As far as entertainment goes, there’s few things more mind-boggling to see than the circus arts - and if you’ve had to chance to check out legendary companies like Cirque do Soleil, you’ll know why. Death-defying stunts, dramatic tricks, fearless athleticism - it’s an incredible craft of physical endurance, and one which never fails to leave crowds both mesmerised and inspired.
So given the chance to learn how the pros do it best, I recently visited Aircraft Circus in Southeast London as part of the Acer U-Experience to get a taster of basic skills. Along with Circus Space in Hoxton and Gorilla Circus in Regent’s Park, they’re one of a few organisations in the capital enabling the general public to experience the circus world by trying it out themselves.
Technical director Nick Ditton, who’s been with the company since it started five years ago, says it’s a sport that’s becoming increasingly accessible thanks to centres like Aircraft - and what’s more, it takes the monotony out of everyday exercise, engaging the mind and body. “You can’t do these things in your average sports centre,” he adds.
Our session starts off with a lesson in the three ball juggling cascade - a technique which Nick says is a great warm-up for the more physical skills we’d be learning later. We start by practicing how to catch two balls, throwing them in the direction of the “infinity” symbol (∞).
The challenge was getting that extra ball in the mix - and confidently throwing it to catch it with the alternative hand. My left hand just didn’t want to let that third ball go!
We then went on to learn flying trapeze on a petit volant - a smaller version of the grand set-ups you’d find at a circus show. We were taught the beats of a normal swing, which involved knowing when to kick your legs back to build up momentum, not hit the platform and fly higher which each swing.
My few attempts were tragic. I couldn’t quite get a rhythm going, plus I nearly buckled mid-swing because I lacked the upper-body strength needed to hold myself up for long period of time - but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t fun!
Finally, my favourite skill of the day was acro-balance (and maybe because I was the one being lifted, rather than doing all the lifting). That said, you still need to be coordinated and trusting of your fellow acro-balancers to pull off something like the thigh-stand pyramid (see below) - but it makes for a triumphant finish!
If you’d like to give circus skills a go, sunday taster classes take place at Aircraft Circus, starting from £35 for Adult Trapeze. They also offer private classes, intensive courses and classes for kids. For more info, visit http://aircraftcircus.myshopify.com.
This experience comes courtesy of Acer UK. Check out the Acer Intel U-Experience team on our journey and discover more about the challenges at: https://www.facebook.com/AcerUK/app_329103610497351