By Kathy Tran
Brookhaven College student Frank Chapman achieved his childhood dream job of being in the circus. Chapman considers himself an artist by trade first and foremost, focusing on performance and fine art. He is in the arts of acrobatic yoga, sport acrobatics, trapeze and many other physically challenging activities, including his current training to perform on aerial silk ribbons.
The 24-year-old circus performer said he began in Los Angeles four years ago. Chapman moved there after being stationed in Japan with the U.S. Marine Corps. After too much time building a relationship with his Netflix queue, Chapman’s father, Kevin Chapman, decided to give him a push out into the world.
“I told him he needs to get out and go experience life. He went down to the beach and started working on it,” Kevin said. “He always liked that kind of stuff, so it wasn’t that big of a deal. But when I saw him three months later, he had gotten really good at it. As far as he can take it and as long as he enjoys doing it, we fully support him.” With some fatherly encouragement to explore his surroundings, Frank found himself drawn to Santa Monica beach. There he discovered the traveling rings – a more intense version of monkey bars spaced several feet apart that feature long swivel chains, allowing users to “travel” from chain to chain by using all of their body strength. “It’s not really something that’s in the circus or anything like that, but it was definitely somewhere unique to work out,” Frank said.
He said the new workout location led him to make friends with people and circus performers who practiced other interesting forms of fitness. Frank became acquainted with Cirque du Soleil performers and started training to join them.
Frank said he has performed for several events put on by Insomniac Events, the company behind the electronic music festival Electric Daisy Carnival. “EDC was a big deal for me,” Frank said. “That’s when I knew I had something going for myself, when I got invited to do that.” Frank’s ultimate goal, however, is to perform with Cirque du Soleil.
“I tried out for Cirque du Soleil about two and a half years ago. Out of 36 men, they only wanted one dude,” Frank said. “It was for the Michael Jackson: I Believe tour for a flying rings performance.” Frank made it to the final five during the auditions, but was ultimately eliminated. He was told he wasn’t flexible enough.
Frank said the biggest obstacle to achieving his goal is not having enough time to train. In addition to being a circus performer, he is also a personal trainer and studies sculpting. “But that’s plan B,” Frank said. In his current training process, he said he has another two years of strength and flexibility training.
Now in Dallas, he is an active member at Vertical Fitness Dallas, where he is an instructor for the Partner Acrobatics class. “It’s great working with Frank,” Austin Nix, one of Frank’s occasional training partners, said. “He is a very skilled and patient teacher. It’s always fun learning with him.” Despite scheduling conflicts and the lack of a 25th hour in the day, Frank is drawn to the spotlight. “I’m not one of those people that likes to hide their talent. I don’t really tell people,” he said. “But if I’m doing something, of course I’m going to be like ‘Yeah, look at me.’” Even with his love of the limelight, Frank is shy by nature. But like many artists and performers, the roar of a crowd is like a siren’s song.
“The first time I performed for EDC, the first day was 200,000 people. I got a euphoric feeling from performing in front of a bunch of people like that. When all eyes are watching – I don’t hear anything. I don’t see anything. All I feel is the vibe that’s going on in the crowd,” Frank said. “I ignore everything else.”