Friday, June 19, 2009

Random Book Review: Circus Techniques

Circus Techniques, by Hovey Burgess, is one of the seminal works in circus pedagogy. Burgess was a long-time teacher at the New York University, teaching circus techniques in the graduate acting programme. He also taught at the Juilliard School during the Sixties and Seventies, and worked with most of the top clown schools and colleges in America... in addition to being a juggler, acrobat and flyman in his own right.

His book, originally published in 1976, has rarely been out of print, and is still considered to be one of the core books in the genre.

Circus Techniques examines three basic elements of circus arts: juggling, equilibristics and vaulting (for those of you who might not be quite so "up" on your circus terminology, "equilibristics" covers balance skills like unicycling and stilts, while "vaulting" covers acrobatic skills such as tumbling and trapeze). In each area, he covers basic skills and builds to more advanced techniques.

The information is very practical and straightforward, and the pictures are comprehensive enough to adequately illustrate the processes involved. While some of the techniques can be self-taught with little more than a pool-cue or a chair, others require more advanced equipment or, at the very least, support people to act as spotters or catchers. Some techniques also require partners, but circus has always been a collaborative effort...

You can find the book at 791.34 BUR on the top floor of the Mabo Library, in Townsville. If you're in Cairns, you can place a hold on the book and we'll send it up to you. We have the second edition of the book, which has long since lost it's yellow cover, but the contents are timeless, even if the cover is unassuming.

The book is a valuable resource for anyone interested in circus skills or physical performance. If you intend to learn juggling or acrobatic skills, it's compulsory reading.

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