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.
This multi-talented performer is the grandson of Charlie Chaplin and the great-grandson of the playwright Eugene O'Neill. More to the point, he's the son of Victoria Chaplin and Jean-Baptiste Thierrée, whose Le Cirque Bonjour and, later, Le Cirque Imaginaire, are considered part of the vanguard of the "contemporary" circus.Thierrée, 38, is "a huge star in Europe. He's phenomenal," says Wall. "He does everything from trapeze and mime to bicycle tricks and acrobatics. His shows are diverse and super poetic, and visually stunning." Thierrée's latest show, "Tabac Rouge," will soon premiere in London.
Credit: Richard Haughton