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The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present
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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group 2013
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Description

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.

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Format:
Adobe EPUB eBook, Kindle Book, OverDrive Read
Street Date:
02/26/2013
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780307962294
ASIN:
B00957T5A0
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APA Citation (style guide)

Duncan Wall. (2013). The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Duncan Wall. 2013. The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey Into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Duncan Wall, The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey Into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2013.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Duncan Wall. The Ordinary Acrobat: A Journey Into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, 2013.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2022. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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title
The Ordinary Acrobat
fullDescription

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.

reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: The Washington Post
      • content: "Lovely...There is plenty in The Ordinary Acrobat to set circusphile and circus-skeptic alike to dreaming."
      • premium: False
      • source: Library Journal
      • content: "An exquisite exposition...Proving himself even more adroit verbally than physically, Wall offers a revelatory love letter to the simultaneously ancient and contemporary art of acrobatics, the circus, and its denizens."
      • premium: False
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content: "In this enchanting memoir sprinkled with historical anecdotes, Wall pulls the reader into the world of circus, past and present...his captivating journey of discovery may lead others to consider running away to join one."
      • premium: False
      • source: The New Republic
      • content: "Wall is a charming guide... [his] appreciation of the circus is deepened by his understanding of its long and distinct history."
      • premium: False
      • source: Eric Lax, author of Woody Allen: A Biography
      • content: "If ever you have the urge to run away and join the circus, you can save yourself the trip and still have the thrill of it all by reading The Ordinary Acrobat. Duncan Wall's adventures as a novitiate in a Parisian circus school are wonderfully entertaining. A beautifully written account of life past and present under the big top."
      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from February 18, 2013
        In this enchanting memoir sprinkled with historical anecdotes, Wall pulls the reader into the world of the circus, past and present. An American, in 2003 he received a Fulbright grant to study the "new circus" in Paris and soon realized that this was a world far removed from the Ringling Brothers. The book follows Wall's schooling in the art and practice of contemporary European circus skills, along with his growing fascination with circus history. As he develops skills in juggling, tumbling, trapeze, and clowning, he inserts background on each form. Wall's conversations with other students, professionals, and circus historians delve into reasons for entering this still-separate life. One of the most striking notes revealed through these is the mystical aspect to the craft felt by circus artists. Until recently born into the life, increasingly circus performers are passionate converts, and Wall shows his respect for them by declining to take his final exam, not for lack of skill but of passion. Wall also offers an amusing, enlightening guide to Paris for circus aficionados, and his captivating journey of discovery may lead others to consider running away to join one. Agent: Jane Chelius, Jane Chelius Literary Agency.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        January 15, 2013
        A Fulbright fellow immerses himself in the remarkable history of circuses. For generations, people have run away to the circus; in 2003, Wall followed suit. In his debut memoir, the author recounts the unique circumstances that led him down this unexpected path. After receiving a fellowship to study "contemporary circus," Wall enrolled in the National School for the Circus Arts in France, where he soon learned the stark differences between the American circus and the European model. Historically, European circuses were known for their intimate performances, while American circuses placed their focus elsewhere. "In the big American circuses," Wall writes, "all this familiarity and precision was gone, sacrificed for other pleasures: spectacle, pageantry, sensory stimulation...." Simply put: American circuses were more interested in turning a profit than a perfect backflip. Wall sought to train alongside the world's best circus performers. His immersion into the ranks of acrobats, jugglers and clowns provides a behind-the-scenes look into a world spectators know little about. While readers likely have some familiarity with the traditional circus performance, they will be surprised to learn the level of dedication required for performers to hone their skills. This proves particularly true in Europe, where performers are considered artists and masters of their craft. Upon his entrance into the National School, Wall was soon humbled to learn that he was no master. At the start of the semester, even a somersault proved too complex. "It was, after all, why I had come," he writes: "to get a glimpse of the incalculable amount of effort, embarrassment, and pain behind the seemingly effortless skills." Blending cultural history with biography, memoir and travelogue, Wall's carefully balanced book is, in itself, a successful tightrope traverse.

        COPYRIGHT(2013) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        May 15, 2013

        The old chestnut is as endearing and idealized as it is still accurate and representative: boy meets circus, boys falls in love with circus, boy runs away to join circus. Wall tells the story of an American exchange student's (his own) sojourn in Paris that segued into his Fulbright-funded stay at France's national circus school. Wall's account of his year of training at France's Ecole Nationale des Arts du Cirque de Rosny-sous-Bois is an exquisite exposition not only of the physically exacting training disciplines of juggling, tumbling, and trapeze but also of circus history, lore, and some delightfully talented and idiosyncratic personalities who have imbued the circus with characteristic passion and commitment. Proving himself even more adroit verbally than physically, Wall offers a revelatory love letter to the simultaneously ancient and contemporary art of acrobatics, the circus, and its denizens. VERDICT Wall does the burgeoning circus memoir subgenre proud; this beautifully written text will be of use in performance collections of all libraries, regardless of size or scope.--Barry X. Miller, Austin P.L., TX

        Copyright 2013 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        February 15, 2013
        Wall had the great fortune of realizing the archetypal childhood dream of running away to join the circus when he secured a Fulbright fellowship to do just that. After visiting the nouveau cirque as a college student in Paris, Wall was intrigued by the high cultural regard the French held for the circus as performance art. Wall spent a year in the intensive Ecole Nationale des Arts du Cirque, learning the skills of juggling, tumbling, and clowning. He also researched the origins of the disparate circus arts, from ancient Chinese culture through the Romans until 1798, when a British cavalier pulled together the circus of human and animal feats. The appeal of traditional circus had been on the wane until Cirque du Soleil dropped the animal acts and focused on choreography and human dexterity with spectacle worthy of Las Vegas. Wall chronicles his year of discovery of the history and future of the circus as well as the dramatic personalities and grueling physical training in this behind-the-scenes look at the evolving art of the circus.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2013, American Library Association.)

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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...

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