Hey there, sports fans! We’d like to alert you to the fact that Dr. Janet Davis was recently interviewed for a lengthy piece on a young man’s work in the circus in Spirit Magazine, the in-flight magazine for Southwest Airlines. Take a look at the excerpt below and click here to read the full piece.
Jesse’s challenge is more complex: In going to college, he was encouraged to step beyond a community in which he already knew his place. “All of a sudden you’ve got to rebuild, you know? And find your identity,” he says. In high school, he was a big man on campus—the star jock, a promising scholar, the circus kid, a rural success story. At SMU, among the children of Dallas’ elite? “It seemed like the kids there were entitled to be there. One’s mom is the CEO of Victoria’s Secret. He lived in my dorm. I was like, ‘Your mom owns Victoria’s Secret?’ It’s heavy-duty; heavy-duty people. And I was like,’‘My dad owns a circus.”‘
Plenty of college kids plow through these crises of self and set a course for their adult lives. If Jesse were just another boy shocked to discover that his strutting high school persona amounted to nothing in college, he might have toughed it out. But the circus offered an escape from the disorientation SMU stirred in him; it gave him a purpose. In bailing, Jesse wasn’t running away to join the circus, he was running home to it.
Now he’ll have to pull off the same tricks his forebears did. Despite its robust past, the circus has repeatedly had to evolve to avoid extinction. Although today’s audiences are harder to come by, the circus arts have become popular among kids. More than 350 instructional youth circuses operate in America, a quarter of them having emerged in the past 10 years. “The challenge for Jesse’s generation,” says author and circus historian Janet M. Davis, “is to bring all of these young people into the broader circus fold.”