This week is Circus Week at our house. Over the weekend we attended Fools’ Fest in downtown Burlington. Friday, we go to pick up one of our teens who is at Circus Camp, with Circus Smirkus. The kids will perform the routines they have been working on, acts in progress.Anyway, I will have more to say about circus as the week moves along.
Our family sees a lot of circus, attending performances almost every opportunity we have. Circus is dear to us. We love the beauty, skill, and daring of circus performance. Circus reminds us that we can be in the world skillfully, can entertain and be entertained, and can laugh and cry with others. Circus invites us to have faith, find the miraculous in the ordinary, and transgress our everyday boundaries. Ultimately, circus reminds us to have fun.
Circus probably has its origins in shamanism. Shamans in many cultures perform magic, clown, and exhibit mind-boggling feats of balance and dexterity. Shamans often live at he edge of the village, transgress cultural norms, and revel in the sensual and sexual. Everywhere shamans and healers know the healing power of faith, and the importance of laughter. They remind us that we are alive, artistic, sexual beings, miracles of creation. They know these are subversive, transgressive, healing messages.
Fools’ Fest is very much about transgression. The performers come from all over the world. All are street performers, living many months a year on he road, and performing for tips. They encourage audiences to laugh, and to be moved by beauty and skill. Most are irrepressibly sexually transgressive in their patter, bringing sexuality center stage, out of the wings where it quietly resides for most people in every-day life.
We did not see every act. A few we enjoyed were:
Hilby the Skinny German Juggling Boy was the consummate clown, engaging the crowd in his efforts to perfect one trick after another. The best clowns teach us that we are all clowns, failing repeatedly at the simplest tasks, only to ultimately succeed beyond out wildest expectations. When, after repeated failures, he demonstrated startling juggling skills, we, the audience, were pleased for him. This self-effacing clown won many hearts over this past weekend.
Ambidextrous, three women aerialists, and a male clown who acted as the MC, hail from Chicago. The women’s backgrounds in dance come through in their perfectly choreographed aerials. The man kept the audience engaged with a steady patter, skillful juggling, and unusual unicycle act. Their act was a deliciously varied artist tour de force.
Alakazam, a juggler from Australia who advertises himself as “the human knot,” due to his abilities as a contortionist, played the crowd perfectly. His patter was filled with sexual innuendo, his tricks looked dangerous, and his smile was infectious. Although covered by tattoos, he was Everyman. Although clearly very intelligent, he was the Fool. In short, he was an exceptional clown!
The Yo-Yo People hail from Boston. They have had a baby in the years since we last saw them. The couple are married, and enjoy reminding the audience of that. Their show allows each to demonstrate his or her skill at a variety of tricks, draws kids and adults from the audience up to the stage to do tricks of their own (with the help of the performers), and is family friendly.
And always there were Waldo and Woodhead, the world renown, clowning and juggling duo. Exceptional juggling, clowning, and musicianship are the hallmarks of their act.
I hoe you will catch these performers when they come to a venue near you.