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Friday, January 14, 2011

The Circus: Stepping into the ring isn't nearly as easy as you might think
PICTURE--Feld Entertainment
The Clowns: Vas and Stas
January 14, 2011By Heather Lovejoy
Car payments. Noisy neighbors. Cubicle claustrophobia. Kids driving you crazy.
Maybe you should just run off and join the circus.
But (sigh) chances are you couldn't, even if you were serious.
With the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in town starting Thursday, we looked into what it takes to be a circus performer.
Assuming you'd want one of the cool, showy jobs and don't want to be stuck doing menial labor, it would take years of training. And if you're old enough to drink, it may be too late to start.
Elena Panova, director of aerial arts at The Circus Center school in San Francisco, says the average age of her students is 19 to 20. But 16 would be the best age to start training for the physical acts, she said.
The people who tend to get contracts with major circuses are the ones with the well-rounded ability to perform several - if not all - of the acts in a show, according to Lili Gaudreau, who owns Trapeze Arts school in Oakland, Calif., with her husband, a professional flying trapeze artist.
"In the past, people didn't think that to be a circus performer, you have to be a consummate athlete," Gaudreau said. "It's now garnishing the respect that's long overdue. ... People sometimes can't believe you can do it for a job, but it's becoming more known, more accepted and, as a result, more and more competitive."
At Florida State University, which has an extracurricular circus program, the competition to land one of about 100 spots is getting harder, said director Chad Mathews. During the last auditions, there were about 50 open spots and 300 applicants, he said.
Spot performance opportunities aren't too hard to find, said Gaudreau, but it's not enough to make a living. Whether a ringmaster, animal trainer, acrobat, clown or aerial or high-wire artist, a career circus performer needs to land a full-time contract, and those in the business say it isn't easy.
Read the rest of the story at:http://jacksonville.com/entertainment/2011-01-14/story/circus-stepping-ring-isnt-nearly-easy-you-might-think

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