6.5.14

IT'S A HARD-KNOCK LIFE.

Over the weekend, nine performers in the Ringling Barnum Blue Unit were injured when a D-ring holding the human chandelier failed during a Providence, Rhode Island matinee.  At this writing, all remain in hospital.  A former trouper offers a tribute.
These aerial acrobats go through years of training and auditions before their big break such as touring with the Ringling Bros. Circus. Although bumps and bruises can happen at rehearsals, broken limbs and deaths should never unfold...

So next time you take your kids, grandchildren or even your parents to the circus, please keep in mind that the artistry can be spectacular, the acts can be death-defying, and the show must go on... The performers thrive on your cheers and yes, standing ovations. These beloved Ringling Bros. aerialists risk their lives everyday, entertain us for generations, raise young children for the "family business," and most of all, delight us with phenomenal memories of The Greatest Show on Earth!
And, dear reader, do not grow your hair long, tie it into a ponytail, and attempt this stunt at home.
Experts say the rare performance art – in which acrobats literally hang from the scalp as they fly through the air and perform various tricks – is practiced by fewer than a dozen circus families around the world, although it has existed for more than a century.

“It’s a very unique, traditional circus act. And most circus schools that I’m aware of don’t teach it,” said Elsie Smith, the artistic director at the New England Center for Circus Arts.

Each acrobat’s hair is wrapped around a steel cable ring attached to rigging that hoists the performer upward. And therein lies the secret: The specific technique used to secure the hair to the rigging is closely guarded.

“We all keep it to ourselves how we tie our hair and how we do it,” said Christopher Williams, a 24-year-old hair hanger who counts some of the injured performers among his friends. “No one really knows the secret.”
Do it wrong, risk a disfiguring injury. Do it right, it still hurts.

The danger comes with the job.  The performers in hospital, however, hope to see you down the road.

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