And Three Years Later

An Italian woman named Valeria just wrote me back in response to an email I wrote three years ago when we were trying to set up our 2003 summer tour.  She wanted more information.  Evidently, three years after the fact, her director found our email and was interested in the possibility of collaborating.

Without telling her explicitly that the company had completely exploded, decimated by Cirque du Soleil productions, I told her that thanks in part to our successful collaborations, we had evolved a lot over the last few years – three of us working for Soleil and me working as an artistic director in Asia, specifically in Taiwan.  Since we didn’t want to lose what we had created, I’m working to keep some continuity until the four of us might be able to work together again.  In a sense, the company is currently an engine of creation, able to work with many different artist types for short- or long-term productions, especially smaller productions with 4-7 artists mixing dance, circus, and theatre.  I also highlighted the network of partners and promoters that we are building in Canada, China, Japan, and Taiwan and the show that we’re creating for the festival.  Of course, I can always send her the materials about our original show, but that it might make more sense to wait until I can send her the materials for the new one.

I made me think of The Clown.  His Cirque du Soleil show is opening soon; I am excited to read about how well he does in it; I know he’s going to be a hit.  Not the show, necessarily, but at least him.  I’m not sure that I’ve ever had as much fun as the two of us had in 2003 with The Artist and The Tumbler in Barcelona and all the other crazy times.  He’s not going to stay with Cirque forever and I guess I’ll be finishing up this Asia thing in the next couple of years, too…


We really need to hit the road old-school style again.  Just him and me and a guitar, three hats, some good fun, and the goddamn public.  That is what this shit is all about, no?  That and the cocktails after that!!!!

Whirlwind Tour Part 2: Boston

So I managed to get through yesterday, which entitled waking up in Honolulu at 10AM, flying to Chicago (arrive 5:30AM local time the next day), and then continuing on to Boston (arriving 9:40AM local time) going to my dance company’s rehearsal and exploring the possibility of a month’s work with them if Taiwan is truly screwing me out of that fourth month of work; I’d be in there as acrobatic/circus consultant, co-director for a new piece.  Plus, they gave me the personal contact info on all the promoters for the Boston area.  ‘All’ of them amounts to a grand total of three, but it is a hell of a lot more managable than the millions in Tokyo.

Business in the arts is a very strange thing.  When I sit at home, depressed and alone, when I train in a corner of the gym, I feel like a failure; like I am skillless and useless in the world.  but as soon as I have a project; a CREATION project, I feel like I am really doing something that few people can do.  I can look at a piece, at a theme, at an artist, and just know what has to be done to make that piece, theme, or artist effectively move an audience…  but there is that important ingredient of the other people there.  All alone, I am like a waterwheel in the desert.

Then it was off to MIT to meet with my former acrobatics partner from Bulgaria.  Strange, strange, strange.  It is like looking into a mirror in which your image from six years ago is reflected and superimposed over what you now are.  It was very interesting talking about her studies (system complexity), a Balkan’s view of the United States, and Americans and MIT in general, culture, cultural norms… and all in the context of sitting there in America with Americans all around us…   we were able to switch back and forth from English to French to Spanish as the spirit moved us, and as the sentiment required.

In the end, we realized that six years ago, we really had nothing in common.  I was an ignorant American, and she was a culture-shocked Balkan in a new environment.  Oddly enough, six years later, we have travelled to the same countries, both learned French, both started drinking, and are both looking at our “successful” lives and realizing that we feel like we have nothing in our hands…  that our choices have not been choices so much, but improvisations from moment to moment, and we only see ahead to the next junction.

Something that my friends at the Tabata refugee camp can surely relate to.

I can’t stop thinking about The Model and her visa problems, and The Political Scientist and her visa silence…  my biggest fear is returning to an empty or emptier house…

I hope for the best every day, and think of them often!

I ran into an ex-girlfriend completely by chance in the hallway while looking for a bathroom.  Her first words to me: ‘You asshole!  I knew you’d do this!’

I guess she thought I was trying to be cute by not telling her I would be in town and then showing up unannounced at her lab.  later on, I’d realize the absurdity of this presumption, as though I would research the work address of a former lover just to hang outside and stalk her…  but then when I told her that it was just chance, a happy chance, she said that it was even worse.

But come on, we are not best friends, I have only so much free time this trip, and my main reason for coming was to talk about my friend’s death with my two closest friends in Boston and to meet a woman whom I never really got to know when I had the chance…  realistically, I could not contact every friend I ever had in boston and schedule 15 minute coffee-breaks with all of them…

Then it was to the gym where I trained with my former acro partner…  the last time we had trained, she was helping me get into circus school.  Needless to say, I had improved a bit, but we still had a good time.  She had not done acro since our last practice together six years ago, so I was helping her relearn a lot of her moves.

Then it was wine and Indian with her and her roommates.  I had a million things to talk about with her roommate from Hawaii, very introspective, talking about racial identity of the hopelessly mixed like us, the social structure and climate, good and bad, of the islands, old-time Hawaiian pop culture…  history, it was a good conversation.  the other roommate was a little overbearing in the American sense, talking about how her greek friend should stop worrying about her relationships and just change herself to fit with the guy she is with, that love is worth changing yourself for, and that the Eastern European marrying-for-the-right-reasons is too mental, akin to arranged marriages, and that her Greek friend should be able to adapt to the Hollywood romantic ideal of pushing yourself into the mold of a reltaionship.  I got tired quickly of this and smiled.  Finally, at 4am I went to sleep on the couch (9 pm hawaii time… 36 sleepless hours) only to wake up five hours later to drive my friend to class.

Two bottles of wine between the two of us, but consumed over 5 hours of good conversation with roommates, and I had my first allergic reaction to American Indian food a la what happens every time The Political Scientist takes me to an Indian restaurant in Tokyo!

I try to find a place to nap now, maybe get a haircut, something to eat.  It is strange being in America, my friends.  It is like walking around Disneyland after working backstage for years.  There is no magic left, or what magic that is present is too easily understood.

Business is good, company is good, and I feel busy… just the way I like it on vacation!

A Clown In Need…

This cold weather reminds me of when The Clown and I took a short detour to do street performing in a little corner of Northern Italy – even the train ride in was poetry, people sitting to talk with you non-stop in Italian even if you didn’t understand a word.  I miss summer, most of all.

Life is much harder without a friend like The Clown by my side.  Some days I just need to go to a bar and have a drink with someone and talk about women and act stupid and laugh.

I really missed him last night when I went to this all-night jazz festival.  Except for one incredible band, it sucked, but the two of us would have had a really good time there with all the funny shit going on that everyone else missed but that he would have gotten right away.  Good drinks in a huge club with crappy bands.  I was laughing the whole time.

He’s working on two Cirque du Soleil shows right now – one that is supposed to be a clown show and one based on the Beatles.

While I’m a bit envious of my friends having success as performers, I realize that not having a performing contract may actually be helping me as a project producer in Tokyo – to get projects to work, you need to have a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit, and if you are having regular work as a performer, you don’t really need that.  It is a fun life, but still so much stress…

Fuck!  when i think of all the work The Clown, The Artist, and The Tumbler are doing at Soleil, it makes me so proud to know them!  I hope that when this show works out here that they’ll be happy to say that they know a crazy fucker doing shit out in Asia, too!

Absinthe Makes The Heart Grow Fonder

The challenge for me is to get back to the writing end of things; I love the physical side and all of that, but I have let the writing side of me die a little bit; so this next project is going to have a lot to do with writing because it is based on the life and work of a writer.  He was also a world traveler, so there will be a lot of travel involved.  Being in Japan for this part of the project is great, really inspiring.  I am learning a lot more about race and culture and where I fit in all of it.  It is never as simple as we once thought.

As for money, well, you never know.

It is a totally fucked up way to try and do this, but I figure, if this is the way I like making shows and I like the shows that come out of it, and if we were able to make enough money to have a nice Christmas and New Years, then maybe there is a way to pull this kind of production off as a living, particularly after getting the money from this Expo project, and hopefully getting a few grants.

I have some people interested in this thing, I think, and not the sort of people you would normally associate with a theater-circus-dance show; professors from the US and the UK and Bulgaria, a Bulgarian playwright, a bagpipe player, an artist from Lithuania…

It is crazy, and with all these ideas flying around, I am getting some good inspiration.

I am drinking a lot and partying a lot and writing a lot and training only basics, strength and flexibility and a little bit of movement on my own, like what we did with The Actor.

I have really started enjoying absinthe and i am reading all the fucking time; circus school made me forget how that feels… to absorb all this knowledge and disagree with it or challenge it or just get pissed off by it; it feels like taking a breath, and practicing my writing at the same time is giving me a voice too… with the two together, I plan to scream like a fucking banshee, soon, and then we will see what happens.

The Clown wrote me to say that he had tried to send me a text message but I don’t think I ever got it – I don’t really know how to use these things.  He was asking if I am disappointed in him.  Come on.  I couldn’t be prouder, really.  As far as I can tell all this business about Soleil is what we were always talking about; getting there, taking advantage, and accepting on our terms.  If he can do that, it is all good, I already know that he is going to make great material.  It’s good to hear The Clown say that he is keeping busy before the contract with Soleil, especially after that stressful time where he was feeling like he had nothing.  The absolute best experiences I have ever had in my life have had to do with the two productions I did with him.

Of course he asked about how things are with The Contortionist, well, it is hard to say, love is always complicated.  I want to be in love, but The Contortionist doesn’t seem to understand exactly what I want to do and what drives me to do it.  This puts distance between us, and on top of that, we see each other maybe twice or three times a year.

So we will see what happens.  I fly to New Zealand to see her in a couple weeks.

Things are always more complicated, and the further we dig, the more complicated they get.


The Canadian Olympic curling team! (four street show acrobats in France)

The Gang

Okay.  Let’s catch up.  The summary is that this weekend, as weird as it is with having a four day week last week and a six day week coming up, has seemed to last forever.  Pizza night was pretty laid back, The Trapezist, The Aerialist, The Clown, The Artist, and myself.  Nice and chill, oh The Contortionist was there too, and we decided to go and check out the party at The Funambulist’s since The Clown, The Contortionist, and I were not going to go to the history of circus class after all.  The Trapezist was still talking about how tough it is to get a straight answer out of me, and The Contortionist was also being chummy, so I was having a nice time.  At The Funambulist’s, we were the only group there at first.  We played around a bit, seeing if I would look good holding a cigarette and stuff like that.  A good party, and The Clown was (of course) talking a lot about sex.  He said at the end that he enjoys my since of dry sense of humor.  At one point, The Trapezist posed me to look like a crime boss with my Ukrainian shirt open halfway and with The Artist and The Clown on each side of me as bodyguards.  The Funambulist let me play the bottlecaps game with her roommate, and I got pretty good at it.

Then I went to the school again yesterday to meet for a brunch that the kids were planning.  All of them were looking pretty dazed as they came out of the place.  The concensus was: good but long.  Brunch was great, right on St. Catherine street, and I had french pancakes with an ommelette in it.  Good, but huge.  People kept stealing my food and stuff.  Talked with The Trapezist again, and then we all went ot The Artist’s and watched “Night at the Roxbury” in French.  I told The Clown “I’m worried that we are those guys.”  He said “I thinking that since the beginning of the movie.”  I left for a while before the big party that would be at their place later.  The Clown and I tried to get the “Night at the Roxbury” Soundtrack as well as the album with “Push It” on it, but we couldn’t find it.

When I got to the party, it was basically a huge juggling fest.  Then it became a festival of equilibre and main a main skills.  The Trapezist wanted to try everything, and I was still feeling weak in my shoulder, so I ended up spotting more than porting.  When I tried to be a flyer on The Mentor, I realized that I had not done that since free training at the beginning of the year.  I need to get that stuff in shape!

The Trapezist’s friend from the trapezium was there and according to The Trapezist was feeling a little sad that she had not gotten into the school.  Additionally she evidentially has a crush on one of the upperclassmen. 

My planche’s were being held pretty well!

Today was Cirque du Soleil.  It was fun going there for their open house with pretty much the whole gang again.  We rushed through most of the tour, running into one of the upperclassmen who was working as a clown there, and then stopped off at the gymnasium where we saw a girl who was going to replace a handbalancer who was leaving one of the shows.  She was pretty good, very rhythmic gymnastic-y.  We also saw a little russian swing, but nothing more than a back tuck.  In the kids play area, some of our gang did some handstands and one arm planches and hand-to-hand, while The Tumbler did some tumbling.  I did a planche.  Then we played on a smooth floor where I did turtles and got spun around by my feet.

Turns out The Trapezist did not spend the night, but she did stay until 7am, leaving when The Clown did.  I told The Artist I was not going to get in his way, but The Clown said he might.  The Artist and I are similar in many ways, The Clown is different.  We are a good mix of three, though.  Maybe I go to see a dance show tonight since Deb Brown’s thing is sold out.  What a weekend!

Four acrobats doing a circus street show as they travel through France


Got an okay amount of sleep, I thought, before the cable guy came to install the cable TV and Internet access.  Trampo started out okay, but I am still really flaky when it comes to back drops.  ITA and juggling were as to be expected, but I was so hungry by the end.  I was also picking up vibes that The Trapezist and one of her friends is frustrated with me for some reason or another, they are both being kind of cold. 

Hand to hand was tough without a left arm, and I decided not to do any supplementary equilibe today.  We did do neck to neck balances today, though, which was fun.

I felt really slow and dumb today, which was weird.

Started thinking about how to teach circus in the context of theater for the Masque kids today.  Basically, expanding the body’s limits so that you are well prepared to undertake anything you might want to.

Movement was weird.  After the yoga stuff, we put blindfolds on and wandered around the room with weird sounds or whispering or yelling in made-up languages.  Kind of fun, but I was not in the mood for it.

The Aerialist has a torn ligament, and will need surgery.  Makes you take stock, you know?  I told her that she needs to stay happy and these months will still prove to be productive for her.  I told her I had surgery too, and that it is not as bad as it initially seems.

Of course I would not have believed it at the time, either.



MIT gymnasts competing in the Iron Max

Farewell Email to MIT Men’s Gymnastics Team

After hanging out with max a bit after practice today (in town til saturday) I was inspired to go back and find this email from three (!) years ago about Iron and Brass Maxes.  Note the pathetic records.  on the other hand, we had to do it all in 90 minutes.  anyone remember what our second year records were? 

Anyway.  Hi Max! 

So the gym will be taken down tomorrow, ending all brass/iron max’s until sometime after graduation.  for those of us leaving Boston for the summer, it marks the last group Iron Max until September. 

This is a primer for those of us who have not attended an Iron Max or for those of us who will now need to carry on the weekly tradition of exhausting ourselves in solitude: 


              Walk through:

                           5 chin-ups

                           roll over the bar

                           4 pull ups

                           muscle-up over the bar

                           roll over the bar

                           5 dips

                           5 circles (or some other body-tightening thing like chinese push ups or body-tightener rolls)

                           2 punch-fronts

                           5 v-ups

                           Squat jumps down the length of the floor

                           5 leg raises to the bar

                           muscle-up to handstand on rings

                           climb a rope.


                           Do all of the above, but time yourself.  Faster is better.

                           Record: 1:35 (JC)



              Do all of the following (the prescribed order is the customary one) until you can’t do no more:  The record # is to the right of the event.

                           Cross w/ straps               0:47

                           L-Hold                              0:42

                           Handstand                       2:05

                           Bicep Hold                       1:12

                           Dips                                  53  

                           Humpin’ the Horse         30  

                           V-Ups                               75  

                           Rope Climb                      4.0s

                           Wings                               150 

                           Muscle-Ups                     9    

                           Back Tucks/Minute         23  

                           Pull-Ups                           18  

                           Swing-Dips                       30  

                           Wide-Arm Pull-Ups         16  

                           Press-Handstand             7

                           Ring Pull-Ups                   26 

                           Handstand Push-Ups      25 

                           Jumps/Minute                 59 


A word on judging/What the exercises are (Yes, you get judged; this is gymnastics!):


So this is a competition.  We can’t have people cheating. Obviously, a lot of us are asking questions like “well, what makes a dip,” or “wouldn’t 75 v-ups in 10 minutes be the same as 75 in a minute and a half?”  well, Iron Max says no.


              General Rules:


              -There is a loose time limit.  Try to get all the exercises done in an hour and a half.  This is about the average time it should take one person to do all these events.

              -Judge yourself harshly.

              -Beat your previous high score.

              -In general, you can rest in support position on an apparatus.  this does not include lying on the floor.


              Event rules/What they are:


              Cross Strength:

                           -Done with straps at elbows

                           -Start timing when arms are horizontal

                           -Stop timing when feet touch ground.


                           -Done on bars.

                           -Heels must be above bar level.


                           -On apparatus of your choice.

                           -If you do it against the wall, you must continuously tap the wall with your heels; you can not be on the wall for more than an instant.

                           -No, if you fall you do not get to start over.  Better luck next week.

              Bicep Hold:

                           -Done in pull-up or ‘back of hands to you’ grip.

                           -start when chin is above bar

                           -stop when chin dips below bar


                           -You must dip down until the bars are at nipple level.

                           -You must excersise full rang-of-motion; go all the way up.

              Humpin’ the Horse:

                           -done with five pound weights on each foot.

                           -Start with top half of your body on the horse with your body straight and horizontal.

                           -arch up to about 20 degrees.

                           -do not let your feet go below horizontal.


                           -Touch your toes (at least make an effort)

                           -You may hit the ground but not rest or bounce off it.


                           -2 pound weights on each foot.

                           -Start timing when butt leaves ground.

                           -Stop when you hit whatever the rope is hanging from.

                           -You get two attempts.


                           -Hang in the arm support on the p-bars.

                           -flap those wings.

                           -full range of motion.  as high as you can go, as low as you can go.


                           -You know.

              Back Tucks/Minute:

                           -You have one minute.  do a million back tucks.

                           -How many did you do?

                           -Anything coming more than half way around counts as a back tuck.


                           -No bouncing, swinging, or jerking.

              Swing dips:

                           -Dip on the forward swing.

                           -You must dip so that the bars go to nipple level.

              Wide-Arm pull-ups:

                           -You are in chin-up or ‘back of hands facing away’ grip.

                           -Your arms should make an angle of 90 degrees.

                           -No bouncing, swinging, or jerking.

              Press Handstands:

                           -NO JUMPING

                           -On any apparatus you want.

                           -Only count good ones.

              Ring pull-ups:

                           -These are like reverse push-ups.

                           -Keep your body straight.

                           -Your feet should be supported such that when you hang, they are the only things touching anything and you are below horizontal with your feet being the highest part.

              Handstand Push-ups:

                           -Any Apparatus you want.

                           -You can lean.

                           -Go all the way down

                           -Go all the way up.


                           -Jump from the floor to something about waist height.

                           -These should not be squat jumps so much as punches.