My idea for the BALANCING ACT was that there be a larger images (the figures in the foreground, the clown on the side, the audience in the background) which can be seen from a distance. I also wanted the viewer to be able to go up close and see many small details, drawings, and ornamentation that would give the sense of a delicate miniature.
This circus act fascinates me, two people on a bicycle, balancing each other. We, as spectators are thrilled at their daring and grace. The performers are confident. They have practiced, working with discipline and care. They want us to feel the ease and joy of this performance. They want us to feel we are on the bicycle. The clown stands on the side, ready to jump in and help us to laugh, if things get shaky. The clown is our mirror to understand and set us free from fear and panic or paralysis of spirit. If something goes wrong the agile performers jump back on and try again.
Reflections on Balancing Act
Light pours down in the circus ring. A great drama is taking place. In the ring of wholeness a delicate balancing act is taking place. On a bi-cycle a man holds himself upright.
The dual wheels hold the man up. On his shoulders, he balances his partner, a beautiful woman covered in hearts. She is the feminine side–his queen of hearts. She does not steer the bicycle but she guides the man wordlessly from beyond his sight. She sharpens his feelings and causes him to be acutely aware. She is his muse and his goad. She is the one who makes poets and lovers of men.
For a moment, everything is perfectly poised. They are fully focused and in harmony with one another. They hold their bodies and distribute their weight just so. Each one knows exactly what to do so that together they can sail around the ring. They have practiced this act for years. They make it look so easy and yet they know exactly what will cause them to tumble.
If they tumble, the clown will make it seem like a joke. Just now he yells: “Look Ma! No hands!” Clowns do that. They always show up where the action is most critical–and most sacred. They always tell the truth and voice what others dare not speak. They make us laugh even as we are crying.
Balance is a difficult act. We can hold it only so long. We tumble. Then we try again. Everyone around us wants us to succeed. They cheer wildly when we are in sync. It gives them the courage to balance their own lives. They find that the balance they seek is no trick. It is a sacred discipline.
Gertrud Mueller Nelson
Artist, author, and educator
Not always a simple feat—
balancing male and female energies
in front of a crowd of strangers
yet see how calm, how poised
they are, the woman perched
atop the man’s shoulders
while he pedals a blue bicycle,
their free arms upraised
as if in praise of teamwork.
Without trial and error,
falling and getting up again,
no one would attain any steadiness.
The green-and-white clown
on the margins knows that cycle.
Expert in practiced distraction,
he will jump into the center of the ring
to assuage the audience’s fears
should symmetry bite the dust.
by Joan Prefontaine
Writer and Poet