29 years ago today in Tucson, Arizona at 8:44 PM -- Miguel Vazquez accomplished his first quadruple somersault in performance!
Miguel Vazquez returns to flight, Las Vegas, Nevada, October 2010, assisted by David Vazquez. Photo from "The Last Great Flyer," courtesy of Philip Weyland.
They and we waited and wondered, could another trap star achieve those near-impossible four revolutions en route from fly bar to catcher's hands? Seems not to have happened. This was to have been the season of Ivo Silva, Jr. of the Flying Caceres. He flew for the Big Show, landing the quad during the season-opening engagement in Florida land, landing another four across the season, but mostly flirted with an elusive dream. I saw him give it a try when Ringling-Barnum hit Oakland last summer. He did not fly impressively close to hitting the intended target, a firm pair of waiting hands, which left me with a distinct impression of an artist likely chasing an impossible dream. Fate can be cruel. Or maybe it's a matter of "luck," when it strikes, being just as cruel, fooling the recipient into a hopeless addiction, like a slot machine Johnny down to his last penny.
It's not all bleak. Trapeze is being reinvented in China and other lands. Even the Caceres, to their credit, delivered a terrifically rich and varied routine, as I recall. Ivo, who did not enjoy the emotional support and continuity of a family, as do most other great flyers, is Ringling history. He has left the troupe to appear with Cirque du Soleil at Orlando, and he has not given up on his quad quest. Read his comments left here, in his own words!
Phil Weyland, at work on his documentary, The Last Great Flyer, about legendary quad god Miguel Vazquez, need not fret his title being trumped and bumped by the Next Great Flyer, wherever he/she may be.
Maybe it's a matter of context. Aerial art, I fearfully assume, has lost much of its luster here in the U.S. as Americans in general seem to prefer glancing away from hazardous airborne acrobatics. Lots of reasons: mechanics strangling the lifeblood out of daredevilry; a new class of anti-daring circus trick snob; the rise of the sensual silks lending welcome complexity and elevated sparkle to the new school of circus ballet -- nothing potentially messy, please! (We won't discuss how hazardous the bed sheets, too, can be.)
The quad is a "trick" just like the triple. And even three somersaults seem a less sure thing than they were 20 years ago. As often as not, they are dramatically announced, giving the circus who touts them the muscle it may not possess. Which is why, I suppose, rare it is these days to witness a flyer, having failed the first attempt, going for a second. I remember when they ALWAYS went back.
On Circus Vargas, across four visits in recent years, I vaguely recall watching the act it links, in rimgmaster verbiage, to Monte Carlo gold turning a triple just once; every other time, they did not even try to, nor did they try much else. But, oh, can they posture!
Meanwhile, the Weyland interviews continue apace, with more film shoots set for Vegas. Phil estimates a wrap up around this time next year. I'm hoping he can turn his Big Theme into TV documentary gold; and maybe, then, he'll turn his lenses onto other aspects of Spangleland. We got the depressing PBS take on Big Apple Circus realities; we got Arsenic for Elephants. Let's hope here comes something better.