The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present

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The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present

Format:  Hardcover,

322 pages

Publisher: Random House Inc

Publish Date: Feb 2013

ISBN-13: 9780307271723

ISBN-10: 0307271722

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The following content was provided by the publisher.
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 ecole 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.


Publisher: Random House Inc
Publish Date: Feb 2013
ISBN-13: 9780307271723
ISBN-10: 0307271722
Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 322
Shipping Weight (in pounds): 1.5
Product in Inches (L x W x H): 6.5 x 9.5 x 1.25

Chapter outline

Circophilesp. 3
State of the Artp. 13
Ringp. 19
Art Schoolp. 29
Crossroadsp. 41
An American Juggler in Parisp. 54
Juggling Clubsp. 76
King of the Jugglep. 93
Father of the Circusp. 108
Traditionp. 123
Physical Theaterp. 134
What Grace, What Hardinessp. 151
Catchp. 169
Opera for the Eyep. 181
Clown Equals Funnyp. 205
A Regal Pastp. 218
The Inner Clownp. 237
Circus Cityp. 254
Popular Artp. 276
Cirque de Demainp. 293
Acknowledgmentsp. 309
Indexp. 311


Review by Library Journal (2013-05-15)

The old chestnut is as endearing and idealized as it is still accurate and representative: boy meets circus, boys falls in love with circus, boy runs away to join circus. Wall tells the story of an American exchange student's (his own) sojourn in Paris that segued into his Fulbright-funded stay at France's national circus school. Wall's account of his year of training at France's Ecole Nationale de's Arts Cu Cirque de Rosny-sous-Bois is an exquisite exposition not only of the physically exacting training disciplines of juggling, tumbling, and trapeze but also of circus history, lore, and some delightfully talented and idiosyncratic personalities who have imbued the circus with characteristic passion and commitment. Proving himself even more adroit verbally than physically, Wall offers a revelatory love letter to the simultaneously ancient and contemporary art of acrobatics, the circus, and its denizens.

Verdict: Wall does the burgeoning circus memoir sub genre proud; this beautifully written text will be of use in performance collections of all libraries, regardless of size or scope.

-Barry X. Miller, Austin P.L., TX

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Book description

The extraordinary story of a young man’s plunge into the unique and wonderful world of the circus—taking readers deep into circus history and its renaissance as a contemporary art form, and behind the (tented) walls of France’s most prestigious circus school.

When Duncan Wall visited his first nouveau cirque as a college student in Paris, everything about it—the monochromatic costumes, the acrobat singing Simon and Garfunkel, the juggler reciting Proust—was captivating. Soon he was waiting outside stage doors, eagerly chatting with the stars, and attending circuses two or three nights a week. So great was his enthusiasm that a year later he applied on a whim to the training program at the É cole Nationale des Arts du Cirque—and was, to his surprise, accepted.

Sometimes scary and often funny, The Ordinary Acrobat follows the (occasionally literal) collision of one American novice and a host of gifted international students in a rigorous regimen of tumbling, trapeze, juggling, and clowning. Along the way, Wall introduces readers to all the ambition, beauty, and thrills of the circus’s long history: from hardscrabble beginnings to Gilded Age treasures, and from twentieth-century artistic and economic struggles to its brilliant reemergence in the form of contemporary circus (most prominently through Cirque du Soleil). Readers meet figures past—the father of the circus, Philip Astley; the larger-than-life P. T. Barnum—and present, as Wall seeks lessons from innovative masters including juggler Jérôme Thomas and clown André Riot-Sarcey. As Wall learns, not everyone is destined to run away with the circus—but the institution fascinates just the same.

Brimming with surprises, outsized personalities, and plenty of charm, The Ordinary Acrobat delivers all the excitement and pleasure of the circus ring itself.

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