Non Verbal Communication in Circus
A picture is worth a thousand words, and actions speak louder than words. So rather than speaking, take a photo of yourself doing something and show it to people instead.
Circus and acrobatics are a physical discipline. A conversation between two or more people with just our bodies. There are times when words are unable to convey our intended meaning, and so we must turn to and rely on ‘non-verbal communication’
When our words fail us, we must rely on our face. Today we will cover some essential circus & acrobatic facial expressions, what they look like & what they mean.
Mankind’s greatest folly. Icarus and the sun. Clinton and the 2016 election. Myself and my decision to order two burritos instead of one. The pride before the fall. In our case, sometimes literally.
The over confidence of one party and their decision to forgo a spot. The realism of another to subtly ask for one via the medium of their face. They catch the eye of a nearby spotter, and in a moment of silent connection they enlist the help of this nearby hero.
The spotter puts one safety orientated foot in the proverbial door and says,
‘You guys want a spot’?
Before the over-confident optimist has a chance to say ‘nah, we’re good’, the realist jumps in and says ‘Sure, why not? Couldn’t hurt.’.And just like that, Icarus’ wings are clipped before takeoff, someone in Clinton’s campaign team says ‘maybe we should put more effort into Pennsylvania’ and the Chipotle employee says ‘You sure bro?’.
Because as it is written in the holy texts, ‘once a spot is offered and accepted, it cannot be rescinded.’
"Help Me Obi-Wan Kenobi"
As a pillar in your community it frequently rests on you to take the role of the protector, a role you’re proud to bear. You’ve earned it through your advocacy of safe practice techniques, your ability to read interpersonal & social cues and your above average hygiene.
Across the space you see something flash across a face. Your m/paternal instincts kick in. A non-gender-specific-damsel is in distress, and you must rise to the occasion. If you had a steed you would mount it.
You (st)ride over to the distress-ee and the potential offender and say something non-confrontational and vague like:
‘You guys want to come over here and join us?’
It’s a subtle enough question that the offender doesn’t realize you’re saving the offended, but the offended party quietly breathes a sigh of relief as they both join a less creepy group of people. A place where you hope ‘not being a creep’ is transmittable by osmosis.
"The Aerialist Death Stare”
There comes a time in every bases career where they, as the resident ‘big person’, are asked to ‘can you pull my number?’. This means you get the crucial, but invisible, job of standing at the side of the stage, holding onto a rope and are tasked with hoisting & lowering whichever aerialist has ropedyou into this.
You dutifully accept the role, diligently learning their intricate cues and the exact height they need to reach for each transition. It’s a delicate ballet of muscle and grace as you heave someone up into the sky on what is hopefully a 3:1 system. Everything is working perfectly.
Until that one day where you drift ever so slightly, it just takes an iota of complacency and you don’t hoist or lower at the exact right moment disrupting this meticulous aerial ballet. You feel a burning sensation in your face. It singes. The heat is searing. You snap back to action and you see…
A look that so clearly says: ‘put me the fuck down idiot’.
"The Burden of Foresight"
Those who this look is aimed at, rarely see it. They’re too busy doing something stupid.
An expression that is measured in seconds, an expression reserved for those with experience under the belt, a look for those burdened by knowledge and not for those who are living in blissful ignorance.
Across the room you hear someone say: ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’.
Your ears prick up like a judgmental-fox.
Someone somewhere is about to try something stupid. Not stupid enough to warrant you stepping in, but stupid enough for this expression to begin creep across your face.
Like the citizens of whatever-town-Frankenstein-takes-place-in, you can only watch in horror as they attempt to create something you surely know to be an abomination. You ready your pitchforks.
"Water Into Wine"
The opposite of the previous look. One that is born of complete surprise. An eclectic cocktail of surprise, admiration and a little bit of confusion. There was no logical reason for what just occurred, but by some grace-of-god it worked.
This is a complicated form of facial gymnastics, as you were so ready to have to smugly pull the
‘I knew that was gonna go wrong from the start’ face, and then suddenly, to your complete surprise, you have to shift 180 degrees and contort your face suddenly.
You've seen a miracle happen before your eyes. The monster Frankenstein created turn out be a decent guy. What could have been a monster and an abomination turned into an upstanding member of society with a slight fear of fire.
You don’t understand it. They don’t understand it. There was no way that should’ve worked, but it did, and now you look like an idiot. You put the pitchfork down.
‘Judge not, lest ye be judged’
It can be hard to fully understand these complicated expressions, and to really truly understand the subtleties & nuances can take a lifetime. I suggest investing in a newspaper with some eye-holes cut out, a trilby and a trench coat. Find a comfy park-bench near a jam and just spend some time observing acrobats in their natural habitat.
Bonus points if you do a fake David Attenborough voiceover.