Sunday, 24 May 2015

Chapter 78: On tightwires and wrong turns

Over the past 48 hours I have taken a couple of wrong turns. The first was trying to find a short cut to the Lyric Hammersmith on a Friday night for Bugsy Malone. Two bleeding hours. Though I have to say, aside from the music and a stellar cast, the show was worth it for the choreography of the boxing scene alone. The second was navigating my way from Sutton on Saturday morning to the South Coast. Should have taken an hour. Triple that. Short on sleep, food and caffeine after two hours of flex and pole classes, missed my turning off the M25 and ended up half way to Dover. So I've had plenty of time to do nothing but reflect. And here's my conclusion. Learning circus skills, for me, is a lot like travelling up Fulham Road on a Friday night, or Junction 9-10 on the M25 the morning after. Progress is painfully slow. You try to take a few smart-arse short-cuts, wind up in a dead-end and find yourself on a one-way system back to pretty much where you started. Bump. Goes the ego. And you wonder why you bother. In fact, I was close to calling time on the whole damn adventure and entitle this post "I give up!" but there's another lesson I'm learning - I give up too easily, and there comes a point when you need to hold fast. 

Take learning tightwire at Circus Space (National Centre for Circus Arts), where I am currently on my second beginners course of Equibrilistrics Level 1 learning tightwire, unicycle, globe walking and rolla-bolla. Over the past four weeks I have fallen even more deeply head over heels for this particular balancing act. Literally on one occasion. In fact I still have the bruise to show after being sliced on the wire like a fine Welsh cheese as I slipped walking backwards - note to self to tread more Caerphilly… Unlike aerial, where from the word go you can learn a few neat tricks to impress the folk back home, on a tightwire as a beginner it's a struggle to look anything other than a klutz (in my case). So I was enthralled watching the gracefully adept trio Dizzy O'Dare (pictured, see on a double-crossing tightrope at Circus Space during Canvas (see Chapter 75), making it look so easy as they sprang from one wire over to another, in Gaulthieresque costumes that made me think of a circus tribe of Amazons. Phenomenal. I'm looking forward to seeing the full show of Wires, currently in production, and will keep you posted. What I have learnt from watching Dizzy O'Dare on tightwire, and my own practice, is that you really have to commit to every step you take, and fight for it.  Too often my mind is too busy and I rush it, speeding up, conscious that there is a queue waiting behind me. I give way, and encourage my class-mates to overtake. My posture on a wire is stiff and it sucks. My core is strong, but my shoulders, tight from aerial training and hunched from carrying kids, resist allowing the arms to raise correctly, allowing the balance to flow from the forearms. It's a real battle.

So I put in the hours at a local playground where there is a tightrope that is on the way back from the school run, much to the delight of my three year old. I record each small step of progress publicly on Instagram - if ever there was an incentive to press on...! And I armour myself with handmade leather tightwire boots, suede ballet sole, from the ever-encouraging Isabella Mars (who you may recall also made my aerial boots - see, shoemaking magician, fellow student at Circus Space and performer with Airealism. The boots are both a good luck charm, and an investment, and the first night I wear them I cross the wire! When you do cross a wire and  it clicks, there is a sense of zoning out as you enter a meditative state, focusing intently on the point ahead and trusting your balancing body to get you there. It is addictive both as a challenge and a game and I find a great sense of peace and achievement in the process. Headspace. But I haven't yet achieved the consistency required to pass the course, and have finally outgrown the playground. At Circus Space there are practice sessions open to Level 2 students and above, which I can attend thanks to my L2 static trapeze class, but for the time being an extra evening a week is just not possible. So is this really the end of the line? Of course not. Even if it means signing up for the beginner's course yet again, I can promise you one thing Isabella, there is no chance of your beautiful boots gathering dust - they were made for dancing, and I just can't get enough …

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