An Exploration into the Theater of Balance
with Philippe Petit
For the first time ever, the man who walked between the twin towers and authored the only treatise on Wire Walking*, will conduct a series of intensive two-days Master Classes to a limited group of selected applicants interested in the performing arts and poetry.
The students who attend the Master Class will be introduced to the essence of balance, to the art of tightrope walking and to the subtleties of performing.
To share with the group his unique view on the aerial theater of balance, Philippe Petit will show slides of his work and speak about his self-taught discovery of the wire. Additionally, there will be an introduction to the world history of tight-rope walking.
After a brief warm-up session, the participants will go through exercises aimed at developing symmetry in the flesh. They will be made aware of the center of gravity hidden in all things, and by manipulating props they will feel their own center.
You have no idea how difficult it is for most people to walk on a line drawn on the floor! It is amazing how climbing on a chair may reveal lack of physical coordination, and how easy it is to correct it after being told which is your equilibrium foot! Balancing a broom on your chin is not that challenging if you are shown precisely how to hold the stick and where to set your eyes!
The participants will practice at different heights and lengths on custom-made installations, and on ropes and cables of different diameters. Ultimately, they will venture on the type of wire rope Philippe Petit uses in his performances.
Philippe will walk the wire to demonstrate how to place each foot for an effortless and elegant glide, how to use the cable’s swaying to make a U-turn. Questions are welcome throughout the class, and each participant will have an opportunity to be coached one-on-one by the Master.
How to negotiate that first step? How to eliminate apprehension? How to be sure not be “thrown off the wire”? Where to look?
As far as the equipment is concerned, the emphasis will be on safety—yours and that of others. Ingenious rigging techniques will be introduced, as well as a few knots that can save your life. You will discover that the attention to details is essential; and, that confidence comes from an absolute focus. You will learn the meaning of fully-opened concentration.
To instill theatrical presence and artistic creativity, Philippe will direct the participants through improvisations as if they were actors.
Why do some performers look majestic and others induce boredom?
What makes a dramatic and memorable entrance on the wire, on a stage?
How does one use the audience’s reaction to enrich a performance?
There will be all kinds of experiments—on the floor, in the air, blindfolded, barefoot, in slow motion, of split-second decisions, to the sound of music.
Because balance is everywhere, because life is a stage, this Master Class in the form of a quest for perfection will transform and inspire you. You will feel the joy of being centered, of smiling at gravity, of feeling each moment intensely, of performing—even if you have never dreamed of running away with a circus!
By the way, Philippe Petit was not born in the circus—he learned by himself while being enraptured by poetry, painting, cinema, music and theater.
*ON THE HIGH WIRE by Philippe Petit, Random House, New York, 1985.
About Philippe Petit
PHILIPPE PETIT, universal poet laureate of the high wire, was born in France and took his first steps on the wire at age 16. He learned everything by himself while being expelled from five different schools. Performing on five continents, he taught himself Spanish, German, Russian and English, and developed a keen appreciation for architecture and engineering. Using his wire to extend the boundaries of theater, music, writing, poetry and drawing, he has become an inimitable High Wire Artist. On August 7, 1974, Philippe accomplished what may be the most astounding “artistic crime” of all time. He walked a high wire illegally stretched between the rooftops of the Twin Towers of the World Center, making eight crossings over the course of an hour, a quarter mile above the sidewalks of New York. Philippe’s book, To Reach The Clouds (reissued in paperback as Man On Wire), which recounts that adventure has been adapted to the stage and is the subject of the Academy Award-wining documentary film, Man on Wire.
In the 35 years since the World Trade Center walk, Philippe has performed on the high wire more than 80 times around the world including Paris, Tokyo, Frankfurt, Jerusalem and New York City where he has been an Artist-In-Residence at The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine since 1982. Philippe is the recipient of the first Action Maverick Award, the New York Historical Society Award as well as the prestigious James Parks Morton Interfaith Award; and, he was recently made Chevalier des Arts & des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture.
In addition to walking the high wire, Philippe gives lectures and workshops on creativity and motivation, writes, draws, performs close-up magic, practices lockpicking and 18th century timber framing, plays chess, studies French wine, and was recently sighted bullfighting in Peru. Also he has been arrested over 500 times…for street juggling! Philippe is the author of seven books, currently putting the finishing touches on his eighth: A SQUARE PEG. He is also hard at work on a new one-man stage show, “Wireless! Philippe Petit Down to Earth.” When he’s not traveling, Philippe shares his time between New York City and a small hideaway in the Catskills.
(Black & White) Thierry Orbach, Collection Philippe Petit
(Color ) Howard Shatz, Collection Philippe Petit