Flipping Out At The French Acrobatics Convention
“Upside down…boy you turn me inside out, and round…and round…upside down”
I don’t think Diana Ross was referring to acrobatics when she wrote the song Upside Down. (Which happens to be one of the sings we regularly get requested to play in Goa). Yet the lyrics sort of capture the scene at the French Acrobatics Festival. Surveying the landscaping of Camping Du Lac in south western France you don’t have to look far to find the festivities as pointed toes hovering by tree branches and giant human sculptures standing three high on one another’s shoulders dominate the landscape.
I am not an acrobat, far from it. You won’t see me performing in Circus d’ Soileil anytime soon as I’m still working on getting into a straight line while maintaining my handstand. As for doing a perfect handstand on top of another person’s head…check back in with me in five years. The answer will still probably be the same but if there’s one thing I’ve learned from participating in the festival it’s never say never. I witnessed people doing what the average human would consider nearly impossible a few times an hour, and found myself being surprised at some of the tricks that I’ve been able to pick up quickly thanks to excellent instructions, confident partners, and the reassurance of good spotters.
I was drawn to the festival because my amazing friend Jenny was one of then organizers this year and my friends Jared*, Amalie, and Lili were also attending (there’s always good times dancing when I see them). Plus playing around with circus-like training just sounded like the fun challenge it proved to be. I connected with muscles I have never acutely felt before as they moaned from soreness.
My favorite connections came from combining acrobatics with dance. We learned a variety of saltos, flipping over one another in old school lindy hop fashion. Two very articulate instructors Jan & Olivia held a progression of workshops in which we learned some complicated dance routines that are super fun to perform. Lifts, throws, twists, flowing contact dance, and other moves I can’t even begin to describe comprised the routines.
I must admit that I connected with my sweet tooth way too much as well. My role as a volunteer was to shop for food. We easily spent close to 1,000€ each day, part of which went towards the sweets fridge which was always filled with a variety of chocolate. Not only was the sweets fridge always available, each night we were allowed to help ourselves to the beer keg or wine. After working so hard physically all day it was easy to indulge in a beer or two and some chocolate and not feel guilty. Additionally the meals each day were some of the best I’ve had at a festival with a lot of variety and an ever present array of French cheeses to pick from.
We also explored the local nature with a canoe trip and a day trip to the beach. At first Lili and I had some difficulty maneuvering our canoe downstream, but we seems to have no trouble steering directly into thorn bushes. Similar to the acro training, things became much smoother with practice and we were very again left with sore muscles from rowing across a lake.
As part of the convention we put on a show for the local people. I joined in the finale with my perpetually smiling partner Francesca as we busted out some flipping dance moves. Our host Jonno was quite the comedic entertainer, pantomiming a demonic little girl eating her own mother and making hilariously obscene comments. After the finale the dance floor erupted as tunes blasted and feet flurried about well into the night.
The day after the festival a large group of us headed up the coast to catch Akoreacro, an acrobatics and music performance group. It was by far the most impressive show of any kind I’ve ever seen. One man performed a headstand with no arm support while swinging across the stage 20 meters from the ground. Another man played a piano on wheels spinning out of control, while another performer completed a handstand on his head! Talk about concentration, I had a brand new appreciation for the difficulty of the performance that they made look way easier than it is! (the picture below isn’t from Akoreacro but gives you a small taste of the vibe).
People often joke about packing all of their bags and joining the circus, but I sincerely felt this way leaving France. That’s how empowering, uplifting, and humbling of an experience the festival was. In order to fly you have to leave the comfort of the ground, trust in your fellow friends, and get back up whenever you fall. Sounds to me like a microcosm of enjoying life in general.
*You probably noticed that these photos look way better than most of my blog posts. That’s because they’re from my super talented friend Jared Van Earle. Check out his amazing photos at whatmaybe.life