In the Element

“When people are in their Element, they connect with something fundamental to their sense of identity, purpose, and well-being. Being there provides a sense of self-revelation, of defining who they really are and what they’re really meant to be doing with their lives”.

Ken Robinson, from the book The Element: How finding your passion changes everything.

Seefeld Mhule, Germany 2007

The air


For many years, 15 to be exact, my element was the air. Once I started performing on the trapeze, I didn’t go back to the ground for 15 years. Then came ten more years of combining the air and the ground. When people ask me how I came to the circus, the answer is –

I was looking for a way to dance vertically instead of horizontally. 

Back to the ground at eye level


Once on the ground, looking into people’s eyes became important again. I started writing performances for my own company and others. The challenge was having circus arts communicate beyond the technique to speak of our human condition. How does one create a poetic, politically engaged circus that speaks to people’s guts? It was a good challenge; I was in that Element for many years. 

The “Mah”

Then I went back to the air, but on the ground. Directing artists, working with what there is in the space between humans. The “Mah,” as the Japanese call it, is the space between. A concept I may go back to sometime. There are many other skills, too numerous to mention, in directing circus… But the essential element is working effectively within that energetic space between artist and director. I still think today that this is my strongest skill.

Words and Beginner’s Mind


Now the Element is words. An element that has always had a place in my life since adolescence. I’ve been writing a lot through the years. A poem of mine was even published in a literary magazine when I was 19… 

Now at 53, I tremble as I write with a beginner’s mind. Not only because of the intimacy of the subject matter, the exposure, and the emotional risk, it’s an altogether new skill I am learning. The freedom of expression I am searching for seems to be miles away, yet here I am. Doing my best with whatever I have. In a strange, vague sense, it feels like home. 

I thrive at the limitations and proceed.

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