The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey Into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present

Front Cover
Alfred A. Knopf, 2013 - Biography & Autobiography - 322 pages
10 Reviews

The extraordinary story of a young man's plunge into the unique and wonderful world of the circus--taking readers deep into circus history and its renaissance as a contemporary art form, and behind the (tented) walls of France's most prestigious circus school.

When Duncan Wall visited his first nouveau cirque as a college student in Paris, everything about it--the monochromatic costumes, the acrobat singing Simon and Garfunkel, the juggler reciting Proust--was captivating. Soon he was waiting outside stage doors, eagerly chatting with the stars, and attending circuses two or three nights a week. So great was his enthusiasm that a year later he applied on a whim to the training program at the École Nationale des Arts du Cirque--and was, to his surprise, accepted.

Sometimes scary and often funny, The Ordinary Acrobat follows the (occasionally literal) collision of one American novice and a host of gifted international students in a rigorous regimen of tumbling, trapeze, juggling, and clowning. Along the way, Wall introduces readers to all the ambition, beauty, and thrills of the circus's long history: from hardscrabble beginnings to Gilded Age treasures, and from twentieth-century artistic and economic struggles to its brilliant reemergence in the form of contemporary circus (most prominently through Cirque du Soleil). Readers meet figures past--the father of the circus, Philip Astley; the larger-than-life P. T. Barnum--and present, as Wall seeks lessons from innovative masters including juggler Jérôme Thomas and clown André Riot-Sarcey. As Wall learns, not everyone is destined to run away with the circus--but the institution fascinates just the same.

            Brimming with surprises, outsized personalities, and plenty of charm, The Ordinary Acrobat delivers all the excitement and pleasure of the circus ring itself.

  

What people are saying - Write a review

User ratings

5 stars
2
4 stars
3
3 stars
3
2 stars
2
1 star
0

Review: The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present

User Review  - Meg Marie - Goodreads

Well researched history of the circus, both modern and traditional, European and American, as the author navigates a year of attending circus school in France. I feel like I learned quite a bit! Read full review

Review: The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present

User Review  - Lauren Stringer - Goodreads

For anyone interested in a very reader friendly history of the circus, this is the book for you! Read full review

Contents

Ring
19
Art School
29
Crossroads
41
An American Juggler in Paris
57
Juggling Clubs
76
King ofthe juggle
123
Physical Theater _
134
What Grace What Hardiness
159
Clown Equals Funny 105
207
A Regal Past
219
The Inner Clown t
237
Circus City
254
Popular Art
277
Cirque de Demain
293
Acknowledgments t
309
Copyright

Opera for the
183

Common terms and phrases

About the author (2013)

Duncan Wall studied as a Fulbright scholar at France's École Nationale des Arts du Cirque de Rosny-sous-Bois. He is on the board of directors for the American Youth Circus Organization and was the founder and co-artistic director of the Candidatos, an acclaimed clown-theater company recognized by The New York Times for its contribution to the flowering of contemporary clowning. He lives in Montreal, where he teaches circus history and criticism at the École Nationale de Cirque, Canada's national circus school. 

Bibliographic information