Let’s go to the circus!
The Bay Area’s local, homegrown festival, Circus Bella, is returning to San Francisco December 15 with its Winter Holiday Spectacular. A modern twist on the one-ring circus, the event features performers and acrobats of all stripes.
One of those performers, Toni Cannon, is always eager to show off his array of talents. Though Cannon started his circus career later in life, he’s trained under legends in the industry, including internationally renowned acrobat Master Lu Yi, who’s credited with bringing Chinese acrobatics to the West.
A Black transgender man, Cannon started his own solo show, Reflection, earlier this year.
But for the month of December, Cannon, who’s mastered disciplines such as Chinese pole and partner acrobatics, will be showing off his talents for the people of San Francisco.
Queerty recently caught up with Cannon ahead of the big show to talk about his life as an acrobat, how to approach the apps and his love for 10-day meditation retreats (sshhh)! Here’s what he had to say…
QUEERTY: How do you train to take part in an event like Bella Circus?
TONI CANNON: For my individual training, to prepare my body to do the amount of shows we’re doing, I’m training about five hours per day for five days per week.
I have a lot of random skills. I have to keep them at bay, while I prepare for a show that I’m doing a certain act. So usually, I’ll role out, then I start with handstands. I try to do an hour of handstands, a little bit of conditioning. Then I’ll juggle for an hour. Then I’ll take a lunch break, and I’ll do an hour of acrobatics, and then two hours of Chinese pull. Then a little bit more conditioning, and then a cool down. That’s my 9-5.
What’s the secret to juggling?
Practice! It’s true. You just gotta do it, and then little things will click. But in the beginning, I only let myself juggle for 10 minutes. I did that for a week or two, then learned how to juggle three balls. Then after I learned how to juggle three balls, it was a year of getting that consistent before I could even get feedback from people helping me with my technique.
I’ve been consistently training and juggling every day for an hour for about two-and-a-half years now. It really just takes a lot of practice!
When you tell people you’re in the circus, what kinds of reactions do you get?
People are always very surprised at how much you have to train. I get the feeling that people are just like, “You’re born being able to do that.” And it’s like, “No.” I feel like that’s always interesting when people are like, “How often do you train? That’s crazy!” And I’m like, “Well, it’s like my job!” It’s so funny.
What do you love about performing?
So many things! I actually love training more than performing, which is interesting. I’ve always been very active, but I didn’t start doing circus until I was 26. I started really late. But before then, I said I would really love a job where I would just train all the time. Then I stumbled across circus. But the thing I love about performing is, putting something together, and seeing the audience enjoy it. It’s empowering.
What do you do for fun when you’re not performing?
I like to travel! I haven’t had much free time lately, because I’ve been doing other projects. But usually, me and my partner will travel or go camping. I love spas, sunning, hot tubs. That kind of stuff.
You mentioned your partner! How did you meet?
Me and my partner met on Hinge, actually. It’s kind of funny. I had been on dating apps for so long, I was just like, “Does this stuff even work?” Then we end up meeting. I was jaded enough to actually find someone! We’ve been together for over two years. We like to travel, we love going to restaurants, trying new foods. Bowling is something we really enjoy. Carnival games, because we’re both really good at hand-eye coordination, so we’ll do ski-ball or something random.
What’s one activity away from the circus that you’re looking forward to?
A 10-day silent meditation retreat. It’s a… vibe! I like the silentness. It’s just I haven’t meditated that long in a long time. You’re doing 10 hours a day, hours at a time. I’ve gotta get ready!
You do one hour increments, then take a five-minute break. I don’t think you do more than three or four [hours] in a session, and then you’ll do lunch or breakfast. So yeah, it’s intense! They’re all over the world.