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 small crew of four, based in San Francisco, is a "quaint, charming, joyful circus" deeply inspired by the silent film era, says Wall. The performers bring the wonder and magic of the circus down to an intimate scale; their most recent show, "Candid," uses everyday objects such as a broom, dinner plates, and hula hoops to make inspired art. The troupe recently performed as part of Wall's book-release event in San Francisco.
Credit: Sweet Can