b. 1969 Mt. Pleasant Michigan
Residence: Tel Aviv, Israel
Born in Mt. Pleasant Michigan, a small college town (25,000) in central Michigan to Marty and Lori Nosan: Dad a General Practitioner and Leader/Cantor of our small synagogue and Mom the matriarch supreme of our family. As the youngest of four kids, my brothers and sister may purport I got away with most anything I desired with the freedom to explore as I wished—maybe.
I loved Michigan. I loved the seasons, especially winter with snow banks taller than me, flying off the churchyard swings into mini mountains of snow and skiing since I was 3 taught by my Dad who was a ski patrol at Mott Mountain with rope tows, leather boots, wood skis and hot chocolate. Summers were at our cottage on Horsehead Lake. School and learning were de rigueur and we all excelled in our ways, learned Hebrew (to a degree) and Bar/Bat Mitzvah prep by our Dad and we all studied piano along with an instrument of our choice—mine was trumpet.
David had a magic set and when I was 5 or 6 remember him doing tricks and being mesmerized—I wanted to do what he could do. By 10 or 11 I inherited the magic set and sunk my teeth into learning every trick. We moved to San Diego in 1982 when I was 12 as my parents had enough of the snow and sought a larger Jewish community. There I saw my first street performer in Balboa Park and the same fascination felt watching David came through exponentially watching the jugglers Ed Jackman and Mark Nizer, magicians and unicyclists create magic out of nothing, theater out of ether, all channeling a sort of time immemorial skill set that pulled people into a place of joy. I wanted to join in the joy.
Trips to Balboa park became almost weekly outings to watch the performers, get juggling tips, and learn of local magic stores. Brad Burt’s Magic Store became my other teenage hangout with my parents dropping me off in the morning and picking me up at night, spending all day watching Brad demo tricks and always leaving with my homework for the week. By 14 or 15 I had enough magic and juggling under the belt to start performing and went to our neighborhood frozen yogurt shop asking if they would hire me to perform at birthday parties. They said yes. I made perhaps 15 or 20 dollars per party. Then around 16 when I had my drivers license ventured into performing table side magic at restaurants: Love’s BBQ in El Cajon, Bobby McGees, and some place in Old Town. At 17 or so I was hired by Sea World to perform “Sidewalk Street Shows” doing juggling and magic…for all intents and purposes I had become “the street performer” creating the magic I’d seen in Balboa Park.
My dream college was UC Berkeley and I applied as a music major in classical trumpet with the Hummel concerto—one of my most vivid memories is opening the envelope in the front of our house on that spring day and seeing the acceptance addressed to Jonathan Michael Nosan.
Entering Cal I had to take a foreign language as the Hebrew from Hebrew High School sufficed to graduate but not to test out of the requirement. Not wanting to take a European language—as all schooling up till then had been primarily Euro oriented—my Dad recommended Japanese. The economy was strong in the late 80s and he’d had an association from doing Judo in the Air Force. From my first class I fell in love with the nature of the language and fascinated by the history and culture. My major became Asian Studies/Japanese History and Geography minor—the trumpet case remained unopened all of college.
One day at a cafe studying Japanese in my Sophomore year a Japanese girl next to me struck up conversation, asked what I liked doing and told her of my juggling and magic performing—she recommended I send a video tape to the Nagasaki Prefectural government who were making an Expo as she used to work for them. I sent my tape, got a three month contract, took a semester off and spent three months in Nagasaki where I befriended an international bevy of jugglers, clowns, and an Australian one man band. I was 19. There I also saw my first contortionist: a girl with a Chinese circus balancing stacked trays of little glasses off every possible appendage and then saw Bruce the One Man Band doing his yoga headstands and shapes I’d never seen a 50 something year old man make. Both he and the little girl planted the seeds of pushing physical possibilities.
The Expo ended in November 1989 and I traveled over sea and land for three months back to Berkeley: Taiwan, China, the Trans-Siberian railroad in January to Moscow, Moldavia/Romania to see where my great grandparents came from, Hungary, Czech, and up to Amsterdam to get back to school. Took a year abroad at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, and graduated Cal in 1992. Unsure what to do next, a friend recommended applying for a pre Phd Fulbright Grant and I wrote up my proposal for the field I ultimately found interest in doing graduate work towards: Design of Sacred Space of New Religions in Japan. I received the grant.
I spent 1992-94 in Kyoto back at Ritsumeikan living the first year in a small apartment mid city and the second year in the Northwest mountains in small wood cabin with an outhouse over a stream set in bamboo forests with a motorcycle. Early in the grant I began training Butoh with Katsura Kan which rang into the seeds of pushing physical extremes, macrobiotics chimed into this as well: how far and how simple and how connected could I push the body. I’d pushed the brain for so many years I became intrigued to the body. From the time of Nagasaki I became connected with agents around Japan booking foreign artists for expos, shopping centers and events and did my shows in Japanese. Towards the end of the grant I sought direction of the next step, whether it be academics or something else and something else appeared in the paper in an article of a new circus performing in Tokyo: Saltimbanco by Cirque du Soleil.
Made the trip, became transfixed, received my epiphany and knew I had to join in. The tent cleared out and I remained alone in the seats. An usher came up and asked if I was waiting to meet someone and I replied “yes” taking advantage of Japanese’s ambiguity. He asked if it was Renee and I replied “yes,” having no idea who Renee was. He had me wait and returned 15 minutes later saying Renee was ready for me. Scared shi*less, I want backstage into their canteen/kitchen and turned out to be Renee Bazinet, the lead personage clown and he spent over two hours importing knowledge and guidance and my next direction: physical theater school in London by the French theater clown Philippe Gaulier. I wrote to the school, was accepted, and was in London a few months later for the one year program.
In London I started circus training at Circus Space, doing my first handstands and cartwheels at 24 horribly, and started trapeze. The first year of my “created graduate work” was brutal but survived, complete with the requisite theater school “break down” and was ready to return to the US but unsure to where and what. But I had decided upon contortion…despite an initial inability to touch my toes the purity of the performance and sole body expression resonated within me, and there was a resonance within it also to my Butoh work. One day at Gaulier an American woman Gypsy Snyder (now of 7 Fingers of the Hand) passed through who was touring with a Swiss Circus and we got to talking and she told me of a Chinese master trainer at a San Francisco Circus school with whom perhaps I could train contortion. I called, they said I could come, so I went.
I met Mr. Lu Yi and upon our first working session he told me it was possible and would require three years training. I agreed. For three years from 25-28 I spent approximately 5 hours a day training either contortion or static trapeze in semi privates with two other students per class. Funding for my training came from savings from my juggling and magic shows around Japan, cleaning the Circus School and working part time at Coach where I became one of the top salespeople from speaking Japanese but never completely grasped the concept of “store voices.”
By my second year a friend Eric Newton and I formed Air Male Trapeze performing static duo trapeze with our nicknames Hustle and Muscle—I was Hustle. We performed in clubs around San Francisco, a rock concert arena tour around Japan with Hotei Tomoyasu, a theme park at the foot of Mt. Fuji, and Webster Hall in New York City—that was my first taste of New York and I fell in love with its dirty historical high energy grime. While a student at Ritsumeikan I would sit in the library and read the NY Times magazine, fascinated with the East Coast intellectual socio culture which I hadn’t experienced but fantasized that one day I would. Webster Hall planted the seed and a year later I moved to New York, satisfied with my level of training and ready to work. Eric had moved to Los Angeles requiring me to find my solo acts which I did on corde lisse (rope) and a new apparatus brought over by a French instructor—tissu (fabric). Part of my contortion training with Mr. Lu Yi entailed my finding my “Man Contortion” as he and his assistant Xia Ke Min referred to it; I was one of the first men they had trained in contortion and they wanted me to find my own expression in performance and not simply emulate the classically Chinese female aesthetic. I found my Man Contortion in fusing Butoh, Physical Theater, and Contortion.
Arriving to New York in 1998 I was the first person to perform Aerial Fabric in New York and with very few contortionists and essentially no men, I created a strong niche as a performer focusing on corporate events and galas. I created the company Acroback and by then had secured a number of international agent connections and became a producer of special events, focusing in fashion and product launches. Louis Vuitton became a main client after a Japanese agent brought me to Osaka to contort for a store opening and celebration of their new designer in 1999: Marc Jacobs. We partied late into the morning with a crafted cocktail of Coffagne—coffee and champagne, the perfect morning drink to get to airport in time with. This started a decade or so of high flying fancy contorting and producing around the world. Mirror Man came into my life from a friend Marc Aubin who performed it in the 1980s and assigned me copyright, ownership, and knowledge of craftsmanship as I created a second Mirror Man over the course of one year—applying specially prepared glass mirrors by a secret technique to withstand contortion and aerial performance. Mirror Man has served me well, helping me purchase my apartment in Hell’s Kitchen in 2001. I created The Human Mobile with sculptor Petar Jevremov around 2007 My best friend Shane Geraghty joined me as a partner in the company and we continued to expand, creating the Human Mobile in 2004 as a statement of Acroback’s commitment to melding fine art, performance art, installation art, circus and corporate performance influenced naturally by Alexander Calder and The Calder Circus. My connection with Petar brought a connection to the Whitney Museum and the Calder Foundation as his wife Nora Nagy is their restorationist and I became a consultant to the restoration project of The Calder Circus appearing in a film documentary by the Whitney.
Other films I’ve appeared in as stunt man/contortionist include The Big Fish, The Cell, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Jim Carrey stunt double), The Bounty, Surrogates and more. TV Commercials include Dunkin Donuts, Hagaar Pants, Chevrolet, Mercedes Benz, Rabea Tea, and more. Broadway debut was with Twyla Tharp’s 2 year project of The Time’s they are a Changin in 2005 and she remains a very dear friend. Lincoln Center’s monodramas was a wonderful high point combining my love of modern opera/classical music and contortion/performance/dance. Bagabones, my show of 2010 at the New York International Fringe Festival, is a performance memoir piece that initiated my love of ceramics and continues today, primarily throwing sculptural groupings in porcelain.
2012-2014 I toured with the spiegeltent show LIMBO in London, Edinburgh, Bogota, Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Denmark generally with my beagle Clover in tow and throwing in pottery studios around the world.
I returned to New York in 2015 to create CONTORTURE®: a five video method for training contortion and extreme flexibility from basics to pro by download and streaming to help others achieve their dreams anywhere in the world. As a teacher and coach it is wonderful to share the technique I’ve created and learned from my guides and hope to become a guide and dream enabler to others.
2016 began increased international workshop coaching with CONTORTURE® and Israel became more regular in my teaching and performance destinations—resparking my love and attraction to the country since my first family trip in 1975. Projects in New York City such as the Metropolitan Opera’s “Cosi fan Tutte” (two productions) were sparks but more and more my the “call to move on” grew stronger and stronger and finally in 2020 moved to Tel Aviv where I continue to continue…Contortion, Ceramics, and more…