If you’ve ever seen a Phare production, you’ve undoubtedly seen an almost mind-numbing level of acrobatic and aerial skill employed by the artists… Many modern circus theatre productions use these skills – all techniques that date back to the first circus and acrobatic arts ever seen.
In particular, there’s no missing the foundational skill all Phare artists possess – the handstand. This is a feat in itself, but there’s of course a whole additional level added when you pair two people together with the trick. This brings us to the skill you see showcased in these photos: hand to hand.
Now. How is this even possible? How can the person on top maintain their balance on the hands of another person? And how can the person on the bottom withstand the pressure of a persons bodyweight… much less move around or perform some related, or simultaneous trick? What’s the secret?
Of course extensive training and abnormally high strength-to-body-weight ratios are a key part of the skill… But the most important part of the technique, as it turns out, is connection. It’s the connection between the two performers hands that makes the whole stunt possible…
Despite the smiling unconcerned faces of the performers during the show, there’s actually a great deal of communication occurring at that very same moment between their hands. The base/porter (person on the bottom) and the flyer (you guessed it – the one doing the handstand) are negotiating dozens of micro movements and vibrations between their hands – making minute adjustments constantly to maintain balance. This “conversation” depends on the connection happening according to a certain set of rules that can be summed up in another word – alignment.
The alignment between base and flyer help alleviate the struggle for balance by finding the perfect center point between their collective bones and joints. The connection begins at the hands and wrists of course, and then works its way to the elbows, shoulders, chest and back, hips – all the way to their feet!
Have a look at these diagrams to get a better idea…
Starting with the hands, if the connection is out of alignment, the whole endeavor will be doomed. Both of the performers will struggle, their tricks and movements out of the position will be out of balance, and there is greater potential for injury to each of them.
The good news is, with enough practice, hand to hand can become nearly effortless – just how it looks during the shows! This generally takes years of practice, and bases and flyers tend to work together consistently so they know the weight, strength and feel of one another.
All in all, it tends to be a wonderful relationship. If you’re in the neighborhood, you should definitely come see it in action. Come see Proniap! Just back in town for another run this week – get your tickets at https://pharecircus.org/tickets/ and see some hand to hand up close at Phare, the Cambodian Circus.