We all love circus/skill toys. And it’s pretty obvious to us why it’s so incredible. And so, we assume, that it must in turn be awesome for everyone else.I understand that mentality, and I also have that opinion most of the time. The thing is, not everyone else wants to play with toys. Crazy, I know. But some people would just prefer to watch, or rarely, not to be involved at all. So we can’t become like those pamphlet wielding, guilt assigning, shame anointing people we see littering our television screens and our overcrowded urban areas. We must let the people come to us.
Here’s an example that, to me, proves the lack of enthusiasm some people associate with the circus arts. I used to live in NYC, and oftentimes would practice in Union Square. From time to time, I would even be wearing completely ridiculous, but nonetheless awesome spandex outfits. Sparkly, shiny outfits that blind you. And I would be playing with hoops, or poi, or juggling. And this would all take place on that large staircase at the front end of Union Square. So behind me, completely oblivious or uncaring to what I was doing, would be several hundred people. They would sit there, eating their lunch, reading their books, and talking on their phones. I thought this a prime opportunity to bring out some extra hoops and get others involved. So, Tash and I set out, extra hoops in hand to try and win over some some of those poor schmucks wasting away their lives on their little smart-phones. And, for the most part our hoops went untouched and unloved. Which really astonished me. Here we were, offering free entertainment as well as a totally free interactive experience, in a city where everything has a price tag. And noone was taking the bait. Even more surprising was the near annoyance that most people had at us even being there. Granted, we were running all over the place, swinging large hoops the likes of which none of them had seen. And in their minds, we were one misplaced or mistimed throw away from ruining their day. But we weren’t hitting anyone (99% of the time).
There was one demographic that always seemed interested, however. And that was the kids. Little kids and their parents would walk by, and seeing such a familiar object, the children would beckon their parents over to our hoops. And half the time the parents would allow their children to play with the hoops, letting them leap through the center, as well as letting them have a go at actually hooping. The other half of the parents hurriedly shoed their kids away from us and our hoops. As if to suggest we were mere street peddlers, looking for a tip. And while this saddened me, I understood that I was up against years of programming that had taught those parents, and one day would teach their kids, that “free” is never free. There must always be a hidden agenda.
And so, living in a society that is programmed to avoid spectacle and spontaneous interaction with unknown persons, how then do we interact with those around us. We can either force our community into their world with loud music, lights, crazy and sometime scandalous outfits, and of course toys. And while some will see this as a beacon of hope, a siren calling out to them on an island in a sea of the mundane, many more will undoubtedly be put off by the noise. But, like any passion, I want to see the object of my affection flourish. So how then do we begin to get others, those who would not normally be involved, to play with us? Unfortunately, I don’t know the answer to that question, and I won’t pretend to. But this very same question applies to any alternative community, whether it be circus or Burning Man. And within that counterculture spirit lies the difficult question of how we can better represent ourselves to the world at large. I’m not trying to say that we should change who we are, or what we do. The fact of the matter is that both circus folk and burners are wonderful people. And I truly believe that a small dose of this mentality would be a good thing for everyone. We must instead ponder how to truly and accurately represent ourselves in such a manner that is inviting and manageable for those on the outside. Any suggestions?-Photo: Joe Flood under Creative Commons
Creator of GyroPulse and Co-Founder of The Gyronauts. Social Media Manager at Saatchi NY. Loving the Hoop since 2006. Loving the Poi since 2007. Loving the Burn since 2007 More from this author