping tighter to get the last half around it really is much easier and you don’t have to worry about overrotating – you know exactly where you are.  I was going a little crooked but I did about 10 of them for consistency down.  I’m really trying to focus on basics with professors and then and work these more complicated skills on my own.  Trying to develop that sort of patience to let the body and the mind develop in parallel – the mind’s awareness of what the body’s doing, “air sense” essentially, is developed simultaneously.

The Contortionist and The Dreamer who were also there so it was fun to have just the three of us working in the gym.

It’s weird how it feels like at this gym I’m more motivated than at the MIT gym.  Is it the sense that you’re going to be evaluated?  That would worry me because ultimately your motivation to excel should come from within yourself.  I’m worried that in this respect going to school for circus is almost like a motivational crutch.

I was thinking about how yesterday Byamba motioned to something in the corner and shook his head “no.” I had no idea what he was talking about at the time but now I wonder if he meant that he didn’t want me to work rolla bolla anymore.  After taking a sauna for the first time in forever (which felt great) I had to ask myself if I actually would stop working it.  In a way, it gives me the opportunity to train with him on things like acrobatics which he clearly thought would be a good idea.  If he is my “master” I should go with what his instincts.

If i hadn’t gone in today (which was tempting as I had overslept a bit) I still wouldn’t be feeling like a circus artist.  This is really important because I think feeling like a circus artist is a prerequisite to actually training in the circus fashion.  It’s important stuff – glad I got a chance to recenter and remember that it is for myself that I’m in here.

 

Two circus students from the National Circus School of Montreal shooting images for their streetshow

Back To School

My first day back in school after gramma’s funeral was better than i thought it would be and it was really nice to see everyone.  I guess they knew what had happened because they weren’t coming up to me with the usual “ca va? ca va? ca va?”  

Flexibility was cancelled so we did acro into the pit and I worked on my standing side summies.  I may have tweaked my knee.  i hope isn’t going to be a pattern of immediately twisting my knee like I did after midsession last semester. 

In dance we learned new combos which was fun and i’m picking that up pretty quickly using my new “think of it as martial arts” technique. 

My evaluation was not great: D in general because the only classes I missed have been dance classes.  we learned the first two bars of the adagio today and The Hotshot and I will be working on a sequence for it to present on Wednesday. 

She’s working on musicality with everyone (counting music and feeling it).  This is the one thing we’ve done in dance which i feel totally comfortable doing – having to do a pattern in a three count with different accents. 

Equilibre was frustrating because these two weeks off have resulted in a lot of lost strength and how everything is supposed to go together but maybe that’s just normal with handstands.  I remeber it was that way after the last break as well, so hopefully it will come back up to speed pretty soon. 

Acro was fun. i talked with Esteban about working iron cross drills because i really want to beat jc at getting a good iron cross.  Esteban’s technique really turns the shoulders forward to use your chest muscles, so the work i’m doing is really to try to recruit my chest muscles to hold the cross. 

Did a lot of good side summie work today, but trampoline was all over the place.  That comes from losing the tempo of the bed after two weeks.  My plongeons were coming out pretty well because it’s one of the skills i wasn’t afraid to do on the MIT trampoline over the break.  It seems so much smaller than the one at school which has all the safety mats around it. 

Byamba equilibre was fun and i actually talked with him for a while.  I guess The Trapesist’s porter didn’t have a very good audition.  She said he sort of approached the audition as a sure thing because, as she said, “he has The Trapesist’s name on his forehead.” 

She told me that maybe she was going to do equilibre and i asked Byamba if she had told him that.  He told me that earlier she told him that she thought equlibre was too hard and said that if you have that mindset it will be tough to do handstands. 

He asked if she was open to doing the rolla bolla – I mean i’m not interested in rolla bolla either and I wouldn’t be doing it if it weren’t for my wrist injury, but i can find ways to make it fun and she said she can do that too.  That said, it’s one thing to say it and another to live by it. 

I told him was giving myself six weeks to learn a one armed handstand and he motioned over to the canes to say, “Well, get to it!” 

So i worked at it and its getting there but its still sloppy and not sturdy at all, but I’m working them all up against the wall and i think that that’s helping.  I did three 1-minute handstand holds against the wall today and then three 10-second one arm handstands against the wall on each side with legs together.  I think that’s helping.  It’s just one of the things that you just need to commit to if you want to do equilibre.  Being able to hold a handstand with your shoulders pressed out as if your against a wall, its just one of those things that you need to be able to do. 

I also talked with Estaban about changing my acro goals to just master the basic skills rather than push myself to do harder skills and sacrifice some of the work that i could be doing on the simpler one that may help more in the long term.

It was nice to be back and see The Contortionist and The Clown because i think that we really missed each other.  

When i was setting up the rings, the cables flew up.  One of the riggers just happened to be around so he was able to pull them down for me but that was kind of embarrassing. 

In general it was a crappy day because the way you eat and sleep affects the way your body performs and after two weeks of not doing that very well I need to get back into eating correctly, sleeping correctly, and all that.  I’ve set up a special timer light to have little sunrises in my room at 6am which is good.

My ideal schedule would be sleeping from 10 to 5 and doing a run in the morning according to Alex who is in Belgium right now possibly talking to the Moscow school on my behalf.  Hopefully the students over there are doing a great job, so good luck to them!

Coming home today I realized that the stupid people are shaping our society on a day-to-day level.  What I mean is that so much in everyday life is put there specifically to keep stupid people from screwing it up, like “coffee is hot” warnings.  One stupid person results in a policy that forever affects the rest of us every day.

Byamba’s son tried out for the school and hopefully he’ll get in for Byamba’s sake.  it would be nice to have another Asian person in the school!