In the circus, it is highly favorable to be a well-rounded performer. Not only should you be able to perform a variety of styles, but also a variety of skills. If you can offer multiple acts to a company, then you are more likely to get hired, and for higher pay, because the show can pay you a little extra to do two acts instead of paying two separate people. This works out well for both parties.
As an aerialist, I understand the high value in also having a ground act. Although I am able to offer aerial acts on a variety of apparatuses (silks, lyra, Spanish web, strap loops, pole, static trapeze, and hammock), it is not always enough. Currently, I can also do stilt walking, ring master/emcee, and basic comedy/clown. But I also really want to have a nice, strong ground act that is marketable and glamorous.
In circus school, everyone was to have two specialties and a group act. You could either have two ground acts or a ground act and an aerial act, but it was highly discouraged to pick two aerial acts. This is because rigging is not always available, and the school, too, pushed the importance of being able to offer a variety of skills.
For my ground act, I had wanted to do hula hoops, but the coach was no longer taking hula students. I tried a variety of other skills, but ultimately came down to either Foot Juggling (also called antipodism, where one sits in a special chairs and juggles large objects with their feet) or Meteor manipulation (a traditional Chinese act, usually performed as a group act, where two water bowls are on the ends of a rope and they are spun so fast the water does not come out, even while doing tricks). I wound up going with meteors, but a more contemporary solo style, because I liked the coach better. Mr. Cui (pronounced "tree") was a 72-year-old Chinese magician who spoke almost no English. Our classes were primarily held in mime or random Mandarin that I learned along the way. I worked with him for three years to learn this act, and it was such an amazing pleasure to learn from him! He was amazing at teaching, despite the language barrier, and I wound up doing this act, mixed with some clowning, for my graduation showcase. You can watch the now very embarrassing video here: https://vimeo.com/76299941
Here also are some still images from that act:
Upon returning to America, however, I quickly realized that the meteor act was a really hard sell. No one really knew what it was, and also, it requires a lot of both width and height to perform at it's best. Plus, no one really cared that I had worked hard at it for three years because apparently, it's not that impressive as a solo act. Awesome.
During my 2.5 years with the National Circus Project, I developed some skills in plate spinning, diabolo, juggling, and rola bola. I also learned walking globe and basic tight wire, and developed a solo skipping, or jump rope, act (skipping had been my group act in school). These skills and acts were great for elementary schools, where we performed and taught, and also worked well when I hosted some cabarets, but they were never good enough for a big circus ring.
Here are some video links from a cabaret I hosted of my plate spinning (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKLlwEhxBZo) and jump rope (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yxksm8E5EK0) acts.
Now, however, I really want to concentrate on developing a really skilled and sparkly ground act that I can take with me to big circuses if I ever need them. My top choices are foot juggling, as I do regret not learning it a little, and tight wire, since I loved learning it at NCP. Since, however, a nice wire is a bit out of my current budget (they will run a few thousand dollars), that might be on hold for a touch. But my dad is luckily a master carpenter, and has agreed to help me build a foot juggling chair and props so that I can start training right away. This is today's project! I just really need to focus some efforts into learning and developing the skill. My heart is never as committed to ground work as it is to aerial, but self-discipline is the name of the game. Because it really does have amazing benefits and necessity. So I need you, gentle reader, to hold me accountable. Thank you in advance.
And so I shall expand my skills repertoire ...as well as add lots of sparkly new costumes for the amazing new act. heeheehee ;) Follow ups to come!