Thinking About The Future

Living in a swamp

I’ve not been here in a while. I’ve been busy. It’s not that I haven’t thought about writing a post, or haven’t had stuff to write about, it’s simply that I’ve been SO MASSIVELY BUSY it was unreal.

I’ve had a good friend visit from abroad – twice! Petra was an old flame many years ago and she flew through London on her way to South Africa from

Vancouver and then again on her way back.

I’ve also started training for a 4-day cycle/hike at the end of May. I’m raising money for Norwood, who support people with learning disabilities and their families, particularly in the Jewish community. I have  a disabled aunt so Norwood are one of the charities that would support her.

Anyway, what with being so busy, I’ve kind of let myself slide. My flat has suffered. I’ve not cleaned or tidied in quite a while, and have been tolerating living in a morass. Living in a morass is easy – you just have to get used to the smell.

But having an environment like that kills your vitality. It literally makes you more tired.

This week I’ve had most of the week off so yesterday and today I’ve been cleaning, clearing, tidying and organising. It’s not perfect but it’s a damn good start, and it’s enough that I can start to think more clearly, accomplish more, and have the energy and vitality to keep going.

One of the things I wanted to accomplish this week (apart from writing a blog post) was to continue creating my future – where am I going? what am I doing? where do I want to be? This is something that is never far from my mind; even more so in the last few months since turning 30.

Just after turning 30 I visited NY for a family reunion. While I was there a few things happened. My cousin was in the final stages of opening the Alpine Arts Centre, I visited the new circus school in NY (see my earlier post here), a fairly new circus school in Philadelphia and then went to see Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey.

I really liked the Philadelphia School of Circus Arts and I really liked seeing what my cousin was doing with her new arts centre.

“Ballet is ballet, gymnastics is gymnastics, acting is acting, but circus has everything”

In the UK there are two major circus schools: Circus Space in London, and Circomedia in Bristol. There are any number of smaller circus training centres or spaces, such as the Hangar Arts Trust, or circus schools, such as Wookey Hole Circus, and circus clubs.

Circus is on the up. It has been for a number of years, with the growth and popularity of Cirque du Soleil, with circus being a regular staple in theatre, opera and dance, as well as becoming billed in its own right for entire seasons such as the Circusfest at the Roundhouse in London. As a sector circus is growing and every year it gains credibility in the public eye as an art form. Whereas once circus was the poor bastard cousin of dance, theatre or gymnastics, now it is seen as an art, a skill, and a talent in it’s own right.

If circus is going to keep growing every year it will need a huge base audience in the same way that dance or gymnastics has. Any child anywhere in the country can find a dance school nearby. The young and talented students progress and move on to the larger dance colleges, and then on to the national school(s), which produce some of the best dancers in the world.

Both France and Canada have this kind of infrastructure. France has hundreds of circus clubs, dozens of small schools, a small handful of professional training schools and then the Centre National des Arts du Cirque. It’s no wonder that France and Canada are the number one for circus.

But the UK isn’t there… yet. We will get there, it’s really only a matter of time. After all, circus started here in England!

If that’s the future of circus in this country where do I want to be in it? I know I don’t want to perform anymore. Some people live for performing. I always think of my old friend Aaron Walker when I think of people like that. I can take it or leave it. But I do love to teach.

So if I love to teach, and the UK needs circus schools, isn’t the thing to be doing starting a circus school? It probably is but there’s something stopping me. I can’t see what it is yet but it’s there, like a splinter in my mind.

I guess I need to keep on tidying.


If you want, you can follow me on twitter @CircusBoy1

If you’re nice, you can support me on my Norwood cycle/hike via JustGiving here.

And if you want to know who said “Ballet is ballet, gymnastics is gymnastics, acting is acting, but circus has everything” it was former Soviet circus acrobat Evgueni Baranok.

The New New York Academy of Circus Arts

Since Monday I’ve been in New York.

I love New York. I don’t love old York but I’ve only been there once and that was when I was about 11. (We went to the Jorvic Viking Centre for a school trip. I think everyone goes to the Jorvic Viking Centre for a school trip when they’re 11 years old.)

Yesterday afternoon I went into the city and met Susan Voyticky. Susan is an old friend who also went to Circus Space with me in 1999.

Susan took me to New York Circus Arts, which opened in September. As far as I can tell, it’s the only dedicated circus training centre in New York – which is slightly hard to believe! New York is one of the biggest cities in the world but has an incredibly small circus community. New York has a thriving arts scene but hardly any circus.

The first thing that struck me as we walked through Queens was NYCA’s sign that can be seen from the street. For a long time Circus Space has struggled with ways to promote itself but Circus Space’s location is prohibitive for such a prominent sign. NYCA has a location that can accommodate a large outdoor sign that can be seen from a long distance. And it works.

If you’ve been to the Hangar Arts Trust in London it’s fairly similar. NYCA is also in an industrial unit on an industrial estate. It’s one large training space. They have a trampoline with an inflatable pit, a custom-built free-standing arched “spider” rig, a small dance area, and mats covering a large sections of the floor.

As a brand new circus training centre it’s very impressive. Good equipment in a good facility, with some nice touches (a live-feed video setup, anyone?). Perhaps the NYCA is shooting a little high in some areas – they have a ‘gear store’ and their website states “After 10 years in the biz, we’ve learned a few things about gear” – but I think they should be shooting high. At this stage they need to be promoting themselves, swinging out, taking some risks, and making big promises. But then they also need to fulfil them. Nothing good ever came from playing small.

While I was there, the centre seemed under-populated. Perhaps that’s because it’s new, perhaps it’s because NY has a small circus community, perhaps it’s because NYCA’s international reputation is poor. Or rather, the founder’s, Cypher Zero, reputation is poor. I don’t think that being known by “Cypher Zero” really helps him create a credible reputation – regardless of whether it’s his (now) legal name; it seems ostentatious or pretentious. It’s a bump in the road that you have to get past when you first meet him and I don’t think it lends itself to the credibility that he’ll need as a businessman running an arts organisation on the world circus stage (ring?).

However, I’ve met Cypher on a few occasions over the years and he’s never been anything other than affable and enthusiastic.

But in one of the biggest cities in the world, a city with almost no circus, he’s the one man who has taken it upon himself to create a Circus School and raise the level of participation of circus. And perhaps he’s the only man that could.

Who Wants To Try Flying Trapeze?

Tonight New York Circus Arts will be installing their new flying trapeze rig. And, even though the NYCA is not big and has only one training space, they’re installing a Grand Volant (a Big Fly rig). This could be both a good idea and bad.

The bad thing is that it will take up a huge amount of real estate in an already limited training space. The safety net will span the width of the space, interfering with any other training; no other aerial skills (static trapeze, silks, corde lisse, etc) will be able to be rigged while the fly rig is up. And given that no one at NYCA currently flies this could severely interfere with the training of the already limited number of users (professional and recreational) that attend NYCA.

The good thing is that  having a flying trapeze is a huge attraction both for recreational users and corporate training. Without some kind of financial support, corporate events are one of main ways in which training centres such as NYCA can survive and support their other activities.

I’ve been a flyer, I’ve taught flying trapeze, and the only people I’ve ever met who don’t want to try flying are people who are severely scared of heights or are obese and afraid of being able to hold their own weight – and more often than not they really do want to try it and they just can’t conquer their fear. And jugglers.

If NYCA can get a good flying trapeze teacher, some regular and talented students, and sell themselves as a provider of unique and valuable corporate training in NY they could just be on to a winner.

Having this kind of draw could be just the thing that NYCA needs in order to become a mainstay of the NY circus scene, and a financially secure circus training centre with a great reputation.

And I hope it does.


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