Undergrad Juggles Physics, Astronomy, And … Rings

By Melissa Greco Lopes
Univ. Communications

As a Take 5 scholar at the University of Rochester, Adam Lanman augmented his education in physics and astronomy with the study of equilibristics and manipulation. While these may sound like terms heard in a science lab, they’re actually the nomenclature of a different venue: the circus stage. And, thanks to Take 5, a program that allowed Lanman to spend a fifth year at Rochester tuition free conducting an independent study with the Department of Dance and Movement, he was able to immerse himself in the art of circus performance. His work culminated on Saturday, April 27, during No Elephants Allowed, a performance of skills and tricks he acquired during his year-long study.

A four-year member of the University’s Strong Jugglers, Lanman parlayed his interest in juggling into a research project that sent him to Bristol, UK for fall 2012. There, he studied with Circomedia, a school that specializes in four areas of circus performance: physical theater, partner acrobatics and tumbling, aerial skills including the trapeze, ropes, and silks, and equilibristics and manipulation, which includes juggling and balancing on unicycles and stilts. During his three months at Circomedia, he trained extensively to prepare his body for the twists, turns, and balancing moves required of a circus performer. After five weeks on basic skills, he focused on juggling, equilibristics, and manipulation.

For Lanman, the connection between circus performance and dance was obvious. “There’s a movement in contemporary circus performance that has shifted from the spectacle and awe you might see in Barnum & Bailey to a more aesthetic, artistic appeal that has similar goals to dance,” says Lanman, noting the rise in popularity of shows like Cirque du Soleil. When he returned to Rochester for the spring semester, he enrolled in courses that taught choreography, improvisation, and playwriting.

During Lanman’s performance on Saturday, he showcased a variety of juggling tricks, including a two-stage pirouette, in which he tossed three objects into the air, spun once, caught two of the objects, spun again, and caught the third. He also performed acrobatics and dance routines and showed off some newly acquired clowning skills.

A native of White Plains, N.Y., Lanman will finish his Take 5 year this May, and head to Brown University to pursue a doctoral degree in physics.