200 shows more training and music on planet circus

October 23, 2008

So we, the new cast members who joined in May, just performed what I am pretty sure was our two hundredth show with no ceremony. The rhythm of weekly performances has much more evenly settled in and we are a whole lot fitter. Weekends still form the focus toward which we drive. Saturday is known as ‘hump day’. No, not for the reasons you’re thinking. But by the second show Saturday we are over the hump of the week and heading downhill toward Monday, which is our Friday. Training is continuing apace with some added dimensions to the stilt section of the track. I am much more at home on them and just beginning to get to the stage when I can actually create a performance and character during the number. Plenty of coaches and trainers spoke of plateaus one reaches in training with no shift and then sudden spurts of confidence and resultant success and freedom in the execution of the tricks. Just more relaxed I guess. Trusting one’s body. Very soon after the stilt act was included. Well no perhaps a couple of weeks, I went to Coach Dan, the acrobatics coach who has supervised my stilt work, and asked for more stilt training, feeling that the twice a night performance was not enough to develop the act and skills or even to grow a feeling of doing the act convincingly or to the required standard of technique so as to make the technical elements disappear.

Dan agreed to include me whenever Haku, the other acrobat also training stilts, was called. Thanks to his attention, we have a developed a more adventurous and interesting piece of action. In fact when I asked him for more training, he thought I was responding to the information that Dominic, having seen the video recordings of the show, had commented that he wanted my character to do more on the stilts. But I knew that before Dominic saw it. We have a staging and validation of this new action next week. As the ring master I am much more in a position of striding about giving orders across the space and directing acts rather than staggering about and just staying upright while gesturing stiffly. The new performance elements give me useful targets for the twice a night three minute adventure during Mr Kite. I am now able to execute a full 360 degree turn and actually removing my eyes from the floor as the lift comes to its final position and because I am lip-synching the text of the song I have to keep my focus up where the audience can see it. This and controlling the four huge helium balloons painted with the Beatles mop-head hairstyle and tied to my coat tails and lifting them up behind me. Any sharp turns and I am confronted with their floating forms obscuring my eye line on the floor and points of balance reference. But repetition has reduced this anxiety and I can now get in good long strides that have a quite aggressive attitude and are closer to the ring master’s physical presence and emotional rhythm than I have managed to muster up to now. Balance is better. I am starting to find some flexibility in the torso and upper body around the centre of gravity. So progress speeded up by extending specific performance targets. Before I have mastered the one target, I am confronted with the next. Starting to learn more about the nature of training as well. By focusing on the new target the artist immediately takes the pressure off and starts to experience almost by surprise the effectiveness he actually has in the old technique targets. Before I was so focused on them and trying too hard. Suddenly these things which were seemingly so difficult are simpler because I have new difficult things to focus on. This creates the illusion of the plateau. Spending a lot of time trying to master bending the knees and squatting for as long as possible. Breaking from the nervous stiff legged knee locked stagger and rock and roll of the insecure stilt walker. And the funny thing is that one is not aware of it at the time. It’s only in retrospect that one is able to say ‘oh yes that’s what I was going through. At the time I was so emotionally involved in the moment of it that I couldn’t see how it was working. But now I see. I was blind but now see. Amazing Hindsight, how sweet the view.’

Korean Ropes during Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band reprise have gone onto the back burner temporarily. This is because coaching staff have been more focused on dealing with the consequences of several acrobats being out with injury. No rush.

Daniel and I planned a weekend in Zion National Park in Utah this week. This depending on whether I could get travel arrangements completed by then. Flights home, return visa interview bookings in Cape Town, flights home for Janet in March. If not then we were going to spend some time in the wind tunnel or do something out of the ordinary. In fact what I did was spend an inordinate amount of time on the phone of Monday night with the technicians who control my internet access. Only to discover that the router is defective. So Tuesday a bit of a washout forced me to bed with a book the second half of the Cormac McCarthy and sleep and drowsiness and visits to the kitchen and the toilet and the bathroom and more reading and sleep

Reading the earlier episodes of the blog it is striking that so much was happening then to report on; each day some new adventure or something new to report. Now all I have is the routine. I was thinking about the music the other day, speaking of routine. Whenever we traverse the swamp of the casino to get to the LOVE theatre as we approach the entrance the Beatles music becomes apparent playing constantly, no make that CONSTANTLY around the box office and little boutique selling expensive Beatles memorabilia to stupid patrons. And for a while the music was interesting in that it evoked memories of my own life. This quickly faded with repetition. But then hearing the different songs would evoke different acts in the show. But then came a painful but thankfully short time when the music provoked nausea at the repetition. Now it kind of just flows through us… well me anyway. It has become an emotionally neutral element of the work routine. If we hear it on the radio the station gets changed mind you.

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