STEP UP Creatives Ensemble 2013: Circus Skills Workshop

How many clowns can you fit in a car? There aren’t any clowns, or a car: why drive when you run, roll, cartwheel? This workshop is not just circus; it’s modern circus, it’s theatre, it’s performance.  Emma’s already given you a brilliant overview of the days’ activities, so here are a few hints and tips on some of them.

How to do a Cartwheel

I have never been able to do a cartwheel. Not at primary school. Not at secondary school. Not in the local on a Saturday Night. Never…Until now… sort of. I might not be about to run away with the circus, mainly because my post-workshop thighs won’t let me, but in ten minutes I went from bumbling around the floor to flinging myself through the air and here’s how: Hand, hand, foot, foot.

It sounds simple, obvious even, but that’s the key: don’t over think it! Start small. Put one hand down, then the next, then one foot and finally the other. The key is practise. Hand, hand, foot, foot.  Start small and get a little higher each time.  If you’re struggling to get your feet off the ground try to point your toes, try to lift your hips and then try again. Hand, hand, foot, foot. It’s as easy as 1,2,3,4.

Cricus Workshop

Armpit lift

Even more glamorous than it sounds. The lift involves two people: Person A and Person B, which is obviously how I routinely address people- luckily I don’t have children.

Person A stands at the front, with Person B directly behind them.  Both face the same direction- good old A and B- inches from each other.  Person B then locks their armpit onto Person A’s shoulder- making a man-made lock.

A is now able to lift B onto their back. Now I know what you’re thinking- Person A has got the raw deal, lugging lazy old B around. But the truth is it’s easy, it’s comfortable. Not only is it a simple circus trick but it highlights another important aspect of circus; movement. An interesting movement can be easy and simple. An interesting movement can be a theatrical device. An interesting movement can enable a smooth transition between scenes.  So while it may not sound glamorous it’s certainly interesting, it’s certainly effective.

Circus Workshop

Circle Exercise

This started as a familiar drama game. The group stands in an inward facing circle. A ball is then thrown between members of the group. Easy peasy.  But it is thrown in a sequence and the sequence, like cartwheels or old episodes of Only Fools and Horses, must be repeated.  For example:  Person A to Person B to Person C to Person D. A, B, C, D. Again. A, B, C, D. And again.

Got it? Good. Carry on : A, B, C, D, A, B, C, D. All the time we carry on throwing the ball in the same sequence but now we add a new sequence.  The sequence order has to be different . And so is the activity- this time we blow a kiss. Kiss blown from B to D to A to C at the same time as the ball is thrown: A, B, C, D.

Got it?… Just about? Good. So now we’re going to add a third sequence. A sequence of names. You say someone’s name, they say someone else’s name and so on.  In a different order from the two other sequences, of course.  D says Person C, Person C says B, Person B says A. While you throw the ball and blow a kiss and… completely freeze, if you’re not careful. Can you see why I call people Person A or B now? Although you can’t actually do that. You have to say their real name or risk having the ball thrown in your face: especially if you do freeze. But you can see why I call people A or B, can’t you? Can’t you? Oh…

Theresa Keogh, STEP UP Creatives Ensemble 2013


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