Synopses & Reviews
An utterly charming account of the author's novice plunge into the strange and wonderful world of contemporary circus, and a nostalgic look back at circus history and inside the current Cirque du Soleil-fueled phenomenon.
When Duncan Wall visited his first nouveau cirque as a college student in Paris, everything about it--the monochromatic costumes, the acrobats singing Simon and Garfunkel, the juggler reciting Proust--hooked him. Soon he was attending circuses two or three nights a week, and soon after that, he entered the intensively competitive training program at France's École Nationale des Arts du Cirque. The Ordinary Acrobat is a magical, funny, sometimes scary story of what happens when one average American joins a host of gifted (and flexible) international students in a rigorous regimen of tumbling, trapeze, juggling, and clowning. This is an appealing, richly evocative history of how the circus evolved into the dynamic, thrilling experience it is today.
"In this enchanting memoir sprinkled with historical anecdotes, Wall pulls the reader into the world of the circus, past and present. An American, in 2003 he received a Fulbright grant to study the 'new circus' in Paris and soon realized that this was a world far removed from the Ringling Brothers. The book follows Wall's schooling in the art and practice of contemporary European circus skills, along with his growing fascination with circus history. As he develops skills in juggling, tumbling, trapeze, and clowning, he inserts background on each form. Wall's conversations with other students, professionals, and circus historians delve into reasons for entering this still-separate life. One of the most striking notes revealed through these is the mystical aspect to the craft felt by circus artists. Until recently born into the life, increasingly circus performers are passionate converts, and Wall shows his respect for them by declining to take his final exam, not for lack of skill but of passion. Wall also offers an amusing, enlightening guide to Paris for circus aficionados, and his captivating journey of discovery may lead others to consider running away to join one. Agent: Jane Chelius, Jane Chelius Literary Agency. (Mar.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Duncan Wall studied as a Fulbright scholar at France’s École Nationale des Arts du Cirque de Rosny-sous-Bois. He is on the board of directors for the American Youth Circus Organization and was the founder and co–artistic director of the Candidatos, an acclaimed clown-theater company recognized by The New York Times for its contribution to the flowering of contemporary clowning. He lives in Montreal, where he teaches circus history and criticism at the École Nationale de Cirque, Canada’s national circus school.