Kung Fu vs. Circus in a Fight to the Death

Even considering that I am a circus artist I think I am in pretty good shape for a nearly 29.  If you ever want to be humbled, try working with 19-23 year old recent graduates of a Chinese kung fu conservatory.


The quickness and the power and, perhaps most strikingly, that state of perpetual readiness.  I am always amazed at the fact that they never use their warm-up time.  Circus artists always need about 15 minutes just to start rehearsing, but these martial artists are able to perform their full routines on cue anytime, anywhere.  As long as the ceiling is high enough, that is – I’ve never seen vertical jumps of this magnitude.

We see marital artists in movies, but when you witness the quickness firsthand, it is mind numbing.  Really, you feel like you are on drugs.  People just aren’t normally able to move that fast.

Cross-disciplinary work is always humbling.  Work exclusively with artists in your field and you can grow complacent and soft.  But as a circus artist, I am also stunned when I see work like this:

Acrobats have to risk death to get an audience to experience the simplest of emotions.  In these clips, a dancers’ subtlest motions stir up some pretty complex feelings.

Circus artists are like sledgehammers, these contemporary ballet dancers are like lockpicks.  Both can open a door in a spectacular way, but the grass is always greener.

The martial artists are struggling in our creative process, but they are working through it and making a hell of a lot more progress in just one week of rehearsals than I made in my first few months at the National Circus School of Canada.  Perhaps it is a symptom of their willingness and their desire to take their physical prowess into a new environment; one in which they can express themselves with their instruments.  Like a brilliant classical pianist falling in love with jazz.

Fuck, sometimes I think I have a great job.  But even at 28, I do feel old when I work directly with the “next generation.”

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