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The Versatile Blogger Award

9 May

ImageThe Versatile Blogger

I’ve been nominated by Bonne Vivante Life for the Versatile Blogger Award. Please have a look at her blog it’s really awesome. Thank you very much Bonne Vivante Life I truly appreciate your recognition of my blog and I feel honoured as your writing is beautiful and has moved me.

I strongly recommend that you follow Bonne Vivante Life. In her own words the blog  is about “… About living life married to amazement. To embracing the world in your arms. To not letting fear dictate your fate. To living life out loud. To experiencing, with every pore of our beings, every joy and pain and celebration and tear and confusion and ambivalence and fear and love–fully.’

Regarding my The Circus Girl Blog, I started it because I wanted an outlet to share my passion for circus arts with not just other enthusiasts but people everywhere. When I first started my circus training I was (and continue to be) hungry for knowledge about all things circus and I wish for my blog to be a place that can help to quench this thirst in others.

I like to think that I’ve been nominated for a Versatile Bloger Award because although the focus of my writing is circus I cover a range of different themes under this umbrella. I write book reviews, include training tips, post reviews of performances I’ve seen, take a look back at circus artists from years gone by and feature many other different threads.

So I’m about to nominate other bloggers who I believe are also versatile. So here’s the deal for them:

  1. Display the award logo on your blog
  2. Thank and link back to the blog who nominated you
  3. State 7 things about yourself
  4. Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award
  5. Notify these bloggers of their nomination by linking back to their blog

1. I love all things circus – ok I know that’s pretty obvious!

2. I once had to jump onto a moving train in India. It was just like in the movies. Maybe I should have been a stunt woman…

3. I’m a green tea addict

4. I love aloe vera plants for their healing properties

5. Summer isn’t Summer for me without Pimms, ice and a slice

6. I won a national newspaper competition when I was 9 years old

7. I love dogs but have never owned one

Other Versatile Bloggers:

Bonne Vivante Life

Aerial Hymns

Marcelino Guerrero

Taminas Turn



First Night Design

From My Insides Out

Paper Cut Illustrations

Amethyst Rose’s Muses


Free Range Cow

Effra Blog

Wonderful Cinema

Harbin 77


Airealism – The Circus Company Like No Other

9 May

S&S rollergirl 7_higher res


Circus company Airealism will be taking audiences on an aerial adventure when they appear at London’s Hoxton Hall on May 30, May 31 and June 1, 2013 with The Bleeding Hearts Circus, an intimate cabaret dedicated to love in all it’s many forms.

As with all affairs of the heart, there will be displays of raw twisted passions, soaring highs and crushingly heartbreaking lows as performers take a heady journey along the well-trodden path of romance. Stories will unfold on the ground and high up in the air on trapezes, silks, corde lisses, aerial hoops and on the muscular backs of others.

Airealism have been successful in capturing the public’s attention with their creative and imaginative performances, which have seen them play to packed audiences at The Albany theatre, Glastonbury Festival, Edinburgh Fringe, Shunt nightclub and Hoxton Hall.

Previous performances, which include ‘Sand and Steam’, ‘Tales of the Apocalypse’ and aerial theatrical piece ‘Noir’, have received rave reviews:“Fluid and engaging” (Sideshow Magazine), “Unfeigned avant-gardism” (Time Out) and “Noir simply and quite magically distils one art form into another” (The Guardian).

Since it’s birth seven years ago, Airealism has grown to become a fully-fledged circus company – unlike any other. Their uniqueness stems from the fact that they are comprised of dynamic new breeds of circus performers who have managed to run away with the circus, whilst continuing to hold down full-time jobs as lawyers, dentists, decorators and engineers.

This 20-person strong band of vibrant artists, encompass all manner of performance skills including aerial arts, acrobalancing, contortion, roller-skating and aerial and physical theatre. With their diverse backgrounds, age ranges and hard earned abilities, Airealism continue to inspire audiences throughout the UK .

The Bleeding Hearts Circus will take place at Hoxton Hall – 130 Hoxton Street, London N1 6SH. Closest tubes are Hoxton, Old Street

Dates/Times are Thursday May 30, Friday May 31 and Saturday June 1, 2013 at 7:00pm.  There will be an additional matinee performance on June 1, 2013 at 3:00pm

Tickets for The Bleeding Hearts Circus are £12 General Admission / £8 Concessions. There is an Early Bird price of £10 General Admission until 23 May.

Tickets can be purchased at or

Learning To Spin On Aerial Equipment Without Losing Your Lunch

31 Mar

ImaginAerial Duo Lyra

ImaginAerial Duo Lyra

I’ve done my fair share of spinny acts, most often with a bucket offstage in case of “too much of a good thing”. Love web, lyra, single point trapeze and other spinning apparatus but afraid of the throwing-up factor?

You should be, it’s very real. Here’s how to get off to a good start and keep your cookies where they ought to be!

First, some fun info about why we throw up when we get too dizzy. A doctor I met a few years ago in a trapeze workshop had an interesting answer: poison. Apparently, a number of poisons make your head spin and disrupt your orientation, so your body’s natural response is “Aw, hell no! Get that OUT of here!!!” And there you have it – you cast up your accounts and live to see another day.

Whether that’s true or not, it can be a real drag to have to sit out half your aerial class with your head between your knees. So here are some things that may help:

  • Ginger (my personal fave is the Trader Joe’s crystalized stuff). Eat a bit before class and see what happens!
  • Experiment with closing your eyes. This makes me more nauseated, but I know some aerialists who swear by it!
  • Fix your eyes on your apparatus. Don’t try to spot the way you would in dance, you’ll look like you’re having a seizure. Just focus on your hoop or rope.
  • If focusing doesn’t help, try this! Blur your focus as much as you can (this one works well for me).
  • Start slow and keep at it. The more you spin, the greater your body’s ability to acclimate – don’t give up! Be persistant and think of the pounds you will have lost in a few weeks!

Bottom line? Rome wasn’t built in a day. Spinning the way we do simply isn’t natural, and your body will let you know in a dramatic fashion! You can and will get used to it – just keep a bag handy while you learn. If you’re a spinning apparatus enthusiast, what works for you?

Written by Laura Witwer (

Heroines of the Circus – The Iron Jaw Acrobat

22 Feb


Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas’s Miss La La at the Cirque Fernando is an oil on canvas (46 x 30-1/2 inches), which belongs to The National Gallery, London

Circus performer Miss Lala was born Anna Olga Albertina Brown to Wilhelm Brown and Marie Christine Borchardt, on April 21 1858 in the former German (but now Polish) city of Stettin (Szczecin).

Lala who was of mixed race, was also known as, Olga Kaira or Kaire, “Olga the Mulatto”, “Olga the Negress”, “The Venus of the Tropics”, “The Cannon Woman” and “The African Princess.” Olga was the name of Lala’s sister, Olga Marie Brown, who had died at five months old, almost three years before she was born.

Although she was small of stature, Lala possessed incredible strength. She was an all-round circus artist and she worked at various times as a trapeze artist, a hand balancer, a wire walker, a strength artist and an iron jaw performer (A popular acrobatic strength act of the time) which saw her suspended high up in the air whilst holding a great weight using only her teeth.

Her first appearance in the circus was at the age of nine but it was at 21, in France where she found fame. She toured around numerous circuses and music halls throughout Europe including the UK where she performed at London’s Royal Aquarium’s central hall and at Manchester’s Gaiety Theatre.

Lala was part of the troupe called Folies Bergère and the Keziah Sisters. She partnered with another strength acrobat called Theophila Szterker/Kaira la Blanche. Together they were known as Les Deux Papillons (The two butterflies).

Miss Lala Sml

Miss Lala Olga Kaira at The Cirque Fernando (c.1880) 

Collection Zimmerli Art Museum, Rutgers University – Museum Purchase 

Lala’s African and European ancestry was regularly exploited to create mystery around her background and reinforce her ‘exoticism’ thereby increasing ticket sales. In Paris she was hailed as ‘La Venus Noire’ and in London stories were circulated saying that she was an African Princess who lost her throne when her chiefs decided to pledge their allegiance to Queen Victoria. As a result they said, that Lala was sold into slavery and ended up in a circus in the South of France.
In writings of the time, Lala is described as a ‘dusky’ Amazon and greatly admired for her agility and strength and one who was ‘strong above the average of womankind in the jaw’. In Paris, Lala’s iron jaw act was described as so much better than those which had come before including those of male iron jaw performers.

To perform her act, Lala had to use equipment which was made up of a thick double sided two inch wide leather and metal strap or tongue about 12 inches long with a leather mouth piece at one end which was gripped by the artist’s teeth. At the other end there could be an extension or a metal hook.

A solo performer could hang the hook end from a trapeze bar or a rope and then clamp their teeth down on the mouthpiece end with their head and body facing upwards. A swivel underneath the hook allowed the iron jaw piece to turn and spin with the performer. In a duo one performer could hang upside down with their legs around the trapeze gripping the iron jaw mouthpiece with an extension attached at the waist or neck of a second performer suspended below.

In an 1879 newspaper report Lala’s act is described in detail. The article mentioned how Lala hung from her hocks (knees) on her trapeze whilst holding a second trapeze between her teeth. A child, a woman and a man took it in turns to perform poses on this second trapeze and then a duo act took their turn all the while with Lala bearing their weight between her teeth.


Folies Bergère performance poster by Jules Cheret (1880)

Then a woman performed a toehang off this second trapeze whilst holding the weight of another woman in her arms. The ante was then upped as Lala was lifted up to the roof rafters where she hung upside down on her trapeze in a one legged hocks (Hanging on just one knee) whilst holding the weight of a man on each arm and the weight of one between her teeth.

The grand finale of her act did not disappoint as Lala lifted a civil war era canon with wheels up into the air with her teeth. The canon was then fired with the aftershock of the blast causing Lala’s body to involuntarily rebound.

One reviewer/critic said “She does all that her muscular rivals have done and a great deal more. Lala as we have hinted is a representative of a dark skinned race but in the matter of strength she is prepared to assert her superiority of the boastful people who will have it that all virtues are associated with a light complexion.”

Lala was immortalised at the age of 21, when she was painted by Edgar Degas at the Cirque Fernando which was close to his studio in Montmartre. The painting depicts Lala suspended from the roof of the circus by a rope connected to a bit between her teeth.


In 1879 Degas made this preparatory drawing of the strength acrobat Miss LaLa

Degas who himself was of mixed race on his Creole mother’s side, watched Lala’s popular act for four nights but was challenged by the perspective that he was faced with, painting from underneath the subject as well as having to adhere to 1870’s theory on colour choices. He was also challenged by trying to paint a ‘pose that would convey her soaring movement and the strain on her jaws.’ Of the finished painting, critic Roy McMullen wrote that it was considered to be, ‘Among the artist’s most striking and complex achievements.”

Lala continued to  perform from the 1860s up to the late 1880s. In 1888 she married an American contortionist by the name of Emanuel (Manuel) Woodson. This was the same year of her stage partner Theophila Szterker’s tragic death from a fall. Theophila had according to Le Figaro (October 26, 1879) previously suffered a bad fall whilst substituting for Lala in a rope act.

Emanuel and Lala went on to have a daughter Rose Eddie Woodson who was born in London in 1894. According to the newspaper The New York Age (October 21, 1915) the couple went on to have two more daughters who formed an act called the Three Keziahs.

In the last years of his life Lala’s husband Emanuel was the stage manager of the Palais d’Ete circus in Brussels. The last known date of Lala’s life, when she was known as Anna Woodson and Olga Woodson, is 1919, from a US passport application.

Feel free to GET IN TOUCH if you have any further information about Miss Lala that you would like to freely share. ‘Freely share’ being the operative words…..


‘Pain Is Weakness Leaving The Body’ – An Aerialist

27 Jan



How Much Pain Is Too Much?

Written by Laura Witwer (

A really great question: how much pain is too much? For those of us who fold ourselves in half backwards or hang by one toe for a living, this is definitely a gray area (one of 50 shades of gray, perhaps?). So, how do you tell the difference between “pinchy pain” and “oh-my-gosh-my-ankle-is-being-separated-from-my-body” pain? How much of a masochist do you have to be to succeed in circus?

Pinchy Pain – Circus Hurts

Pinchy Pain is the sensation that accompanies most of the cool stuff in circus – single ankle hangs, toe hangs on trapeze, wrapping your leg around your head four times, etc. It can be intense, but beyond a little bruise or “apparatus hickey”, you shouldn’t be doing significant damage to your body. How do you get past it so you can smile at the audience instead of grimace?

  • as you’re transitioning into the pinchy part, BREATHE. It doesn’t get better if you hold your breath, because now you’re suffocating AND getting a bruise. Let’s not compound our pain.
  • understand that there’s a point at which the pain doesn’t get any worse, when it becomes tolerable. When you hit that level, lean into it.  (**a note for the ladies: your experience of pain intensity will vary week by week during your cycle, so something that feels Too Painful one week may be much more manageable the next)
  • RESPECT YOUR LIMITS AND INSIST THAT YOUR COACH RESPECT THEM AS WELL. I cannot overstate this. It’s your body, and if it breaks, you’re the one who has to live in it. So if your coach is pushing too much, you can say something along the lines of, “Wow – that’s intense! I’m going to work up to that!” Then back off to a level you’re comfortable (well, slightly uncomfortable) with.

Eventually, that toe hang that felt like it was severing an artery doesn’t hurt anymore, and you can move on to the next thing. Your coach will likely warn you if something’s gonna hurt, so check with him or her if something is super ouchie and you’re not sure it should be. Circus hurts, but it doesn’t hurt forever.

Damaging Pain – You Didn’t Need That Kidney, Did You?

Damaging Pain is exactly what it sounds like – pain that is warning you of significant damage to your body (sprains, strains, tears, serious bruising, breaks, bad burns, tendonitis, etc).  Pain is your body’s way of setting boundaries; it’s kind of like your body’s “safe word” – there’s a warning, then there’s the no-go zone.  It goes without saying that you want to avoid Damaging Pain whenever possible – you don’t get a gold star for injuring yourself. A little bruise or callous rip is one thing, chronic tendonitis or bruised kidneys is something very different. It can take some time to discover exactly what those boundaries are for you, so until you’ve got a good sense of it, play it safer.

  • You can feel sore in the days after a class (especially early on), but you don’t want to feel broken
  • Beware of burning, grinding, sharp, or tearing pain
  • When in doubt, BACK OFF. If you take one thing from this post, let it be that.

At the end of the day, you’ve got to find that sweet spot between pushing your boundaries so you can grow, and taking care of the only body you have. You have to KNOW your body, and circus is an amazing place to learn that. Be safe, and I’ll see you in the air!

Love and pull-ups, Laura.


The Trapeze Diaries – Book Review

9 Jan


Circus people make this look so damn easy,” the Aerialist says , pointing at the trapeze. “But it takes so much patience and it hurts like hell. You’re probably going to cry; you’ll get angry and frustrated. You’ll definitely bruise and most likely you’ll get scared.” The Trapeze Diaries – Marie Carter

Since I found circus (Or since circus found me) I’ve read as many books as I can on the subject and the autobiography, The Trapeze Diaries was one of my first. It’s been a few years since I’d picked it up though so I’ve read it again to refresh my memory.

Marie Carter is a twenty-something year old Scots writer whose move to New York coincides with the sudden death of her father. In the flurried activity of her emigration Marie doesn’t have a chance or the ability to grieve properly for her father but once in New York she finds that she can no longer contain the heavy feelings of her loss and her grief begins to seep from her every pore.


Author Marie Carter

At this time she goes to see an aerial performance and becomes spellbound so she decides to take training on the fixed trapeze. We follow Marie as she goes through an excruciating but enlivening process of study. Her training begins to sculpt and strengthen her body and it has a similar effect on her mind and resolve as she gradually begins to let go of her fears, trust herself and as a result progress in her ability as an aerialist.

Intertwined with the tales of her aerial classes, the book gives touching accounts of Marie’s relationships with her mother, her brother, her late father, her friends, her lovers and herself and you can’t help but feel a kinship for the author willing her on to succeed as she goes through her mourning and her study.

The Trapeze diaries is a beautiful book, written with a real honesty and pure heartedness and for aerial diehards Marie really brings to life the fear, the frustration, the soreness,  the calluses and the pain of the beginner trapeze student. A highly recommended book.

OMG!!! She’s Balancing On A Trapeze ON HER HEAD!!!! But There’s More!!!

1 Jan

Trapeze Artist Practicing her Act

Yep awesome… I first saw a trapeze artist head balancing on a trapeze in the pages of a vintage circus book but then in September of this year at Piccadilly Circus Circus, I saw this rarest of acts in the flesh. An artist from Circolombia was head balancing – whilst juggling hoops in his hands and spinning hoops on his feet!?!


I learned that a special trapeze is used for this particular balance and it’s called a Washington Trapeze.

The Washington Trapeze (also known as a heavy trapeze or a head trapeze) is usually weightier than a regular trapeze with a small circular headstand platform of about four inches round situated in the middle of the trapeze bar. The trapeze artist can then  perform their head balancing skills on this platform.

This trapeze tends to be supported by wire cables rather than ropes, and it will often be lifted and lowered during a performance.

The benefit to all this upside down balancing – as well as drawing a crowd – is that it apparently gives your skin a radiant, youthful glow nourishing the cells in the face, muscles and skin and helping to keep you looking ageless for longer. I may have to give this a go myself (Skipping the juggling and foot spinning bit) after I master my ‘Planche’ of course. So it could take a while at least all of 2013 and 2014… Happy New Year to you all!