At one time or other, almost every young person has had a desire to run off and join the circus. But in Clayton native Duncan Wall’s case, it wasn’t until he was a junior in college and was “blown away” by the contemporary circus he attended in Paris, that he got the circus bug.
Wall's background included sports and theater and he was attracted by the combination of the two.
“It was at once visceral," Wall said. "It was also beautiful. It was also intelligent. There were acrobats doing double back flips. They were quoting Proust. They were singing Simon and Garfunkel . They were wrestling with each other, throwing each other. I just felt like I was seeing a piece of theater that I understood to be entirely theatrical … I knew why we were there to see a piece of theater rather than watching it on television.”
Wall applied for and was awarded a Fulbright to study at the École Nationale des Arts du Cirque and tried his hand at juggling, tumbling, acrobatics, trapeze and other circus skills. He now teaches circus history and aesthetics at the National Circus School in Montreal.
Wall recently completed ORDINARY ACROBAT: A Journey into the Wondrous World of the Circus, Past and Present. In addition to telling his own story, the book gives a capsule of the long and varied history of the circus.
Duncan Wall was in St. Louis to give a presentation about his book, complete with performances by local circus artists. He was Don Marsh’s guest on St. Louis on the Air to talk about how his love for the circus developed, his career, the history of the circus and his new book.