Monday, January 16, 2012

circus weekend

This weekend was a lot of things—MLK Day, Alberto’s birthday, AK’s continued birthday, Amy’s going-away, my biannual pap smear—but it was also…Circus Weekend!

Chapter 1: My sister and I take Aerial Fitness at Cirque School L.A. Since my last (and only) trapeze class, they’ve moved into their very own gym in Hollywood. It’s filled with bouncy balls and trampolines and taped-up trapezes and flowy silks hanging from the ceiling. The good thing about going with Cathy is that we have all the same magical childhood associations. So one of us says, “Trampoline” and the other says, “Seriously.” And no more words need be exchanged.

I have this plan that I will take all necessary cirque classes (about three months’ worth) to fill my grant requirements; then I’ll quit therapy and use the money I save to become a fucking trapeze goddess. That means I have three months to get my head healthy. The anxiety I had about getting a routine pap smear does not bode well for my mental health.

Chapter 2: Cathy and I can barely move our arms on Sunday—just washing my back in the shower kills me—but we make it to the Kodak Theatre, where Cirque du Soleil is staging Iris, its homage to classic Hollywood. Anyone who’s worried that one medium (film) will eclipse another (theater), need only look to Iris to see the possibilities of us all-just-getting-along. Live filmed bits flicker elegantly alongside stage performers who interact with them directly.

Iris has pretty much the same vague premise as all Cirque shows—everyman gets whisked away to mysterious dream world—but since this is what it means to go to the movies, it makes more sense here. Also, since the early days of Hollywood coincided with the end of the circus’ golden age, all the ‘20s costumes give you the feeling of peeking into two histories at once. My favorite number is a Busby Berkley-inspired piece in which a string of starlets and dashing young men follow each other in and out of a row of dressing rooms, interacting with filmed backdrops and disappearing behind doors. It is choreography as magic trick.

Hardcore circus fans also lament that Cirque du Soleil hides much of the apparatus behind its polished sets, and that the visible scaffolding of the circus is integral to its beauty. That’s why I love a showstopper that pays homage to the backstage circus of 1930s, Cecil B. DeMille-style epics. Contortionists dressed as aliens climb a ladder while Roman soldiers stampede and some sort of gaffer-type person twirls from a rope. These are worlds that speak to each other easily; each indulges in the harmonic chaos of Putting On A Show. And no vertical space is wasted, so even the cheap seats are spectacular.

Cathy and I clap plenty loud and raise our hands as high as our aching shoulder blades will let us.


Peter Varvel said...

Sources of continued inspiration for the circus novel, yes?

You know already, right, how seriously messed up a lot of actors and dancers are, mentally and emotionally? (VALIDATE insecure-me, please!) I would imagine that the freak factor is that much more intensified among circus performers.

All to presumptously say that you would fit right in.

Cheryl said...

Yes, and yes! It's good to know that even if I'm still messed up in April, I can consider trapeze-AS-therapy vs. trapeze-post-therapy. :-)

Claire said...

"The anxiety I had about getting a routine pap smear does not bode well for my mental health."

I'd say that is perfectly natural. I'd be more concerned about the people who are totally chilled out for an invasive test like that. Of course, this is coming from someone whose blood pressure skyrockets for just about any type of doctor's appointment.

Also Iris sounds awesome though I did cringe a little when I read "some sort of gaffer-type person" since I used to be one. :)

Cheryl said...

Did you swing from a rope wearing a newsboy cap? If so, that's an awesome job. (Actually, I have no idea what a gaffer does. Something on set is all I know.)

Claire said...

I did usually wear a baseball cap if that counts. Also did some rigging with rope but no swinging that I recall. In the Grip Olympics we held on one show in the grip truck, I could not do a proper chin-up from hanging, so I reckon I'd fail by Cirque standards.

A gaffer is the same thing as a Chief Lighting Technician. Taking direction from the DP (director of photography), the gaffer runs the electric department on set. She coordinates setting up lights, running cable for power, managing power resources, that sort of thing. How hands on it gets depends on the size of the crew.