I started off this morning with a completely different post, after meeting a woman in circus who was very inspirational, so I changed my the direction of my post. This afternoon, some of our class went to see a show called Cirque Goes Broadway. It was a collaboration between the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, three Broadway actors/singers, and Troupe Vertigo, a circus troupe founded by a woman named Aloysia Gavre. Our acrobatics coach Aiden had worked with Aloysia for many years, so we had the opportunity to have a short pre-show conversation with her about her history and advice she had to offer us as aspiring performers.
She’s a very ambitious person and has led an incredibly successful circus career; she has performed with Cirque du Soleil, touring Europe with “Quidam”, and performing in Las Vegas in “O” on aerial hoop. She founded Cirque School in Los Angeles, and co-founded Troupe Vertigo, the professional performing group we had the opportunity of seeing today. She also has performed in Cirque Mechanics on Broadway, the Pickle Family Circus, and in the film Water for Elephants.
The advice we received from Aloysia was so poignant that I really wanted to share it. It wasn’t advice I hadn’t heard before, but something about the conviction with which she shared it and how it was packaged made me feel the need to share. I believe we can’t be reminded of these things enough, so here are a few of her tidbits of advice. Aloysia had such an elegant way of giving advice that I'm sure I'm going to butcher, but here's to trying.
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9 Tips from Aloysia Gavre
1. Fall in love with the process of training
The thing that stuck with me the most was about the neverending training process we do. Aloysia asked us if we’d fallen in love with the training process yet, and we all nodded in agreement. The past 6 weeks have been so incredible for all of us, being able to train full time, 5 days a week. She then followed it up with the following advice: fall (and stay) in love with the training process. As performers, we only spend about 5% of our time actually performing. The rest of the time we spend training, workshopping, exploring, and creating. In order to succeed in any kind of performance, you need to love the training process, as it's the majority of the job..
2. Be a good ensemble member
Unless you’re just hired as a solo artist for gigs, you will likely need to work in an ensemble, whether to create a whole show, or even just create a collaborative act. Being a cooperative, enthusiastic ensemble member, both in the training process as well as the collaboration process, is critical. Not only will you get more gigs knowing how to be an ensemble member, but you will be able to perform a wider variety of types of acts.
3. Have a variety of skills
When hiring for a show, directors want performers with a variety of skills. You might be hired for your aerial solo, but if the directors want a juggling number in the show, they’re more likely to hire the good aerialist who can juggle over the great aerialist who can’t. This was especially poignant today because in Cirque Goes Broadway, every single performer in Troupe Vertigo performed in multiple disciplines, leading to a small troupe being able to create an extraordinary amount of diverse acts.
4. Everyone has problems - Yours aren't special
It’s so easy to come into training or rehearsals with excuses or complains. We all do it, and to a point it's ok to complain a bit. But no one wants to work with the person who always has the worst, most important problems. In order to create the best art you can, coming into work with a clear mind is so important. Leave your difficulties outside the rehearsal space, and come in ready to focus.
5. Know what your body needs to keep it healthy and safe
We are in such a physically demanding profession that can wear heavily us. By Friday, our bodies have been taxed and stressed all week, and our minds have been creatively and logistically pushed and stretched. Knowing what you need to recover, both mentally and physically, is crucial to surviving and not getting worn out. Whether it’s 2 days of rest a week, foam and lacrosse ball rolling, or a little more protein after a long workout, know what your body needs and make sure you get that.
6. Use your connections
The circus world is a small one. Foster the connections you’ve made, and reach out to people you’re interested in working with. Show initiative, and follow through on those connections. It just may land you a job.
7. Know when to trust your gut and back out of unhealthy or unsafe conditions
There are so many people who will put you in unhealthy or unsafe conditions. Whether it's a gig that you don't feel safe performing at, a company that is underpaying you, or a troupe that isn't valuing your experience, know when it's necessary to back out. You have one life, and it's too precious to waste working with people who don't value you.
8. Figure out what makes you different
It's usually not about the tricks you can do. Your circus skills may get you in the door, but they will not carry you the whole way. Figure out what makes you unique - it could be something that distinguishes you as a performer, or as a creator and collaborator. Whatever it is, make it known.
9. Be a nice person
It seems so simple, but it's so easily overlooked. No one wants to work with an entitled jerk. Be kind, humble, eager, and collaborative. Make people want to work with you, and you will get work even if you don't have the skills. People are more willing to teach a nice person the skills they need than to put up with someone who is rude who has the skills.
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It was such a pleasure meeting Aloysia today and seeing her and her troupe perform. Her advice isn't anything new, but it is always good to be reminded of. You will hear the same nuggets of wisdom over and over again. Collect them, remember them, and hold true to them.
Sincerely, Circus Girl