I just saw the Chicago contemporary circus festival and it was awesome! It also really hit home for me the importance and magic of good transitions. When you start training a new skill you are learning tricks. I love the comparison of circus to writing. A trick is a word, and when you string those words together you can create sentences. As your skills improve, you get more comfortable and you can create more complex and subtle sentences, eventually pairing sentences together to make poems, stories, songs, anything. But how often have we all seen an act that read like: “The cat is fat.” Take the time when putting your tricks together to focus on how you get from one to the another, otherwise it’s hard to make people care. The same attention and dedication with which you learn, practice, and perfect your tricks must be applied to your transitions.
One of my favorite discussions at the festival was about the Dramaturgy of Circus. One panel member made a comparison to Ballet. If you walk into any Ballet studio, it is very likely that there will be a bar and a row of people practicing their Relevé and whatnot. But when you see a great ballerina, you don’t see the isolated actions, you see a dance. I have seen too many acts that are just a series of stuck together words, and it hurts my eyes. “The cat is fat”, could be “Why is the cat fat?” What about “the cat lived above a Pizza Hut so of course he was fat”, or even “the cat loved being fat”. I know those are all ridiculous examples but each of them offered something more interesting than a neutral statement of fact.
You don’t have to tell me a narrative story, you don’t have to make a big political “statement”, you can do whatever you like! There are an infinite number of ways to engage with an audience, but at the end of the day engage is what you are trying to do. It isn’t really about the trick; the trick is just a tool you designed yourself and can use in whatever way you want. You don’t have to just make a hammer and try and hit me with it, use some subtlety. Invite me into your home first, give me a glass of wine. Finally when my guard is down and I’m sitting happily on the couch you can sneak up behind me and hit me with your hammer (if that’s how you want to live you life 🙂 See you next week.