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.
Les 7 Doigts de la Main
Translated in English as "the seven fingers of the hand," Les 7 Doigts de la Main is named for the French idiom "the five fingers of the hand" – five parts united toward a common goal. Based in Montreal, seven (yes, seven) company members create distinctly choreographed stage shows that highlight the performers as individuals. "Montreal is known for the Cirque du Soleil style of circus," explains Wall. "Seven Fingers wanted to create a more personal style." The company is bringing its show "Traces," which combines contemporary dance with street skills such as basketball and skateboarding, on a U.S. tour in late April and early May.
Credit: Courtesy of 7 Doigts de la Main