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.


Back In The Game

Skipped jeu after a night of general malady of the emotions and calling friend after friend to no real avail.  Did preperation physique first, and was a little floored by 5 minutes of jump roping and a 2x rope climb, but in general, I did OK.  I have awesome rope burns on my feet and insides of my knees.

I learned to always volunteer first, which I did anyway, but in the case of the rope climb, I started from sitting without using feet just like we did on the MIT gymnastics team, and then when I could no longer do it, I switched to using feet.  I also climbed all the way to the top, and did a slow descend with one arm at a time.  After, he clarified that we could start from standing, use feet, etc, and could slide down.  Most started from standing with feet and arms, and made it halfway before sliding down.  Would I have done what I did if I hadn’t gone first?  Probably.  But going first allows you to set your own bar without looking like a showoff.

Equilibre was fun, Larissa worked us hard.  I definitely feel like I am back in the groove.  She also gave me the phone number and fax of the Moscow school, which I will try calling later.

I am getting much better at the stumph’s.

She also has me doing the stumph to both blocks being thrown away at the same time.  Oh!  And we saw Larissa’s weird bendy pole act, which she did not like, but it was fun seeing her be a performer.

In trampo I actually did the piked barani.  Just had to take it easy, and be an observer of the trick at the same time as a performer of the trick.  Relax!

Richard was not there for fil, so The Clown and I watched a video of hat stuff for inspiration for our juggling number we need to do.

The Aerialist came in and watched an old school show, and we all agreed that the technical skill was better then, and she was mad when I was critical of technique.  I saw the number of the guy who I might have seen in alegria (equilibre) and commented that I didn’t like all the cheesy discovery of the apparatus stuff, but she said that this might have been the first time it had been done, and so was not cheesy.  I think it was still cheesy.

Then I tricked The Contortionist into thinking that a guy who looked a lot like her roommate really was him and that it was last years evaluation concept.  She believed me so much that I had to tell her the truth.

Then flexi and muscu.  The Flyer wanted me to teach her some martial arts too.  When someone put in the mortal kombat theme, she raced over to attack The Clown and me, but I defended myself reflexively a little too aggressively, and I think that caught her off guard.

During flexi, Larissa came over to me and introduced her Russian husband who spoke Japanese to me, but I do not think he understood my English or French.  Then they left without her introducing him to The Clown.  Niether of us know what this means.  Russian thing?  The Clown says, ‘but I am not really her ideal student.’

Graduating class of the National Circus School

Be Careful What You Say In Handstand Class

Ah well, where do I start.  I learned that an ex-girlfriend started dating one of my friends, and I ended up staying home from school for 2 days.  It did my knee well though, and Friday went pretty well.  I was embarrassed to discover that in dance I was unable to do any of the sequences, and that Martine was being very picky about the music.  I am still way behind, and still have no music.

Monday was nice, being back in jeu.  Larissa got really mad at me when I showed The Clown how to do a skill though, and she had to have one of the other Russian teachers come over and yell at me “if you want to teach the course, I will be happy to stay home.”  So I decided to not talk anymore in her class, which seems to work.  The Clown and The Dreamer had a fun time trying to get me to talk.

The Trapezist needing teachers to be all supportive and happy about her and her weight.

Being told by another two teachers that I think too much.  The Trapezist really seeming to get a vindictive thrill about it.

My disturbing dreams for movement, with the “I am I was I was I come I love’ song.  I did the dying dog dream, The Trapezist did one about her parents killing themselves over and over, another girl did one about almost being raped, and The Contortionist did one about being a bird flying around and not caring.

Byamba playing with things in the equilibre area, like sliding on the canes and throwing the water bottles to the window.

Byamba massages that hurt but feel really good.

Two extra equilibre classes this week to make up for last week.

Me being a ‘sausage’ in trampo course.

This is a lot like high school, even in the way I interact with teachers.

Handstand tableau in the National Circus School of Montreal annual show

Circus Crush

Morning equilibre, not as good as last night, but what can you expect?

Did pullups with weight in preparation physique today.

Skipped trampo minor due to knee problems, and slept in sauna instead.

Talked with Alex about just doing static cradle, and he said, ‘Tanabe, understand well, it is called intro to arial, not arial minor.  It is alright.”

Did my first mount on cradle it was fun.

I have my front and back giants back on barre fixe, which is nice.

I am starting to find ways to put juggling skills together into a routine, which will be nice for busking purposes.

One of the other first years is a pain in the butt in that he really can’t take people joking about him, but will be as cruel as he wants to others.  He looks a lot like a guy on a ‘youth and alcohol’ booklet that we all had to read, but was upset when I told him that, and was pretty mean in finding something to say to me about it.   I laughed.  That’s all there is to it.  He’s getting a bad reputation for dropping partners.

Main a main was with Natalie today, and we just played around.  Learned a lot, though.

The Trapezist was all happy because her exboyfriend emailed her.  I said that she gives him a lot of power that way.  She was mad at me because I mentioned how women get emotionally affected by what other people say about their bodies, but that came up because of some things that Russian speaking equilibre student overheard about Larissa saying about his girlfriend.  The Trapezist said that she needs someone to make her feel good as a teacher.  I had to disagree.

Jinny Jacintho was subbing today.  Everyone knows I’m have a fan crush on her but I didn’t get a chance to talk with her.  I hope I get another chance.  The Clown was upset I didn’t grab this one.

Evaluation concept was interesting.  We kind of nailed down the juggling portion of the show, but I had to step into a much more directorial role.  I didn’t mind, but at the end, we all sat down and talked about the working situation.  Of course the usual suspects missed the meetings.  We decided to have non-mandatory writing meetings that would be led by The Clown and myself, and that rehearsals would be when that writing is presented to the group.  People were pretty receptive to it.

Pizza night was pretty tame, I wanted to leave early to get on with the Journal and to hopefully get some sleep.

I start to find The Dreamer cute.

I broke the dance bar with The Acrobat last Monday.  Oops.

Circus acrobat holding a one-armed handstand at the National Circus School of Montreal


Last day of assessments!  Kicked off with flexi, in which Isabelle clearly was trying to make up for our lacking front split improvements in the evaluations by working it into us in spades today.  The Acrobat was my partner again (finally) and we had a good time.  He says: “I hate you.”  Split work was fantastic!

Dance!  The remaining assessment of our barre work.  Wow.  We were basically tested on everything that we have done in the class up until this point.  It was rough.  There were three groups, and each group started one of the 6 exercises we had to show while the others got to practice.  Still didn’t change that if you were in the middle of the barre your job was much easier.  Still, I got through it without any major mess ups.  After the assessment, almost everyone had to leave for their meningitis injections, but The Contortionist, The Trapezist, me, and three others stayed, so we got to work on a lot of things that we were having trouble with, namely, glissade, assamble, pirrouete, changement, changement, and triplets, and sisson, assamble.  After that remedial work, we were shown some cool dancer exercises, like holding hands with one arm and pulling back while relaxing so that you are supporting each other to loosen the muscles in the arm.  Then we did a variation in which you sit and pull up and let go, regrasp and repeat.  Suspension!  Then we held hands and one partner ran around the other to spin them, and they started with their leg behind them, brought it into a sitting position, and then stood straight.  It took practice but I got it eventually.  It was really fun seeing a looser side of dance and Martine. 

Larissa gave us free practice time too, so of course I did ooska roochka.  I also need to work on my presses and reverse presses.  “flexibility and your shoulders problem.”  Larissa also told me that her back is hurting her.  I like when she talks to me, but feel bad that she can’t understand all of my jokes.  I hope she does not think they are at her expense.  We exchanged some Japanese phrases.  She worked in Japan for six months.

The American was in this class, and she is pretty strong at press-like work.

Larissa gave me some new exercises “just for you”.  One is a walking up and down stairs drill, and the other is being on two blocks, doing a tempo, and pushing the blocks out from under me to land on the ground.  I want to do things like these in my act.  When we did crocodiles, she had me go first “James, show the ladies how to do.”  Not bad, but my left side is still for crap.

Acro is weird, I’ve noticed, because it is the only class I get bored in and I always seem to have low energy for it.  Nothing new, but working on layout step out out of cartwheels.

Column a trois is going okay, but I checked with Sylvain who said that I am progressing fine and that I should not worry about it.  One other first year and The Trapezist worked with us at least for today.  I do think that being the middle is probably the hardest Job, but of course The Trapezist can do it fine… she has more experience, though.

Trampo was interesting because Caroline let us choose what we wanted to do both on and off the trampoline, and The Contortionist and I both decided to do preparation physique.  The only ones who chose that, I think.  On the tramp, I wanted to work cool enchainements, so she gave me demi tour-ventre-dos-demi tour-dos-ventre-dos-demi tour de bou.  She also gave me vrei-dos-ventre-dos-demi tour-dos-assi-demi tour de bou.  Yow.  They were hard, but fun.  I guess I flapped my arms like a bird.  When she showed me what I looked like I asked ‘est-ce que tu malade ou est-ce que cest moi?’ and she couldn’t stop laughing.  ‘forget it, james.  You are not a bird.’  When I tried to do the routine again, I did it with straight arms, which means that I just made bigger circles.

Isabelle asked me to fill in for two days of the recreational program, which is cool because hopefully that means I can start working regularly for them next session or next year.  If I do well.

Then: equilibre with Byamba!  It was cool because it was just The Contortionist, The Trapezist and me and one older student since everyone else was out because of the injections.  Lots of one arm work because it was just really clicking today.  I could search pretty well and was able to see my handstand.  It was great.  After seeing The Trapezist hold hers pretty well, it sparked my competitive side a bit and I held one for 5 seconds!  A new record (for me).  Then he worked the straight-bodied one with me a bit which was great.  I declared vendredei unbrasdi from now on.  Great class.

Time for me to teach, now, so I got changed and stuff.  One of the kids is a real pain, but I just let her do what she wants after a little while.  The little ones were running all over, but I could maintain control pretty well.  The oldest group is great, though, and they joined together for a chorus of “on t’aime, Travelling Acrobat!’  that was cool, and when I was telling people to do two legged walkovers if their one-legged ones were easy, one of the kids said that his one leg ones were easy and so were his two legs (obvious lie from the joker), and I said ‘then maybe for you, you do sans jambe, and he almost fell over laughing, saying ‘Massachusetts is the land of the joke.’

I also talked with Sylvain and Caroline after the classes and they told me that over the vacation week, all the teacher get together and talk about all of the students individually and that it is really interesting because they get a much fuller view of the students.  It’s interesting to realize that all this time there have been eyes on us without us ever knowing.  After the session we all get talked to individually in each class to find out how we are doing.  What I hope they will say about me:

  • Always works hard.
  • Will do more than what you give him.
  • Perfectionist.
  • Maybe unfocused.
  • Good strength, bad flexibility.
  • Easy to work with.
  • Good humor.
  • Well liked.
  • Never gives up on something that is giving him trouble.
  • Helps people.
  • Patient, eager, willing. 

Let’s see how this compares to what they actually say!

Circus acrobats hanging up laundry on a street show tour through Europe

Hey! I’m Actually Getting Better at Stuff!

Well I had the flexibility assessment today, and to my surprise, I actually passed the session’s goals already!  I think that this is a great way to do flexibility.  Work it and work it and work it, and then measure it every two months to see how you have improved.  Great motivator.  Yahoo!

Dance was the first round of assessments, and I did about how I expected I would do.  Barre assessment on Friday.  I think that I am somewhere in the upper half of middle average, if that makes sense.  We shall see, though.  A damn sisson assable combo was killing me at the end of class, though.  Grr.

Equilibre with Larissa was cool, but I need to figure out how to get this back problem fixed, and soon.  I found a Russian magazine of hers, and she told us about this russian singer that was in it and how rich he is (and androgynous).  It was a cool look into her and russian life, even though he’s officialy bulgarian, I think.  Also she said she would take The Clown and I to Russia to look for sexy ladies, because she says that they are there.  Ooska ruchka!  Great class.

I am bothered by my all-Quebecer tumbling class.  I guess I see a little bit of the snobbishness that my roommate Rod told me about the first time I met him.  Oh well.  I started working on cartweel side summie.

Trampo was the same stuff, but I just started my work on my minor evaluation tomorrow.  I like Carol’s classes.  She gave us the day off on conditioning, claiming that everyone looked like ghosts.  Yesterday I was talking about how it is a bit of a shock to all of a sudden be evaluated and stuff in circus school, and hard-core circus lady said ‘you are not the only one.’ 

The Clown wants to do partner flexi with me because I am serious and hardcore too.  He did not do well on his assessment.  I think he’s very impatient, and I can understand that to a certain degree, but I wish he could just let it go.  I also talked with him about having the ‘director’ not be the sole idea source for the group.  I guess it was silly of me to think that he would disagree, but I’m glad we talked about it.

Finally, an hour of equilibre with Byamba.  It was fun.  One of the upper class girls got hurt.  It was her fault, she collapsed after Byamba had helped her to the floor and hit her lip on the stalk.  Cut her lip.  She blamed him, though I think.  I invited him to the show on Satuday, and I think that he will go.  Yeah!  Talked with him a bit about what his training was like in Mongolia.  Also found out that his six kids story is a funny lie.  But his wife is maybe divorced from him?  And he has only one son, and he writes him over email sometimes?  I don’t know.  Maybe also a lie.  But one of his other students told me about this time he sanded the rust off her stairs and denied it, saying that the director of the school did it.  I think he does not like her.  Anyway, he jokes about her a lot.

Did sante and nutrition til late, so I better get to bed.

The street performer hotel room - three circus acrobats in a car


Early day.  Jeu was not so good, I was just feeling slow and ideas were not coming.  The Clown and I were selected to do a group exercise for the first example of something in protoimprov.  It was cool and we did well.

Then I had equilibre, after dropping all my freshly cooked pasta on the floor.  I do like that Larissa is so tough on me.  I see it as indication that she has high hopes for me.

Trampo evaluation went really bad.  I think because I was so tense.  All my warmups were good, but the actual evaluations were crap.  Yech.  And in acro, I was misunderstanding instructions and flopping all over the place.

The fil de fer assessment was a little more low-stress, so I took the opportunity to challenge myself by doing the whole assessment on the high wire.

One of our year did not do so well in his trampo assessment; he was told he could not pass the class at this rate.

I did a class in equilibre with The Acrobat, The Trapezist, and The Tumbler.  When one of the other students, he asked me sarcastically if this was my class and I said no and kept working.  The funny thing is that Byamba worked more with me than with him who kept goofing off.  Also, The Tumbler complained that his shoulder hurt a bit to get out of an exercise or two.

Then, after a bit of shuffling around, in three high columns, I felt the connection to the base for the first time!  Yahoo!  Just when I was about to give up hope and say I was not cut out for it.

Planche I also found the rhythm on for the first time.  You need to push immediately after coming in contact with the board, and not before, or you just rebound off the wood, which I was doing.  I just need to control where I land, and things will be great.

Things to remember:

Man, my kicks look good with my newfound flexibility!

Showing off muscles with the guys.

Byamba pushing The Acrobat down while saying “alle, alle,” to punish him for not working.

Trying a manna for the first time with Byamba’s help (2 months, I told him)

Talking late with The Trapezist about social life.  She says I’m complicated.  I told her I just tell people what they tell me.