Circus is so unique in that it is both creative and athletic. It allows for artistic expression through color and movement and flow, but it also trains the mind and body with discipline and exercise.
There are a variety of circus skills that one can learn in order to gain strenth, improve cardio endurance, and build dexterity. Different circus disciplines will work different muscle groups, however, it is important to choose an act to learn based on interest. If you do not see yourself being passionate about a discipline in the long-term, then it is probably not a good choice for you. In order to build a nice, professional (or just well-skilled) act, one must put in the time and effort to learn it. This means spending hours and years honing and perfecting this skill. This means committment and love.
That being said, however, it is still fun and exciting to try out all of the disciplines! It will give you a wider range of skills, as well as help you make an informed decision as to what act you might like to "specialize" in. When I (Brittany Sparkles) was in Circus School, we took a whole term to go "speciality shopping." This allowed us to try out all of the acts we thought looked interesting with the trainer who taught them, so that we could choose which coach and skills sets we felt best suited us and that we wanted to work on for the next two and a half years.
One important point that the coaches stressed at school was "sticking with it." We actually had to sign contracts with the school that we would stick with our chosen specialites for our remaining time there-- a policy I heartily agreed with. This is because we all wanted to graduate with professional acts that companies would want to hire. If we had bounced from specialty act to specialty act, then we would have only left school with a variety of mediocre skills, and nothing very impressive.
So, the moral of the story here is, have fun trying everything, but chose one or two to truly focus on and own. This will make for a much more marketable circus artist.
Popular Disciplines to Consider
Aerial acts are great for wow factor and very popular both to wach and to learn, however, can be a bit tricky to sell to an event if one does not own a portable rig, or if the ceilings in a venue do not allow for rigging. If you choose to learn an aerial act, you should also consider having a secondary ground acts as well. Aerial acts include: silks, lyra, trapeze, straps, pole, hammock, net, and a variety of unique shapes such as spiral, chair, and umbrella.
Manipulation acts are always great because they tend to be easy to transport. However, manipulation acts require huge amounts of discipline and a steep learning curve. With any prop, one will fail more times then they succeed in the learning process, but the rewards far outweight the stress to get there. Manipulation acts include: juggling (balls, clubs, rings, etc), hula hoops, diabolo, plate spinning, antipodism (foot juggling), flower sticks, and more.
3. Balance/ Equilibrium
Balance acts are just that-- they require a lot of balance, and a little danger. These exciting acts include handstands, tightwire, rolla bolla, free-standing ladder, slackline, and unicycle. They are impressive acts, and those who learn them are often seen as skillful and dexterious.
General acrobatics usually have some sort of gymnastics background, as acrobatic acts require the proficient to have complete understanding and control of their bodies. Some performers choose to remain general acrobats, while others continue their training with large acts and group acts, such as teeterboard, Russian swing, pitching, cradle, German wheel, and Cyr wheel. Acrobatics is also a skill that adds nicely to both manipulation and balance acts to create interesting and well-rounded routines.