Circus News

Circus Bodies: Fat Circus Bodies

I recently spoke with Amber Parker and Michael Jay Garner, two US circus professionals, about fat circus bodies. Through their interviews, this article addresses fat bodies in professional performance, social circus, and coaching. We talked about virtuosity, representation, and the power of circus as an agent of social change. There were often two sides to a topic, such as the welcoming nature of circus communities and the presence of microaggressions. What struck me most, was how each conversation naturally led to how circus and circus skills must be redefined in order to be truly inclusive of all body types.

The first circus class Parker took started with running in a circle. She walked out. “Exercise is triggering for people, especially fat people, and especially survivors.” After making herself return, she realized no one was staring, no one cared that she was bigger. She left feeling successful, “I felt playful. I felt like I had a good time. I didn’t know that what I needed was a safe and protective container in order to move my body.” Initial positive experiences led to a consistent practice. At Seattle’s School of Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (SANCA), she was less triggered and her trauma symptoms lessened. “The first couple of years, it was the safest place I’d ever been in my entire life, and that was amazing.” To further understand what she was experiencing, Amber...

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Madeline Hoak

Madeline is a NYC based performer, producer, professor, and choreographer specializing in aerial, acrobatics, dance and movement direction. She is an adjunct professor of Aerial Arts at Pace University, on staff at Aerial Arts NYC and The Muse Brooklyn and initiated the Aerial program at Muhlenberg College where she taught from 2011 - 2017. Her movement direction contributed to Circle Theater NYC’s production of The Mountain winning Outstanding Original Choreography/Movement, 2015. She co-choreographed The Battles, a musical voted by Broadway producer Ken Davenport one of the top 10 new scripts of 2016. Madeline's choreography has been presented at Dixon Place, Circus Warehouse, BAX, The House of Yes, Abron Arts Center, Times Square, The Flea, STREB, Galapagos, and The Muse. She received BAs in Dance and Theater from Muhlenberg College and is currently studying at NYU’s Gallatin school of Individualized Study where she is designing a master’s degree in circus studies with a focus on dramaturgy and creative processes. madelinehoak.com.