The Continuing Story of Circus-Kid Kate

Some time ago, rather in response to a 'blog entry Leah Hager Cohen did about her, I devoted an entry (see 3/14/08) to Friend Kate Magram in tribute to the amazing things she's taught me. That, I had hoped, would spawn a tremendous groundswell of Kate-imonials, because she's really touched a number of people in her time as an active circus enthusiast. (And most of those touches weren't even inappropriate!) Well, my readership is too small, it seems, to inspire such swelling. I remain confident that it's not size that matters in this matter (of swelling, ground or otherwise), but I do wish I could have brought people's awareness of Kate a little more to the forefront of the national consciousness.

Fortunately, Mizz L.H.C. is a little more influential:

Sure. It's Good Housekeeping. But I still think it's hella cool. In the accompanying interview with Mz. Cohen they ask her if she's done any "acro-balance" moves lately, and she replies that she hasn't, but likely will the next time Kate comes around. That doesn't surprise me, because it only takes one acro session with Kate to appreciate that she's eager to do that work any time, any place, compensating for any injuries or social mores that may stand in her way.

Recently, I ran across a photo on a friend of a friend's Facebook(TM) page. (No, I'm not linking to Facebook; because it's ruined my life.) It was of my friend and his friend doing a thigh-stand in some public space, and looking pleased as punch about it at that. My friend is Kasidy Benjamin. (Okay, see? That's how Facebook's ruined me.) He found me in Legal Snarls, Zuppa del Giorno's second production, way back in 2004. Kasidy came with us to Italy for In Bocca al Lupo the first time we all went, and performed semi-improvised comemdia dell'arte in Italian for an Italian audience. He graduated high school last semester, and in the fall he's off to Dell'Arte International. And somewhere in all that, either I or Friend Heather (and I taught Heather) taught him thigh-stand.

Kate has a thing about the lineage of knowledge, particularly as it applies to the passing-down of skills. In her perfect world, everyone would know the family tree of everything he or she has learned. "I learned it from this person, who studied with this person, who was a disciple of..." Etc. I admit, it sounds very nice. Even noble. I also think we're a bit too far gone to get it done these days. I could certainly start now, though, and in the world of acrobalance my beginning begins with Kate. From Kate came all these good things. I owe Kate huge karmic residuals (which she would almost certainly rebuff for being inherently un-karmic [unless they manifested as money or free time, perhaps]).

Here's the thing I'm having trouble with: For various perfectly rational reasons, a few years back Kate drastically reduced her involvement in creating circus work and new circus performers. She is now hip-deep (occasionally eye-ball-deep) in the work entailed in becoming a physical therapist, and she'll be a good one. Her secondary passion to acrobalance when we worked together was making sure EVERYONE DOES THINGS SAFELY. Some of this, admittedly, may have had to do with liability issues, but I choose to believe the core of Kate's personality lies in a primal need to protect people; occasionally from themselves. That instinct, combined with her love of all things physical, makes her a prima candidate for becoming an involved and informed physical therapist. Can not complain about them apples. What I can moan about is Kate's self-removal, albeit necessary, from the regular teaching and choreographing of acrobalance. I don;t think this will come as any particular surprise to Kate. Unless she misinterprets my feelings as a criticism of her choices. Which they are not. Kate.

It's just that, dang it, she's good. Maybe she's not the greatest acrobat in the world, or even the most gifted teacher; she'd be the first to confess various stories of having missed this or that, wishing she could go back and do something different. But I think we all feel that way about our work to some extent, and the people who really fail in any meaningful sense do so because they fail to perceive their own mistakes. What Kate has that's so damn valuable is an effortless love for the work, and for the people who are willing to try to come to it with open hearts and minds. That love fills the room -- and sometimes, a good portion of Sheep Meadow -- when Kate teaches. I've tried to carry that on, that ethos, and I think I've done a pretty fair job. I enjoy teaching or skill-swapping in this vein for the moment it creates amongst all involved, and it seems that those moments can indeed carry out into the world and the future with the right people involved, like Kasidy. So it's good work. Time well spent.

Thanks again, Kate.