Friday, July 5

as the confetti settles

It's been a week since amputee circus camp came to an end.

Credit: Michael East
After five full days of playing and training, it all climaxed in a bang of confetti for the finale of our performance at the Ontario Contemporary Circus Showcase in Toronto.

The piece featured each camputee on her chosen apparatus: fabric, hoop, and Erin's celebrated hanging wheelchair. The one brave camper dude brought down the house with his hula hoop, tossing it into the air and catching it with his nub arm.

We certainly accomplished a lot in one week. We laughed-e.g. "Does anyone remember where I put my legs?"-We cried, in frustration and recognition, and we prevailed with no camper left on the ground. But though we were drawn together-literally grouped-over the commonality of limb difference, I was struck by our diversity. Even our physicality spanned a spectrum, and no two of us had lived the same experience in our bodies. I didn't find, as I expected, that working with other aerialists with missing limbs was particularly helpful in skill development because we were each so differently abled.

Instead, we had so much to learn and consider from one another because of our differences. I learned from Talli how one moves through the world with no arms; from Bonnie the importance of wheelchair accessibility and how often it is lacking; and from several that not all prosthetic legs are created equal. These are things that I never consider, that no one ever considers, until one is confronted by it.

On Saturday, our courageous teacher and camp co-leader, Tina Carter of Airhedz in the UK, was invited to a panel discussion around the question of accessibility in circus. She invited each of us to forward our ideas. But I think there are no concrete answers here. The most important thing is openness to learning from one another and believing that we all have important things to contribute, in circus and elsewhere. Accessibility is a state of mind. That's where it begins...


Wednesday, June 26

away to the circus

Hello there! I know, it's been a minute...or several years, whatever. Explanation? Well, I could say I ran away to the circus, which is kinda true, but I didn't run so much as take a plane, then a bus, then a train...and it wasn't several years ago, it was Saturday...and it's not Barnum and Bailey, it's circus camp...and no ordinary circus's amputee circus camp, or as we campers have affectionately termed it, Camputee 2019!

This is actually the second annual Amputee Circus Camp, hosted in Kingston, Ontario, at Kingston Circus Arts by the lovely and talented Erin Ball. Erin lost her legs below the knee several years ago. She was an aerialist before her accident, and she has continued with a mission to bring others with limb difference and disability into the world of circus.

So here I am. Just getting to hang out with other limb-less or partially-limbed folk from all over is novel enough, much less have the opportunity to play together on fabric, trapeze, and other aerial apparatus. It's surreal. 

Erin and Talli
There's a good variety of us with partial arms or legs or both. Very few times in my life have I had the pleasure of being in the majority when it comes to limb deficiency. And to find as many other folk with limb differences who are ALSO interested in circus arts is close to impossible. But then, "impossible" is a word we don't give much credit around here.

Of course we are all serious about circus and working so hard our entire bodies are aching with soreness, but the comedic potential in such an environment is astronomical. Just one peek: in the Starbucks drive-thru the other morning with Bonnie and Talli, both with lower limb deficits, we missed the ordering spot and I offered to jump out and ask the car behind us to back up, only to discover the child-lock was preventing me from exiting the, the one most able to jump out. Don't fear, coffee was ascertained eventually, an international incident averted.