Yes, I've been pretty much away from the blog for more than half a year, but I'm now trying to get back to it. As we all know, life gets complicated, and what with travel, travel, travel; a book project; a show project; and an injury, I just ran out of time. Can't do it all, etc., but I keep trying. –jt
A long time ago, probably in the 70s, I saw what I thought was perhaps the coolest trick ever, performed by a trio of amazing Chinese acrobats. (Is that a redundancy?) I'm not even sure if I saw it live or on a video. What I do remember is this: they went from a 3-high column collapse (la colonne brisée) into a 3-person forward peanut roll, and then right back up into the 3-high via a backward 3-person peanut roll. If you don't know what these terms mean, well, you're about to.
Fast forward to last month, when I was chatting with Giuseppe Vetti, who with Salvatore Caggiari, make up Duo Dorant. (A piece we worked together on in Barcelona can be seen at the end of this blog post). He happened to mention, out of the blue, having seen this trick. I of course was thrilled by the news and by the link to a video of the trio Cirque en Déroute doing it. It's part of a show reel (see the whole reel here), so there are some weird editing cuts, but this is the segment with the trick.
Well, technically, they do it, but with a lot of yanking and pauses.
Meanwhile I had contacted a few circus aficionados, amongst them Dominique Jando, who produces the amazing Circopedia web site. Dominique turned me onto another troupe currently doing the trick, the French acrobatic trio Les Petits Frères, who some of you no doubt saw on the west coast as part of Teatro Zin Zanni. Their version is indeed smoother, and ends with a true column collapse, though again camera editing gets in the way. (See the whole act here.)
Still, I remembered this as being done even more smoothly by the Chinese acrobats, but then NBC news anchor Brian Williams remembers being shot at in a helicopter in Iraq in 2003. In both cases the reality may have been different. But circus friends Karen Gersch and Jessica Hentoff have a similar memory, though they saw three Chinese women acrobats. My guess is that there was more than one Chinese trio doing this, but what Karen, Jessica and I do agree on is that the Chinese version was a far more fluid roll down and out and back and up.
If anyone has a lead to other versions of this, Chinese or otherwise, pretty please let me hear from you!
Update (2-9-15): Dan Vie sends me this clip, which I'm sure you'll enjoy:
Okay, if you believe that was real, I've got a bridge to sell you, but fun nonetheless.