Fat Circus Bodies

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.
Amber Parker training acrobatics. Photo courtesy of Amber Parker. 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...
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Madeline Hoak

Madeline Hoak is an artist and academic who creates with, through and about circus. She is an Associate Editor for CircusTalk, Adjunct Professor of Aerial Arts at Pace University, a member of the American Circus Alliance's EDI committee, and the Editor and Curatorial Director of TELEPHONE, an international arts game. Madeline has performed, coached, produced, and choreographed at elite regional and international venues. Her background in dance and physical theater are infiltrated into her coaching and creation style. She is passionate about providing her students holistic circus education that includes physical, historical, theoretical resources. Madeline initiated the Aerial Acrobatics program at her alma mater, Muhlenberg College, where she taught from 2012-2017. She is also a regular contributor to Cirkus Syd's Circus Thinkers international reading group. Her circus research has been supported by Pace, NYU, and Concordia University. Recent publications include "Teaching the Mind-Body: Integrating Knowledges through Circus Arts'' (with Alisan Funk, Dan Berkley), a chapter in Art as an Agent for Social Change, "expanding in(finite) between," a multimedia essay in Circus Thinkers: Reflections, 2020, and "Digital Dance & TELEPHONE: A Unique Spectator Experience." Madeline has presented academic papers at numerous conferences including Circus and it’s Others (UC Davis), the Popular Culture Association, Gallatin (NYU), and McGill University. Madeline earned an MA from Gallatin, New York University’s School of Independent Study, where she designed a Circus Studies curriculum with a focus on spectatorship. madelinehoak.com