Acrobats setting up for a circus street show in France

Many Problems Abound

Today was the first day of final exam presentations which were a lot more fun than I expected them to be.  It’s not too high-stress.  I managed by best side summies and hit the standing full.  Mario mentioned to the jury that I kept working in spite of my wrist injury which was nice of him. 

Aladdin went, and that’s the most important thing: it’s just done. 

Trampo was fine, I had fun but I mistakenly thought it was two warm-ups and one real one but it was actually one warm up and two real ones and I screwed up on one of the real ones but I still had fun and the teacher didn’t fail me.  I’m really tired because I got in at 1am this morning from Boston where I spent a day or two to see friends. 

Friday night I went out to The Clown’s house which was fun.  I was able to actually shoot the breeze and make people laugh and be interesting in French which is an improvement. 

The Clown and I worked on our juggling number for about 90 minutes today because we present tomorrow.

Circus acrobats doing a tumbling trick at the National Circus School exterior show

Setting Records

The Gang has decided that the seven guys are going to start working on circus projects outside of class next year.   

Estaban had to leave the country due to visa problems and is replaced by his boyfriend Mario but he should be back by September.  Some people think that Mario is too tough, but thanks to him I have fixed my side summie, my standing back full, and I’ve been working rudi dismounts into the pit and backtucks off the wall from trampoline.  I trained at the place where Mario and Esteban’s work during the summer. 

Went to Boston and had a lot of fun seeing friends and doing karaoke.  My best friend from MIT is moving to the Southwest which was a bit of a surprise. 

My wrist is hurting a lot right now and I can’t do any handstands.  I did 31 pullups which is the new school record and I’m aiming to up that to 40 for next year.  I managed 60 pushups in a minute which I think is also pretty good.  The Clown and my juggling piece is getting pretty nice and locked in.  We’re going to hopefully perform it at a juggling convention that is coming up.  

Dance evaluation went surprisingly well, I hope, and we have the atelier presentation the week after this week.  This is the last week of classes and evaluations and then we have big evaluations coming the week after.

My roommate is back and now we have a new pregnant cat that hangs around.  Summer is here with 75, 80 degree weather.  It’s been really nice. 

The Clown and I are getting to be good friends and all of the guys in our class just got matching German submarine sailor haircuts which looks pretty funny.

It really sucks having my wrists not work, but I was able to do my splits without even warming up which was pretty exciting.  But I have my split, pike, center split evaluation tomorrow so hopefully my luck will hold out.

We had a second big working day for the outside show for the annual show and I think The Clown and I saw some of the same patterns as the evaluation concept – no real discipline or order until the camera was set up and then everyone just does all the tricks they know.  This was last Friday which was the first day I did a standing full, but I didn’t get it on camera.

Again it was just the guys who were doing things full-out while the girls were always spotting each other.  I’m getting to be better friends with The Aerialist.  I’m writing a show this summer with Tori and she’s asked me for some notes on how to get in shape for some acrobatic stuff since its so much harder to lift people if they don’t have strong cores.

I went to go see a dance show.  The first one was very physical and quirky with very good balance on the stage which was interesting because it was done in this big open warehouse with windows that weren’t covered up and you could see an apartment across the street where this woman was getting ready for bed with her boyfriend.  Funny seeing someone stripping outside while you’re watching a dance show.  The second one didn’t work so well – it was based on shocking violence and rape with a live DJ and heavy metal music, but the dance just wasn’t that good which was my main problem with it.  

After the show, the guys from school were messing around playing their quirky comic characters at the reception in this art and dance world event clowning around having problems in the men’s room, in the foyer, doing art dance numbers in the street and tripping all over themselves enjoying how when you trip and try to recover people just think that’s funny.  Two high columns, etc – fun to play with people who know how all this fits together.

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.

Flying acrobat killing a Thunder Bird in rehearsal for Kosmogonia


Had my evaluation today:

  • Work too hard, making me tired.
  • Need better flexibility and toe point.
  • Need to speak French.
  • Have good potential.
  • Am a true artist.
  • The evaluation concept lacked technique, but was ambitious with all the characters.
  • We needed to go farther.
  • The men overpowered the women.
  • Some looked like they did not offer up ideas.

I passed everything!  There is speculation that some in the first year did not get a good evaluation at all.  ITA was fun, but hard on the body.  I am really starting to get the hang of juggling with clubs and with juggling with four balls.  The Flyer looks good, having come back from Panama with her hair all in braids.  Main a main was a pain with my legs all bent out of shape and having The Dreamer as my partner for the first shoulder mounted handstands.  I also lost my job teaching on Fridays, but supposedly because they need someone who can teach fil de fer.  Movement was fun; we watched our evaluation tape, and then watched some partnering contact improv.  Tried to work extra, but was just too damn tired.  Talked with Alex at length.  He talked about a stair-like workout program with light, medium, intense, and then break day sequence.  He will have me talk with a student of his who understands his program better.  Alex will also talk with me later about the Moscow school to help me make up my mind.  Byamba is still not back.  My wrist is a little better I think.  My article from the technology review got here.  Interesting read, but they got a few facts wrong.  Some Alex quotes: “circus is not all fun.”  “I see your determination and effort, but without direction you are blind.”

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!

Acrobat holding a New York City souvenier

Feeling The Upswing A Bit

Morning handstands with Byamba, preparation physique in which I did my first solo hollow backs on a mat.  Trampo minor assessment was not bad, and I was surprised that my front skills were a little better than my back skills.  I had to learn a ¾ pike front to my back, and was really lost with no visual cues, but all went well.  ITA was fun, I started out doing the solo porting of The Trapezist and The Dreamer.  At one point, The Dreamer was jerking my back so I dropped her.  Alex said “look at his face, you are hurting him.”  She did much better after that.  Juggling was fine, finished with unicyle and hat evaluations, and then in main a main I was one of the only guys in my group who could complete the figures with the girls, which were standing with them on my shoulders, sitting, pirrouetting, and standing, and having shoulders to feet.  Then we finished with banquine, in which I get to be a flyer!  Yay.  Did a back salto. Getting cold again, yuck.  Sante was boring, and I get frustrated with the non-specific popular science they teach.  The science education here is not like that at MIT.  I guess that should be obvious. The Clown is paying me in fruit beverages to improve his flexibility, and we had our first session today, which was fun.  Pizza night at Ban Thai.