The fanning of fingers. The angle of an arched back. The curve of the neck. The position of the toes. The swing of the legs… then straightened and held, against all natural laws. Grace and fluidity disguising sheer strength and tension – muscles silently screaming against gravity.
Last night I went to see No Fit State Circus at the Eden Project. Watching the performers glide through the air, with just one hand or the friction from a single twist of rope all that stands between acrobatic elegance and broken bones, you can’t help but think about the physicality of such a profession – and compare it to your own. Their language and ours…
The subtlest turn of the head or positioning of an arm not only powerfully communicates a mood, a personality – but also holds or breaks a balance. Just as we play with individual words for maximum impact, emotion and clarity; place a comma for breath or pace; change the tiniest details of punctuation for the strength of the whole – so the slightest movements, transitions and angles form a breathtaking language of their own.
While we sit, redundant bodies tucked beneath our desks, all our focus is on brain, screen, fingers and keyboard. The acrobats’ daily work, training, strength and fine-tuning of every muscle in the body, needed to perform such feats with fluency and ease astounds me. But it’s not just about physical strength and agility; mental focus, balance and psychology must be tantamount when treading the knife edge between exhilaration and agony.
But wow, the exhilaration. It must be so worth it. Watching them fly, 40 feet high, hair and clothing flowing in their own breeze, the speed and simplicity must be the purest joy. For me it evokes a child-like yearning. Yes I still love making my life out of words, and know there’s no way in hell my body could ever even start to do what they do. But tonight I’m going back to my favourite swingrope in the woods…
See for yourself: