Welcome to August, and to a new edition of 0ur Aerialist of the Month feature! This month we are featuring the wonderful Joel Marsan, a long-time student and occasional instructor with Firefly.
Joel has been a dedicated student and fixture around the studio since 2012, and has scrupulously attended multiple classes and open gym each week since starting. With an impressive pike climb and an even more impressive compendium of puns, Joel is one of our strongest and most memorable students. He always makes sure to make everyone around him feel welcome and contributes to the warm and friendly vibe of the studio.
As one of Joel’s instructors over the first Summer session, I can attest to his amazing work ethic and unparalleled humility. Even though he is a very strong student, he is always incredibly receptive and thankful for feedback, an instructor’s dream!
We had a chance to ask Joel about his circus journey thus far and his plans for the future:
How did your circus journey begin?
Until my early 40s, I had always been heavy, and at one time weighed in at 244 pounds. Even after I had finally lost most of the weight, being fit or active did not really appeal to me. Then seeing an aerial act in a Cirque du Soleil show put ‘trying something like that’ on my bucket list. Later, while living in San Diego, an opportunity to help volunteer at a circus program for troubled youth gave me the chance to learn a few things on the aerial equipment, and I was hooked. The combination of ‘challenges’, ‘creativity’ and more recently, the capacity this kind of performance has ‘for good’ have kept me at it for 15 years now.
In some ways you break the mold of a typical aerial artist! How does that impact your aerial training?
I certainly enjoy the fun, fitness, friends and opportunities to perform. But its’ the opportunity to use this in performances for good causes or to encourage and bring joy to others that motivates a lot of my training. There is something about big-eyed joy on children’s faces, people seeing an aerial act who don’t normally get the opportunity, or encouraging a teen at camp trying the equipment for the first time that gives me reason to keep learning more.
Tell us about your most memorable performing experience.
The Let There Be Height in 2014 with the ‘Film Noir’ theme is probably top on my list for performing in a full show. I really enjoyed playing a character all the way through the show, both on the ground and in the air. I was one of three cops in the story line, the comical one who always had to do things a little differently than everybody else. I still joke about how I don’t eat donuts, except in character on-stage.
What are your circus goals in the next year?
I would like to focus more on creating smoother acts, especially developing better use of movement in the transitions between techniques so the transition looks like part of the act. Gaining a good knowledge multiple ways to get between techniques, and variations on techniques, would also help me with ‘improvisational / ambient’ performances. And the stretch goal, someday perhaps further in the future, I would like to take some good workshops in teaching so that what I have been given can be passed on to others.
Thank you so much for the glimpse into your circus journey, Joel! We wish you the best of luck in continuing to create amazing acts and can’t wait to see where the next year takes you!