“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, you’re a circus performer and you study physics, those things are so different!’ In my mind they’re not, they’re exactly the same thing.”
–Adam Dipert, nuclear physics doctoral candidate and circus artist
by Jessie Ammons
photograph by Travis Long
Adam Dipert makes the average Renaissance man look one-dimensional. He’s earning a Ph.D in nuclear physics, runs a math-and-movement summer camp for high school students, and spends his free time performing circus tricks.
His ability to do the latter he owes, in part, to a stint with a traveling Renaissance festival he joined after graduating from high school in 2002. At that point, Dipert says he’d already been manipulating objects as a hobby; the festival spurred a sort of self-directed apprenticeship. “I fell in love with movement arts, and this was before YouTube, so I sought out anybody I could learn from. I went to 37 states in 4 years.” With his travel box checked, Dipert took himself to college without any particular academic plan. Until: “I took a multivariable calculus class and thought, this is what I spent the last four years learning about. You guys just say it in a different way.”
Since then, Dipert’s mission has been to “express the connection between these things that I see so clearly.” Once he earns his doctorate in physics – he’s been at it for 7 years, and the degree may take another few – he plans to teach. Meanwhile, he doesn’t see his hobby-turned-side-career of circus artistry slowing down anytime soon. He performs at corporate gatherings, private parties, many City of Raleigh events, and sometimes collaborates with other performers. One of his all-time favorite acts is a classic: “I really like juggling. People might think it’s silly, but when they see you juggling five – my most comfortable number – balls, it expands what you think of you when you think of juggling.”