Friday, 1 April 2016

Camilla Damkjaer - Homemade Academic Circus

Homemade Academic Circus - Idiosyncratically Embodied Explorations into Research in the Arts and Circus by Camilla Damkjaer PhD, paperback 224 pages £12.99, Kindle: £8.39 published by Iff Books. 

This a cause celebre for I assume, the throw and catch of the trapeze, the precariousness of the hire wire, the impressive strength and flexibility of the acrobat and some clever plate spinning. Perhaps the most important and the most ancient aspect of the circus is the light-hearted energy of the clown, perhaps included by the author as one of her alter-egos. There are no certificates required to demonstrate a highly complex skill but the circus is as mystifying as it is breath-taking, and acts that look easy may require many years of patient and immensely hard work. 

This book questions, and the exegesis it propounds is an art form in itself, but everything is a matter of degree and we always need something to entertain us when we are bogged down with heavy realism. One must examine assumptions and give the vocabulary of the text new meanings (for words only have value when we understand meaning and context) and from theory to practice is a paradigm shift - one would be nothing more than an armchair judge without experiential knowledge, but where has the paradigm shifted to?

Written in an artistic and academic style for the cognoscenti, the exposition is challenging, as is every circus performance. Where can armchair contemplation meet objective assessment of such a subject, except here? The author is an amateur, a word which derives from amour, meaning love, but not as someone who is unpaid. She describes herself as a 'professional circus amateur' so she is obviously familiar with circus style daring do and with the knowledge that performers compete on a world class stage and where many are as exceptional in their gifts as any Olympic level athlete who is also willing to risk their health each day for their art-form.

What a homemade dish! The author, Dr Camilla Damkjaer has a way with words. She is a Senior lecturer in dance theory and Head of research education at Stockholm University of the Arts. Her PhD thesis (The Aesthetics of Movement – Variations on Gilles Deleuze and Merce Cunningham, 2005) addresses the meeting point between dance and philosophy with an interpretation of Gilles Deleuze’s philosophy and the choreography of Merce Cunningham.

A lecture performance of great skill and workmanship needs a review to meet the high academic standards set by this amateur professional, as I am, no doubt myself. Review: Wendy Stokes

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