By Dominique Jando
Born Mark David Pilger in 1961, Mark David (1961-2008) was a native of Baraboo, Wisconsin (USA), the historical home of the Ringling Brothers—a fact which may explain his childhood dream of becoming a star performer with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, still known in that part of the world as simply "the Ringling Show."
Mark's mother, Marge, was a vaudeville performer. She began training him in gymnastics and acrobatics when he was four. By the age of eleven, he was proficient in most of the basic circus disciplines and could hold his own in a flying-trapeze act.
Most of Mark's subsequent training took place at the Circus World Museum in his hometown of Baraboo, studying under the performers who worked there during the summer season. He learned wire-walking and perch-poleLong perch held vertically on a performer's shoulder or forehead, on the top of which an acrobat executes various balancing figures. balancing. Eventually, he developed a cloud swing(English, American) The ancestor of the trapeze: a slack rope hanging from both ends, used as an aerial swinging apparatus. The addition of a bar in the middle led to the creation of the trapeze. act. He made his professional debut in 1976, at age fifteen.
Although he is remembered for his elegance, Mark David also had a daredevil side, which was reflected in his swinging-trapeze act. Moreover, he worked for a time with Jim and Heidi Grogan’s Star Ship 3 aerial act, which was performed suspended from a helicopter, five-hundred feet off the ground!
In 1981, Mark took an important step toward realizing his childhood dream: he was featured with his cloud-swing act in the 112th edition of The Greatest Show On Earth—the Ringling Show, in the historical shadow of which he had grown up and learned his trade.
The swinging-trapeze act he subsequently developed was inspired by his idols, Gérard Soules and Elvin Bale, who made their mark with spectacular trapeze acts performed in full swing, in which they did stunning heel catches without any protective device. Each had been featured above the center ring of The Greatest Show On Earth, in the 1960s and the 1970s respectively.
In 1984-95, Mark’s childhood dream came true: his new trapeze act debuted above the center ring at the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey production of The Living Unicorn. Then, in 1986, he participated in the Festival Mondial du Cirque de Demain in Paris, where he won a Silver Medal. The many circus agents and directors present at the festival didn’t fail to notice him, and this was for Mark the beginning of a successful international career.
Mark's act began with a long ascent to his trapeze on a Spanish web, which he performed into an impressive series of roll-ups. When he had reached his trapeze bar, he performed various arm planges and heel catches (including a single-heel catchIn a trapeze act, a dive frontward or backward, caught to the trapeze bar by the heels.), while his trapeze remained in static position. The swinging routine that followed culminated with a spectacular forward dive, again caught by the heels on the trapeze bar—and all of it performed without safety devices.
Mark performed extensively in Europe, notably with Circo Americano and Circus Krone in Munich. In 1993, he appeared on the British independent television channel ITV, doing a version of his trapeze act from a helicopter flying over the Thames in London. He also performed occasionally at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo. He returned to the Ringling Show in 1999-2000 for its production of The Living Carrousel—a particularly elegant show that suited Mark’s style.
Mark had been plagued with health problems for some time before succumbing to liver failure on September 13, 2008. Although he had settled in Sarasota, Florida—home to many American circus performers—his funeral was held in Baraboo, at the Circus World Museum, where he had begun his lifelong love affair with the circus.