The Year of Science

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Circus Science

 

Step right up, step right up! Behold awe-inspiring acrobatics, extravagant costumes, and magical illusions. The circus is full of entertaining acts, but how do they make the seemingly impossible possible? Science is a big help!

In the Cirque du Soleil science performs in almost every act. When an acrobat flies through the air and catches a swinging trapeze, that’s physics and gravity at play. When water has to fill the stage and then magically disappear as it does in “O,” that’s the work of lighting and mechanical engineering. And to train performers’ bodies to bend and move in ways the human body was not designed to move, physiotherapists provide their health science know-how to help keep performers in optimum condition.

“Looking at the Cirque du Soleil, virtually every act involves an incredible feat of engineering,” says Jerry Wasserman, a Professor of English and Theatre at the University of British Columbia. Wasserman took engineering classes his first year of college because of an interest in how things fit together. However he discovered that theatre is also all about fitting things together, like the sequences of events, and decided to focus his attentions there. Wasserman has since delved into the acting world and has reviewed theatre productions including the Cirque du Soleil for radio shows and newspapers.

“It’s really a marriage of science and art, and the art wouldn’t be possible without the science,” Wasserman says. “The science enables the art to feel particularly magical.”