Duncan (c) sarah fishbein (1)One year you were an American exchange student living in Paris and the next you return (with a Fulbright) to study at the French National Circus School. The circus! What happened?

Yeah, I’m still as surprised as everyone. Basically, I discovered it by coincidence. My exchange program was a “critical studies” program with an emphasis on cinema and philosophy, and the goal was to expose us to as much Parisian culture as possible. On one of the outings we went to a “nouveau cirque,” a kind of contemporary circus, and I was blown away. It was absolutely nothing like the clichéd image of the circus that I had in my head. It was athletic and dynamic and dark, more like a piece of physical theater, with very able performers. I started seeing more shows and got hooked.

978-0-307-27172-3 (1)I arrived in Paris with vague hopes of being thought of as a student rather than a scholar, a circus hopeful like the others in my program. If asked, I would of course tell the truth, but I honestly thought it wouldn’t come up. Although I wasn’t an acrobat, I was reasonably athletic—-I had excelled at sports as a kid and done some rock–climbing in college. And it was, after all, a “preparatory” program. It would take me less than a class to figure out how hopelessly naïve I was.