Thursday, 8 July 2010

Pain, discipline and backflips...

Just watched an incredible documentary that was shown on BBC4 last week. It follows children and teachers at the Shanghai Circus School through training and building up to a national competition.

Unfortunately you can't watch it again on the BBC4 site for some reason, although you can get an idea of it on this trailer, and possibly will be shown again, as it seems to have been repeated a few times over the past few years. If it is, do watch it.

Anyhow, found myself dwelling on a few thoughts as I watched.

1. You start to feel a bit of a wuss for thinking about how childbirth might be a bit traumatic on your body when you're watching an eight-year old hanging by her arms from bars and raising her legs to her nose over and over again as a teacher chides her for crying with pain and exertion. Jesus. We grow up with so little pain in general; it's easy to forget how exceptional this is in the world.

2. I (used to?) absolutely love acrobatics. Keep backflipping or balancing on one hand and I will keep gasping with glee. I don't really know what it is but well-performed acrobatics often incite a kind of childish delight in me. However, watching 12 year old Cai Yong's unquestionably beautiful performance, I couldn't see any beauty in it, or feel any excitement, because I'd seen a bit of how hard he trained to get there, and it suddenly felt very peculiar to do such things with our bodies.

And often I've thought how I should have found something to dedicate myself to and get really good at. How I would have liked to have really trained my body up at something. I started realising watching this what that really might have entailed in terms of sacrifice and sheer repetition and started feeling almost grateful that I'm naturally lazy and butterfly like in my interests, skitting here and there and never wedding to one completely.

3. These kids are constantly admonished and shouted at. For gaining 2 kilos whilst back home, for not being able to do a handstand properly, for crying, for not doing a perfect enough move. They don't answer back when scolded. It's an entirely different system. And at first it's just complete shock and sadness. You want to take them out for ice-cream and tell them they don't have to practice every day or be the best trapeze artist, they can just do their best. And then the parents or guardians are there shouting 'do you want to be a beggar? if you don't work hard you'll be a beggar. there's no other option' and it puts it in a whole other light. Again, a perspective on my own culture. It seems so obvious that parents want children to be happy, but suddenly I saw what a luxury it is to be able to want that.

4. Oh, and a little part of me still thinking how awesome it would be to be able to do flying trapeze. They do courses at The Circus Space. Maybe one day...

Anyway, good TV.

1 comment:

  1. I think I have seen this and the kids and their dedication are amazing. I am going to post on book club about a book I just read about women and childrens lives in China which is relevant (kind of) to what you have written above.

    And can I just say birth may hurt and you don't have to feel like wuss because that is the reality of it but it is a great journey to go through too. You will do great!!

    Also I told my ob I was scared of birth and he said after the first 6 weeks come back and tell me which was tougher, birth, or raising a child :)