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View Full Version : Working in a circus and/or being a trapeze artist



starrykitten
07-01-2014, 05:16 AM
The narrator of my story is a female trapeze artist in a long-running circus that has to close its doors. The circus she works for is a pretty standard North American one--animals, clowns, etc.

I want to know pretty much anything that anybody has to share about working in a circus. What are the awesome parts about it? The stressful ones? How reliable is the paycheck? What do the other performers tend to be like? (I'm familiar with stereotypes of carneys but don't want to presume they apply.)

I am also going to be researching trapeze artists and watching videos on YouTube. If anyone here has done trapeze and can share experiences that I may not be able to find on websites, that'd be great. I'd love to know what goes through your mind when you're doing it, how you prepare yourself for it, scary moments you've had.

Thank you!

slhuang
07-01-2014, 05:52 AM
Erm. I do aerial circus (amateur level, but very seriously, and I train with a lot of professionals), but your question is reeeeeeeally broad! Can you be a little more specific?

Here are a few things:



There's really nothing like being in the air. It's the best feeling in the world.
There's also nothing like nailing a new trick. You just want to do it over and over and over again.
Performance is about performing -- the moves become a conduit to connecting to the audience, like theatre or dance. Doing a beautiful routine perfectly is just pretty. Performing a routine is what you want.
We compare bruises proudly. It's a thing. (I have female friends who have been given pamphlets by concerned doctors. "No, no, I do circus!") I get more bruises than I ever have from martial arts.
Community is health-conscious and is homonormative among the men (make all your male aerialists straight and I'd call bullshit -- my pro friends joke that straight male aerialists are known as "unicorns," so rare as to be almost mythical).
People will do weird funny physical things while hanging out (like handstand contests, or standing on a ball, or dropping into splits) that other people wouldn't do.

If you can narrow down a little I could be more helpful. I won't know much of anything about the pro side, though.

starrykitten
07-01-2014, 06:24 AM
Thank you! That is helpful. I just started working with this story and character tonight, so I actually don't know more about what specific information would help.

cornflake
07-01-2014, 07:38 AM
I'm not sure where you are, but a lot of places, you can try trapeze flying for yourself.

I got a friend of mine a trapeze lesson for a birthday gift one year. There are a couple of places here that offer such things. They have everything from just-for-fun group classes to one-on-one lessons, class packs, etc. If you're interested, try googling your town or the closest large one and trapeze lesson or class.

I'd wager the people involved will know stuff too. The place my friend went had other circus aerial lessons available, like with the fabric that people twist around and hang from and a big circle thing to do acrobatic stuff on.

slhuang
07-01-2014, 08:12 AM
I'm not sure where you are, but a lot of places, you can try trapeze flying for yourself.

Yes! Great idea. And you can ask people questions there.



like with the fabric that people twist around and hang fromHahahahaha *dies*

You mean . . . silks? Also known as fabric, or tissu. :)


and a big circle thing to do acrobatic stuff on.Also known as hoop or lyra. :D

I adore you, cornflake.

lacygnette
07-03-2014, 05:46 AM
I was actually in a circus for several months ... don't ask! Not on a trapeze though.

Anyway, a couple of things. The "artists" were really boring. We'd come to a town (it was a traveling circus) and instead of wanting to explore, they wanted to find if there was another circus nearby so they could go and gossip.

I learned from one of the acts that chimpanzees can hear fantastically. She had an old chimp that traveled with us but no longer performed. If, when she was on stage, her chimps were misbehaving, she knew the older guy was screaming at them - outside the theatre.

If there was a problem with the payroll or booking, we were abandoned and told to join up when things resumed. I spent a week in Chicago - luckily I had a friend there.

The ringmaster bragged that he had his initials in gold on his hernia support and asked if I wanted to see it.

This all sounds crazy but you couldn't make things like this up. Interesting time. If you have other questions, just pm me.

cornflake
07-03-2014, 08:03 AM
Yes! Great idea. And you can ask people questions there.

Hahahahaha *dies*

You mean . . . silks? Also known as fabric, or tissu. :)

Also known as hoop or lyra. :D

I adore you, cornflake.

I was so proud I didn't resort to 'like hanging from sheets like if you were trying to escape prison, but graceful-like.'

:cry:

wendymarlowe
07-03-2014, 10:07 AM
I'd suggest looking up the mini-series "Cirque du Soleil: Fire Within" - it's a really interesting documentary-style look at the training of performers within Cirque de Soleil. One of the main characters it focuses on is a female Olympic gymnast who joins their trapeze team having no background in the circus, and what the training is like.

I think I found it on Netflix Instant a while back, but it looks like it's on Amazon Prime as well.