Duncan Wall never wanted to run away with the circus – he just wanted to soak in the mystique as it passed through town. The writer, who studied the contemporary circus on a Fulbright scholarship in France, has just published 'The Ordinary Acrobat,' which combines tales of his own adventures as he learns the finer points of tumbling, juggling, and trapeze with a comprehensive history of an art form that has enjoyed much more respect overseas than in the United States in recent decades.
Wall is now teaching circus history and criticism at the Ecole Nationale de Cirque – Canada's national circus school – in Montreal. Contrary to what many Americans still think, he tells 'Men's Journal,' the circus has come along way from scary Bozos and elephant poop. "There are definitely efforts underway to create an intellectual approach to the circus in North America," he says. "We want to teach people how to think about the circus." Following are some of Wall's recommendations for the most compelling contemporary circus acts, many of which are on tour right now.
One trend in contemporary circus, says Wall, involves full shows based on a single technique, such as juggling or trapeze. The team behind Compagnie XY specializes in hand-to-hand acrobatics. "They climb on each other and vault each other and throw each other around," says Wall. "It's very charming and wistful. It's gorgeous." Based in Lillie, France, Compagnie XY tours around the the world and is performing its show "Le Grand C" as part of the historic New Victory Theater's Ricochet family series in New York, April 18th–8th.
Credit: Raynaud de Lage Christophe