Tightrope Walking and Zen: a Way to Be Trained to Balance - CircusTalk

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Tightrope Walking and Zen: a Way to Be Trained to Balance

I had the opportunity to meet the philosopher-funambulist Andrea Loreni in person in May of 2016, during a TedX Conference held at Bocconi University in Milan. I was surprised and enticed by his speech that invited me to consider the relationship that exists between the art of tightrope walking and the practice of Zen meditation. What do these two disciplines have in common? How useful could this union be for the circus artist’s training, and from a broader perspective, how helpful might it be for a human being’s development? These questions were the starting point for a fruitful exchange of ideas that eventually brought me to choose Andrea Loreni — the only Italian tightrope walker who specializes in great height walks on steel tightrope– as the main subject of my PhD dissertation[1][2]. My research started a year before, originating from ten years of experience as a teacher of circus arts,  which led me to investigate the relationship between education and the artistic discipline of tightrope walking. Furthermore, this study led me personally to analyze the idea of balance as psychophysical positioning, self-centering and opening to the possibility of living in the here and now of the present moment, following its variations: on the tightrope, on the stage, and in life.
stage, and in life. The Tightrope “Who taught me to walk on the tightrope? The tightrope itself.” The philosopher took his shoes off, and barefoot, started to tell me about his idea of becoming a tightrope walker, which began as an alternative to the life he didn’t want to have. “If I have to identify a crucial event for my choice of this artistic profession, I think about my childhood when I could not understand why my mother, everyday, had to go to work. ‘But do you really have to go everyday?’ I asked her… After a long time, this thought brought me to look for another path. Now I can say that my tightropes are my ways–different points of view of the world–different ways to live, and to walk. There are many different ways even when we think there are not. I think that my practice of tightrope walking corresponds to my need to look for something different, at not being pleased by the idea of an inescapable reality and path given ...
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Giulia Schiavone

Giulia Schiavone is a PhD Student at the Department of Human Sciences for Education "Riccardo Massa" at Milano-Bicocca University and a teaching assistant at Play and Education and Embodied Education. Her research highlights the prolific relation between performing arts, transforming experiences and human growth in order to design and carry out educational paths.