If buttons, balloons or premature burial terrify you, rest assured you’re not alone

Every summer, during our holiday in Orkney, there is a moment of panic. We’re standing on a dizzying cliff – looking across a sleeve of sea at the Old Man of Hoy, maybe – and I’m consumed with a longing to fling myself over. It’s not suicidal. I just yearn to feel the wild rush of air against my cheeks: I want to fly. I’ve never met anyone who shares this compulsion, but The Book of Phobias and Manias assures me it’s quite common. Indeed, it has a name: acrophobia. Kate Summerscale understands it perfectly: ‘The whirl of vertigo,’ she says, can ‘seem like the giddiness of yearning.’ A new

The company has a hit on their hands: Scottish Ballet’s Coppélia reviewed

With the major companies largely on their summer breaks, the Edinburgh International Festival struggles to programme a high standard of dance (though, having said that, I have memories of being taken in short trousers to the 1967 festival and seeing New York City Ballet during its glorious prime). The dearth tends to be masked by falling back on what used to be called ‘ethnic’ product and that peculiarly French phenomenon, the multimedia event spanning circus, mime, video and spoken text, usually sewn up with some thread of an over-arching theme thrown in. This year it’s the turn of something called Room, presented by La Compagnie du Hanneton, whose chief cook

As circus gets serious, is all the fun of the fair lost?

What’s so serious about a red nose? How should we analyse the ‘specific socio-historical relations’ and ‘aesthetic trends particular to geographic context’ of the circus? How can we ‘codify’ equestrian performance in the ring? With the publication of The Cambridge Companion to the Circus, this artform has tumbled out of the Big Top and into the library and lecture hall. It’s a recent arrival to lofty, learned spaces. When Vanessa Toulmin of Sheffield University, widely regarded as the world’s leading expert on circus and fairground history, first ventured into academia, she did so under the guise of an ‘early film historian’, as circus wasn’t regarded as worthy of study. Now