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Watch this Seattle guy on a rope — in slow motion

Terry Crane, artistic director of Seattle's Acrobatic Conundrum.
KUOW Photo/Bond Huberman
Terry Crane, artistic director of Seattle's Acrobatic Conundrum. Scroll down to see another move in slow motion.

Snoqualmie native Terry Crane has always been a climber.

“There are pictures of me climbing fences when I was two,” he laughs.

But Crane didn’t find his climbing bliss until he was 19. That’s when the circus rolled into Oberlin, Ohio, where Crane was a student at Oberlin College.

One look at the rope act and Crane says “I completely fell in love!”

He dropped out of college and moved to Montreal, to enroll in the National Circus School there. He wanted to study the discipline known as corde lisse, a French term that translates to “smooth rope.”

Almost two decades later, Crane has traveled the world with various contemporary circus troupes, performing on the rope. He loves the complex acrobatic moves he can execute—everything from clambering up like a monkey, to moving his body in graceful arcs perpendicular to the rope.

Crane uses that perpendicular position in a move he developed that's known in North America as the “Crane Roll.” He climbs the rope, brings his body to a horizontal position, then wraps the rope around his torso a couple of times. Once he’s firmly wrapped, Crane releases his hands. That sends him plunging to the floor as the rope quickly unwinds.

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“It’s a crowd pleaser every time,” Crane says wryly.

He incorporates this roll and other rope choreography into performances he creates with his Seattle-based company, Acrobatic Conundrum. He compares their shows to the more familiar fare from Canada’s Cirque de Soleil. But Crane says Acrobatic Conundrum’s performances are more story-based, and set in a proscenium theater.

Crane moved back to Seattle six years ago to be closer to his family. But he was also drawn to the area’s growing contemporary circus scene. He cites Teatro Zinzanni, in residence near the Seattle Center, along with three local schools that teach circus arts and acrobatics.

“People from all around the nation are thinking Seattle’s the new spot to be!”

Acrobatic Conundrum’s next show is scheduled for autumn, 2016. Until then, you’ll find Terry Crane teaching rope at Georgetown’s School for Acrobatics and New Circus Arts, SANCA.

Watch one of Crane's moves in slow motion: