Door Eveline Alders

De Amerikaanse Duncan Wall beschreef zijn reis van toeschouwer naar expert, van aanvankelijke en gebruikelijke scepsis naar respect voor (technische) virtuositeit en de creativiteit en openheid van de circuswereld. Lees de recensie in The New York Review of Books, door Laura Marsh: Inside the Ring – Is the Circus Art?

“Of all the varieties of underappreciated artist, circus acts might just have it the worst. Their technical virtuosity is taken for granted, but is what they do actually art? In 1893, Paul Cinquevalli, one of the greatest jugglers of all time, succeeded in catching an egg on a plate without breaking it. It took him nine years to learn the trick, and he soon dropped it from his routine, because audiences weren’t particularly impressed. Lillian Leitzel, the most famous aerialist of the early twentieth century (she could do 17 pull-ups with one arm), got the greatest applause not when she was walking upside down, but when she pretended to faint at the end of her show.1

This question—is the circus art?—is at the center of Duncan Wall’s book The Ordinary Acrobat, a history of the circus up to the present day told through a memoir of his year at a circus school in Paris. Each chapter introduces an aspect of the circus as Wall encounters it, so we learn about the origins of the flying trapeze, for instance, when he finally screws up the courage to enroll in his college’s trapeze class. On the way, Wall interviews performers and other writers about their approach to the circus. Their various opinions are in the foreground rather than a larger theory put forward by Wall himself. This approach, although at times frustrating, is in the spirit of the present-day circus that he describes: Whereas the circus is often seen as a closed and mysterious world, Wall shows how open and inclusive circus schools and troupes can be, and how receptive they are to new ideas about performance.” Lees verder.