At some point in time a wheeler’s (or any circus performer’s) training they start to make a transition from isolated tricks to a series of tricks strung together as a sequence. Now there are as many ways to make an act as there are stars in the sky, but this post isn’t about that; it is about the work you do even before that. How do you start to take tricks and fit them all together? You want to know the most important thing…
BREATHE! Pretty much universally as I see people sequencing tricks together in a wheel, they stop breathing. It makes sense; you have to focus on a myriad of things, but don’t forget to make breathing one of those things.
Timing, crucial and deceptive. The first few hundred times you stumble through any sequence of tricks, it is going to feel frantic. You are desperately grasping for one bar just to hold your breath and get ready for the next trick. Take it slow. Break it up into manageable chunks that you can work on. There is a time and place to run everything together, but start slow. When I am starting to work on a new piece, I will often break it up into lanes (I do two turns down and two turns back, that is one lane). That helps me not get overwhelmed and really focus on the transitions between tricks. Which bring me to…
Transitions. A circus performer spends years working on tricks, so those are the important parts right? NOOOOOOOOO. Don’t be fooled! I have seen so many acts that are just TRICK! Stuff, stuff, transition crap, stuff, TRICK! Here is the painful truth: Audiences don’t care about your tricks. What will really pull an audience in and make your act powerful are the moments you create between the tricks. Oh you can do a bridge out to stomach backwards with a full twist and eight hip circles? Unless they have also spent the last 8 years in a wheel and know how hard that is, no one really cares. I am not saying don’t put hard tricks in your acts, you need to, cause a select few will know how hard those tricks are, and those are the people who will be hiring you. But your audience, Joe from the deli or Susi from that big law firm, have no idea how hard the tricks really are; but they do know that the stuff you did between those tricks was really boring. So yes, tricks are cool and good to do, but the biggest difference I see in acts that are professional and acts that are student level is what happens between the tricks. Play with different ways of getting from one trick to another. There are an infinite number of ways to do it and most likely, the first few you think of are not the most interesting.