The Ordinary Acrobat by Duncan Wall
A Journey into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present

No critic rating

Waiting for minimum critic reviews

See 2 Critic Reviews

He uses his own experiences at the National Circus School as a springboard into historical digression, but the result is occasionally a frustrating superficiality in both realms.
-NPR

Synopsis

The extraordinary story of a young man’s plunge into the unique and wonderful world of the circus—taking readers deep into circus history and its renaissance as a contemporary art form, and behind the (tented) walls of France’s most prestigious circus school.

When Duncan Wall visited his first nouveau cirque as a college student in Paris, everything about it—the monochromatic costumes, the acrobat singing Simon and Garfunkel, the juggler reciting Proust—was captivating. Soon he was waiting outside stage doors, eagerly chatting with the stars, and attending circuses two or three nights a week. So great was his enthusiasm that a year later he applied on a whim to the training program at the École Nationale des Arts du Cirque—and was, to his surprise, accepted.

Sometimes scary and often funny, The Ordinary Acrobat follows the (occasionally literal) collision of one American novice and a host of gifted international students in a rigorous regimen of tumbling, trapeze, juggling, and clowning. Along the way, Wall introduces readers to all the ambition, beauty, and thrills of the circus’s long history: from hardscrabble beginnings to Gilded Age treasures, and from twentieth-century artistic and economic struggles to its brilliant reemergence in the form of contemporary circus (most prominently through Cirque du Soleil). Readers meet figures past—the father of the circus, Philip Astley; the larger-than-life P. T. Barnum—and present, as Wall seeks lessons from innovative masters including juggler Jérôme Thomas and clown André Riot-Sarcey. As Wall learns, not everyone is destined to run away with the circus—but the institution fascinates just the same.

            Brimming with surprises, outsized personalities, and plenty of charm, The Ordinary Acrobat delivers all the excitement and pleasure of the circus ring itself.

 

About Duncan Wall

See more books from this Author
Duncan Wall studied as a Fulbright scholar at France's École Nationale des Arts du Cirque de Rosny-sous-Bois. He is on the board of directors for the American Youth Circus Organization and was the founder and co-artistic director of the Candidatos, an acclaimed clown-theater company recognized by The New York Times for its contribution to the flowering of contemporary clowning. He lives in Montreal, where he teaches circus history and criticism at the École Nationale de Cirque, Canada's national circus school.
 
Published February 26, 2013 by Vintage. 338 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography, Travel. Non-fiction
Add Critic Review

Critic reviews for The Ordinary Acrobat
All: 2 | Positive: 1 | Negative: 1

WSJ online

Excellent
Reviewed by Judith Flanders on Mar 22 2013

Mr. Wall's technical descriptions of what happens on a trapeze, or even of how a somersault is turned, make you look afresh at what had previously seemed obvious. And that may be the greatest trick of all.

Read Full Review of The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journ... | See more reviews from WSJ online

NPR

Below average
Reviewed by Drew Toal on Mar 06 2013

He uses his own experiences at the National Circus School as a springboard into historical digression, but the result is occasionally a frustrating superficiality in both realms.

Read Full Review of The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journ... | See more reviews from NPR

Reader Rating for The Ordinary Acrobat
77%

An aggregated and normalized score based on 66 user ratings from iDreamBooks & iTunes


Rate this book!

Add Review
×