Female Aerialists in the 1920s and Early 1930s Are a Circus Library Must-Have

Circus News

“Female Aerialists in the 1920s and Early 1930s” is a Circus Library Must-Have

If early 1900s western circus history was a circus act, I would hire it. The stories have all the earmarks of a quintessential crowd-pleaser: drama! romance! danger! comedy! Near escapes, outright catastrophes, steadfast family bonds, unwavering dedication to one’s art. This sensationalism is what hooked me as a young academic, but as quickly as I was dazzled, my enthusiasm dulled. I encountered the same stories over and over. Consuming the saccharine and sentimental plots on repeat was like snacking on an endless yarn of cotton candy – I became queasy at reading (again) about Philip Astley. I craved to know about circus as a cultural force that steered western society, politics, and national identity. A few authors fed me well, most notably Janet Davis and Peta Tait. Kate Holmes’ recent publication,Female Aerialists in the 1920s and Early 1930s: Femininity, Celebrity and Glamour, has left me fully satisfied. It is the perfect cocktail: equal parts scrupulous circus research, comprehensive cultural context, and a wise and fair contestation of ingrained nostalgia. It is a must-read for present-day artists, fans, students, and academics alike. It is an essential resource for the well-informed aerialist. For they are the embodied legacy of aerial action, and this is a piece of their history. It raises the bar for how circus history is told. Move over, pink lemonade! Holmes is serving up the new champagne of circus academics. 
Kate Holmes As a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Exeter, Holmes’s research focuses on aerial performance practice and its history. Driven by wanting to know more about her own amateur practice as an aerialist specializing in static trapeze, her research is centered on the embodied experience of aerial performance and circus. Holmes’s approac...
Thanks for reading CircusTalk.News.
Support us by registering or subscribing!
To continue reading this article you must be logged in.
Register or login to unlock 2 free articles per month.

Do you have a story to share? Submit your news story, article or press release.

Madeline Hoak

Madeline Hoak is an artist and academic who creates with, through, and about circus. She is a Writer for CircusTalk, Adjunct Professor of Aerial Arts and American Circus History at Pace University, Editor and Curatorial Director of TELEPHONE: an international arts game, and curator and director of Cirkus Moxie, a weekly contemporary circus show at Brooklyn Art Haus. Madeline has performed, coached, produced, and choreographed at elite regional and international venues. Her background in dance and physical theater is 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 Thinks: Reflections, 2020, and "Digital Dance & TELEPHONE: A Unique Spectator Experience." Madeline has presented academic papers at numerous conferences including Circus and its Others (UC Davis), International Federation for Theatre Research (University of Reykjavík), 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.