These may be two of the most powerful words for a circus performer. What if I tried doing that without hands? What if I walked across this wire? What if I switched my grip so that I could twist upside down? What if, the two words that created circus.
One day in prison Otto Feick had an idea, what if I make this giant wheel that you could roll around inside of? This was the birth of German Wheel. I would venture that behind any circus trick there exists someone who asked, what if. That is the magic of circus, there is no script there are no rules, there are only questions. So in your training make time to let yourself play (always be safe but don’t be afraid to take some risks). Tie yourself up in a knot and then try and untangle it, that’s how new tricks are born.
Please don’t misunderstand; you must still take care of yourself. When dealing with an apparatus as potentially dangerous as German wheel you have to have certain safeties in place, such as a coach or a couple of spotters. But I can’t count the number of times I would try and explain an idea I had for a wheel trick and no one would quite understand so I would smile and say, “Just keep me alive”. Yes sometimes those experiments ended with a few bruises, but along for the ride would come a new trick (often looking nothing like it had in my mind). By getting yourself into unpredictable situations and dealing with them safely with a spotter you become more prepared to deal with the unexpected situations that will arise when you don’t have a safety net.
I first knew that wheel was something special to me because I would dream about it. I would come into training in the morning with a sleepy head still filled with new impossible tricks to try. I have always tried to keep that sense of lightness and play with me as my wheel training and performing has continued. And I still try to make time to ask, What if?