It makes you dizzy at first, but once you get the hang of spinning along inside a large metal hoop known as a Cyr wheel, turning head over heels over head over heels (repeat), it’s exhilarating, especially with people watching. So says Ty Vennewitz of Ashland, who seven years ago saw a performer so engaged and said to himself, “I want to learn that or throw up trying.”
He learned it. He didn’t throw up. It doesn’t take any unique skill or strength, just a lot of hours, says Vennewitz, who will, accompanied by live music, perform wheeling, juggling, story-telling and other circus acts at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Green Show starting at 6:45 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 1, on The Bricks at 15 Pioneer St., at the center of the OSF campus. Like all Green Shows, it’s free.
A native of Olympia, he came to Ashland almost two years ago for love — and, in fact, recently proposed marriage as a finale of the premier of his one-person "varieTy" show, "Cirque Love Love," in Seattle. He got a "yes."
Vennewitz teaches hoop and other circus acts at Le Cirque School on Hersey Street and often performs for donations on Chautauqua Square in front of the Black Swan Theater. He learned his Cyr skills at the Canadian National Circus School in Montreal and is still part of a performing group in Seattle called the Acrobatic Conundrum.
The most often-asked question he gets is, “Don’t your fingers get squashed?” The answer, he says, is "no" — he has to open his hands every time that’s about to happen and “you only squash them once,” then you get it.
The wheel was invented in 1996 by Daniel Cyr, also a grad of the Montreal school, and caught on like wildfire among circus folk. Vennewitz’s is plastic-covered steel, weighs 45 pounds and unbolts into several pieces for easy transportation.
The act has a strange attraction for people — in fact, says Vennewitz, it’s mesmerizing, kind of like, “a self-powered roller coaster without tracks. The performance really gives me a high. It’s great physical exercise, but up on stage before an audience I really get that endorphin rush.”
— John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at email@example.com.