The Power of Simplicity
One of the first things I remember learning as a young circus artist was that the more moving parts a thing has, the harder it is to control. As most of you probably know, balancing a broom upright in your hand is actually pretty easy, because the object is so ridged all you have to do is keep the bottom under the top and it will stand. If we are to add 10 different hinges and ball bearings and other joints to the top portion of the broom, it would become much harder (if even possible) to balance. Well in a German wheel, you are that broom and you have that many hinges and joints, so how do we deal with all that movement?
Well luckily for us humans (poor brooms), we can use our minds and muscles to hold these turning points still if they need to be. This is probably the number one difference I notice when I see a self-taught wheeler vs a technically trained wheel gymnast. If you watch a really clean, and controlled wheeler do anything, they will (ideally) be moving as little as possible. Whereas the self-taught wheeler will look like they are working much harder, and will be moving much more. Lets take a cartwheel, for example. I have seen talented wheelers that just never got professional training doing cartwheels and they will be doing things like: bending their knees, looking all over the place, flexing their feet, arching their back, twisting their hips, and much much more ;). Literally there are only 2 things that should move during a cartwheel. 1. The arm in direction of travel should be bent for the first 2/5th of a turn. 2. The second arm bends, completing the circle. That is it! Everything else should stay where it was.
Now there are a host of reasons why simplicity is a good idea:
The less you move, the more specific you can be. If I am only moving two parts during my cartwheel and I want to make my cartwheel slower or faster, I only have to change 2 things. However if I am moving 10 parts, suddenly a simple correction requires me to change a lot more of what I am doing.
If you are moving all the time it is hard for an audience to focus on what you are actually doing. Movement draws focus, so the audience will be looking all over the place instead of your pretty pretty face.
As a performer, I was trained early about “Parasitic movement”, that is the shuffling from side to side that often haunts young actors or other uncomfortable speakers. It’s the same with wheel. Any movement you are doing in a wheel that is redundant is leeching energy out of your movements. I had one student bending their arms 5 times back and forth as they rolled around for one simple cartwheel. Each time the student bends their arms unnecessarily they are working against themselves. Make you wheeling look effortless, and make it easier for you to do. Like many aspects of life its important to remember, less is more!