I have had stiffness and pain in my neck for the last week or so, which is very unusual for me.  One of my good friends in Japan, The Journalist, knows an acupuncturist whose office/apartment is not far from my house, so after my training on Monday, we meet up and head over there.

The office is not unlike the acupuncturist ‘office’ I knew in Boston.  Basically, it is a thinly disguised house, with massage tables and an electrical stimulation machine in the corner.

The Journalist, the wife half of the acupuncturist couple and I sit in the kitchen, and I listen as the two banter a little about life.  She strikes me as an unusual Japanese woman.  Very outspoken, and rips into The Journalist a little with biting sarcasm.

I am the first to get acupuncture treatment that night, preceded by a nice bit of shiatsu massage.  She sticks five needles into my neck and then hooks me up to a machine that delivers low-level electrical impulses through the needles causing deep muscle contractions in my neck. It doesn’t really hurt, but it does feel strange.

I hear the husband return and exchange some barbs with The Journalist before sticking him with pins and making him scream.

By this time, my acupuncture electrocution is over, and he comes over to me to massage my tendons and ligaments with needles.  This hurts a little more, and I could really feel it when the needles hit nerves and blood vessels.  Again, not really painful, but very strange, like electrical shocks that come from inside my own body.

After the treatment, I really do notice that most of the stiffness in my neck has dissipated, but there is a residual pain from the needles, so it is hard to say what the net effect is.  The acupuncturists advise me to take it easy on my training for two day, and after The Journalist and I pay a nominal fee for their services, they take us out for dinner at an izakaya (traditional Japanese pub) near the station.

There, as the alcohol flows, we speak freely about all kinds of things.  Acupuncture, life in Japan, my job, and The Journalist’s foolishness.  Most of the food was delicious except for some of the more exotic parts of the chicken (the skin, gizzard, tail, ovaries, and heart) that I neither The Journalist or I have been able to get used to.  I learn the Japanese euphemism for ‘this tastes terrible’: ‘natsukashii aji,’ literally ‘nostalgic flavor.’ Think, ‘wow, that taste really takes me back…’  I guess the idea is that you get so lost in reminiscence that you forget to eat the rest.

But my God, go out for an hour of acupuncture and end up spending the evening with two new friends.  A whole new world for free.  I love my job.

Circus contortionist performing in an inflatable ball

Happy Isolation

Physical preperation in which I continue to be gimpy.  Actually, I only missed one of the assesment tests.  I think that by missing a class and still doing everything that I possibly can with my injury is still the right way to go.  I was surprised at how good some of the first years were at midsection strength!  I really need to get on that. 

It was fun working with Caroline on tramp today.  I like that she gets my sense of humor.  She worked with Cirque du Soleil for a year after stopping her competitive trampoline due to lack of funds. 

ITA was fun.  I met the Russian coach’s son.  He said that his dad used to be known as the “torture monster” in Russia.  He also said something about the Russian army, and him being very old school.  “Look out.”  I couldn’t master the foot to hand transfer on the cradle, and luckily I did not have to be a porter for that.  It was frustrating, though. 

Still trap was fine.  I am still bored by it.  The Clown was having serious difficulties.  I think he and I both get in our own form of depressive moods.  High bar was same old-same old, but he had me do a few giants today.  He said “the giant for you are no problem.  It is just about form, now.”  I agreed.  Then he told me which of the girls he though were cute. 

Juggling was fine, but I hate unicycle!  I worked with The Trapezist some on stealing balls from each other.  She is fun to work with. 

Hand to hand I tried to be careful with, but it was tough.  We did no handed two person columns, dynamic lifts, and tried to sit down with the other person on our shoulders.  We also did a little hand to foot.  I think I am getting the hang of that stuff. 

After hand to hand I worked with Byamba a little, but I could tell I was tired.  I need to work that stuff anyways.  Very important.  Nutrition was boring, but I had a nice chat with The Flyer about life at the school and her “chum” of three days.  For me, I would have a “blonde.”  She said, “What we are too young for you?” 

Fingers continue to hurt.  Ha ha.  I tape up each knuckle.  Cool. 

Strength work continues.  Levers and planches, every day.  

Interestingly, I get a lot of pressure by my classmates to train less hours since I skipped pizza with them to train for a while longer.  While I was working handstands, unicycle, and juggling, they all gathered outside to make pleading gestures.  Even The Aerialist and The Contortionist got in on the act.  When I went outside I promised that I would party with them tomorrow night. 

My new attitude is that I train at the school.  Period.  Friends are nice, but I need to focus on what I need to do in these three years.

Circus acrobat does a handstand on a trashcan in the old port while a student at the Ecole Nationale de Cirque de Montreal

High School Redux

The first weekend after a full week of classes was a lot of fun, and has pretty much been defined by The Tumbler, The Clown, and finger and leg pain. 

We kicked it off on Saturday with a trip downtown to try and find dance pants.  No luck.  We did however have a lot of fun downtown with ridiculous shenanigans.   I did handstands on a window ledge, we kept challenging each other with increasingly impossible hat tricks until The Tumbler eventually tried for a particularly challenging catch and fell off a ledge. 

A sports store that we wanted to get in to closed just as we got there.  We did some clowning outside of the glass, pressing our faces up against the glass.  Pleading.  Begging.  Being disappointed.  Taking off our shirts.  The Clown talked about possibly taking me to Europe with him this summer to do street shows together.  We also met McGill freshmen out doing a scavenger hunt thing and who were not expecting to meet three circus students that day. 

We hung out a Place De Arts doing stuff on the side of a water pool there, but we were told first by a guard that we could not stand on the side of the pool.  Then that we could not have glass bottles.  Then, that we could not tumble there.  It was funny because The Tumbler was the only one who could speak French. 

We then made dinner at their house and invited The Funambulist, The Aerialist, and The Frenchman.  We had a good time, and I discovered the womanizer side of the guys in our gang and also that casual racism is something I’ll have to deal with here, as well.  I did handstands again.  We compared nicknames that we had all given each other in the first week.  I am “monkey.”  The Aerialist is “mamie,” The Frenchman is “quasi,” and The Tumbler is “tumbli.”  The Funambulist seems cool. 

The Metro had stopped when I wanted to go home.  The Clown told us about all the work he has already done – not without some pride, but certainly deserved.  The Aerialist and The Frenchman walked partway home with me, but it was an hour and a half home.  I got in at 3:30AM.  I got to know The Aerialist better.  It was fun getting to see her open up and be a little looser than normal.  She has a hard belly! 

When I got home my leg was killing me. 

Sunday, We tried shopping again and I got lots of underwear.  My leg hurt too much then, and so did my fingers, so I went home. The Clown and The Tumbler Joined me to watch Dralion, and then I napped until we made an ill-fated trip to listen to some Cuban music.  When we got there, it had stopped, though, and some guys from the school suggested we go to a bar.  At this point, I was thinking of taking the Metro home since I wanted to rest my leg, but figured that a little walk might be good for it.  A good thing too!  While we were at the bar, some sort of explosion happened in the Metro.  I looked out the window at all the police cars, ambulances, and bullhorns; people were panicked and running out of the metro station.  The Clown and The Tumbler had to take the bus home. 

Today I have just been cleaning and relaxing.  I did laundry for the first time in Montreal. I think I will try to save money by drying my clothes on the line.  It takes a day or two, though.  Still, that’s three dollars fifty saved. 

I think I have almost entirely moved in.  This means that most of my settling-in expenses are taken care of. 

The Contortionist has moved in to her place, but I suspect that she will now be even closer to her German friends, and as such will not be as interested in hanging out with the first-year crew.  We will see tomorrow, though.  Night, people.

Circus acrobat does a handstand on a trashcan in the old port while a student at the National Circus School of Montreal

The Circus Life

Everything seems to be falling into place, and I am definitely finding my place here in the school.  I woke up this morning and felt like crap.  Flexibility was a chore, and I had to tell The Acrobat, my flex partner, to take it easy on my right leg.  Sucks to be injured.  Dance is usually fun, but as I was telling people, I think that Fridays are more a matter of being mentally exhausted.  Additionally, my legs are still sore from physical conditioning.  It sounds like I’m complaining, but I’m really not, it’s just that this is what life is like these days.  Your physical condition is constantly monitored and deeply affects every aspect of your life. 

In the middle of tumbling class, though, when we were doing a vault-like drill, I all of a sudden got a second wind which carried over into my trampoline class.  In tramp we have half an hour of conditioning and half an hour of tramp, but I finished the conditioning so early that I sat in on the flex 3 class just to stay active.  It’s pretty fun to have all the classes going on at the same time. 

After classes ended, I did strap and planche strength, and then hung out and worked on my juggling which is getting much better, actually.  Finally, I hung out with The Clown and The Artist outside while they had a cigarette.  They were “teaching me how to relax.”  The Clown says that I am too fanatical about training.  We then hit the weight room and I did my workout there.  I think I will try to do it twice a week and the straps and planche three times a week.  We’ll see.  

The secondary kids are really fun.  The Clown and I did banquine with some of them without the coach, and with one of the younger boys running all around saying “I’m a little girl.”  I tried porting for it too, and it hurts like hell.  All the more reason to be a flyer, I think.

After going for some McDonalds (expensive, but fast), The Clown, The Frenchman, and a few of the other older students drove to a cabaret show that one of them is somehow connected with.  With the five people in the car, it really did feel like we were circus students! 

The cabaret was all in French, but the little I did understand was pretty funny.  There was a contortionist/clown in the show who I thought was really funny.

Hopefully all of the first years that I know will get together tomorrow to hang out around montreal. 

The trip how was fun.  The other muscular guy was with us, and he was making like he was going to do side summies off of tables and did handstands on the table and on the metro.  The Frenchman and him and I were doing some Chinese pole on the metro too.  The Clown and him and The Frenchman and I were doing the pink panther theme and putting on a show for The Aerialist who says that we are all “pas possible.”  She’s funny. 

When I left, they dared me to do something cool to get off the train, and with no time to think about it, I managed a back tuck from the train to the platform without hitting the door frame, which they seemed to think was satisfactory.  So there you go.  Circus students on the street.  We’re not like those normal people.  Thank god!  I’m in heaven right now! 


X-ray of a circus artists's hand


Alright.  Let’s talk for a little bit about pain.  As far as I can tell, there are a few main kinds when you go to circus school. 

The first is muscle pain from strength training.  This one is the least of my troubles.  I think it is because I was already strong to begin with, and even when I do feel it, it is something that I am used to to the degree that it does not slow me down any. 

Then there is the pain from gaining flexibility.  For me, this pain is always going to be in the background of everything that I do if only because I am incredibly inflexible.  It’s weird, though, because you only feel it when you try to stretch out a muscle a little bit, and once you warm up, it is okay.  When you get cold, however, it is always happy to remind you that it is there! 

Ah, and the pain from being stretched out.  This is probably the sharpest, most intense pain that I feel.  It makes me feel like I want to pass out, and it just keeps getting worse and worse even though you are thinking to yourself “alright, that must be about as bad as it will feel.”  It makes you sweat, it makes you breathe heavily and loudly, it sucks.  But, the pleasure you feel afterwards is immense!  All those endorphins added to the feeling that you are just a little bit more flexible now really help you deal with the pain. 

Now we have the most annoying pain: apparatus burn.  This is what I currently have all over my upper thighs due to working tissus for the first time.  I learned about 4 figures today, but I need to remember to bring some nice sort of skin guard for my next lesson.  At least my teacher is cool, and she is really excited about this tissus tramp thing that was a complete accident.  This sort of pain just sticks with you and makes it hard to wear long pants and to sit with the skin touching itself and to take showers.  Every apparatus does it, though, it is a fact of circus life! 

Then there are old, familiar pains, like my back.  These will never go away, and one has to wear it like a badge of honor.  You’ve earned these pains! 

And, finally, the pain that everyone would like to ignore:  the pain from injury.  Easily the most important pain, but we still work through it like idiots.  My right calf and back are bothering me now. 

Some firsts to mention:  My first time bringing food to the school (almost ate a whole loaf of bread in the form of tuna fish sandwiches!) 

My first tissus class, my first aerial class (did korean cradle for the first time.)  Being a flyer was fun, but the tuck I was supposed to do really threw me.  You can’t hold it in at all, and you need to bring your chest forward, exactly the way that they tell you never to do in gymnastics.  Weird! 

First juggling class (will be boring, but a nice break!  The Clown is really, really good).  First hand to hand class, but I was a porter.  I think I’m pretty good at it, but would much rather be a top.  And finally, I had my first “movement” class.  It was basically contact improv with all the weirdness associated with that, but I actually got to see people who were really good at it.  Some of the older students are excellent.  The teacher is weird and was doing some exercises involving grabbing himself under his penis.  Whacked. 

I also got some lessons at butterflies and side summies from a bunch of people.  It was cool. 

Also got an invitation to take flying trap with one of my fellow first years.  Will definitely take her up on that. 

Ah well.  Tomorrow! 

Interiro of the Ecole Nationale de Cirque in 2001

What I Did Over Summer Vacation

Didn’t sleep well due to muscle pain.  Oh well.  Got to the school about ten to ten, and there was a huge gathering of students outside.  Met up with The Clown, The Contortionist, and them, and just sort of hung out until they opened the doors at 10.  We all made our way into the school and they herded us into the chapiteau where mats had been set up as bleachers of sorts.

Finally got to see The American again.  She is a bit of a snobby seeming person.  Too bad, really.  I hope she can thaw out a bit so that she might fit in a little better. She has been teaching yoga in NYC.  Good money, she says, and she just happened across the school doing an internet search.

All of the staff of the school came out behind little grates while the finale music from the annual show played in the background.  They all broke out into a parody of the choreography that closed the show.  Then there were general introductions of all the teachers (Byamba for some reason did not show up).  Then all of the student classes went up one after another to introduce themselves. There are a lot of students at the school that I have not met yet.  Some people seemed pretty funny.  The Mentor showed up late on purpose and did a funny sketch in a clown character.

After that we had boring boring boring stuff where we had to get herded from one classroom to another.  Basic registration, safety introduction, artistic basics.  All in French and all boring.  I was happy that The Contortionist sat next to me of her own accord for the opening and for the first classroom crap.  I think that The Artist also thinks she is kind of cute. 

It was hard to really meet anyone or anything due to the hectic nature of the day and all the reunions and stuff. 

I do know now The Hotshot, who is the sort of brash but cool little secondary kid, and also his friend The Trampolinist, the eighteenth ranked trampolinist in the world.

The Tumbler, The Clown, The Artist, The Aerialist, The Contortionist, and The Frenchman and I all went to Ban Thai for dinner.  It was fun.  I practiced French on the way, and The Aerialist wanted to practice English on me.  She is very nice.  We all decided to meet at the Metro at nine to go to the party, and that’s where I need to go in an hour or so. 

The seven of us are hitting it off well, we are now talking about potential matches in the school, and I remain strategically distanced.  They also had a crazy idea for the first-years’ presentation in which I fall off tissus and they all beat me to death.  Cirque Noir.  The Clown is the ringleader for this craziness.  I definitely have the reputation of being a bit straight edge here, but they don’t seem to mind, and I definitely don’t mind them.


Man, I better get some sleep before I go to this party.  There will probably be a lot to write about tomorrow.