Over the weekend, me and my family braved the crowds at TriNoma so that our little boy (there really is a little boy! I’m not making this up!) could see the circus (not making that up either).
I love circus acts. Not just because they’ve grown substantially more attractive and less freakish over the decades. I love that circus performers today are actually trained professionals now and not just mutants who can do crazy tricks with ping pong balls. For a time, I wanted to join the circus and one of the things on my “things to try before I die” list is to perform a catch on a trapeze. Maybe I can even kill myself in the process and die really, really happy.
But it got a little boring while we were watching a tiny gymnast stick her face between her thighs for the nth time while balancing on two oversized golf tees. After the crowds had dissolved and the music faded out, I remembered very little of what I saw. There isn’t much that differentiates one circus act from the next. In every circus there are jointless bodies, and people with superhuman coordination whether the circus was flown in from Canada or North Korea; the limits of what a body is capable of hardly changes from one culture to the next. A circus freak (juggler, trapeze artist, stilt guy, wheel guy, rope guy) is a circus freak regardless of where he or she is from. If the only actual requirement is a functioning body, maybe we could have all been circus freaks.
But I grew up with this shiteous notion that my body was simply a mode of transport for my head and hands. I loathed PE, never learned any sports in grade school or high school, and basically dreaded anything that entailed moving any farther than the distance from my bedroom to the kitchen. That is until I hit high school and came up with the brilliant idea to take up dance after seeing a few Tanz theater performances and thinking, “hey that looks cool, where do I sign up, nuninoo.”
Yet the idea of investing in my body almost always took a backseat to the other investment, which was my head, even if it meant getting fat, pimply, and cynical. Because of that, it took me a really long time and three companies to figure out that movement isn’t about performance or even self-expression; and even if it’s the last art form I came to familiarize myself with, it’s the one from which I learned that it’s not about how you look, or how eloquently you can convey what you mean in what you just expressed; but the moment of actualization that comes with the process of creation, when a layer of the facade peels away to reveal the self that lurks beneath.
John Banville said it better when he defined art not as self-expression but as a “sudden access of self-awareness.” That’s why it’s too simplistic to say that dancers are simply instrumental in revealing what a choreographer is trying to say, because in the end its the ensemble of different bodies pushed to their limits and coming together in a unified piece that bring out the artistry in a dance.
I finished a whole jar of Jif peanut butter. That stuff on the left: It was yummy!