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Spotlight Performers

Will Roberts

Ropin Fool/Cowboy Philosopher

(cowboy performer)

At heart…Robert is a Cowboy.  It is his passion.  He performs the preeminent Tribute to Will Roger’s…America’s Cowboy.  Just like Will, Robert is an expert with a rope and one of the quickest wits with current events.  Onstage Will Roger’s comes to life, for many, for the first time.  For others, it is like seeing an old friend who was “away” for a while.  That passion is what earned him the recognition from pacific palisades to Claremore. Oklahoma as the “next Will”. 

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  Featured Western Performer: Trick Roper Will Roberts, A Modern Day Will Rogers.

Obsessive practice and tireless patience are required to learn this classic Western skill. By Tom Wilmes The “trick” in trick roping is to make it look effortless, even though it’s anything but. I learn this during a backstage roping lesson in Las Vegas with Will Roberts and Loop Rawlins, cast members in Cirque du Soleil’s Viva Elvis show. Roberts and Rawlins star in a Western-themed scene in which they perform intricate tricks with ropes set ablaze, twirl two ropes at once, manipulate different sized ropes in sync, and even spin a big loop around a pink Cadillac in a stunt reminiscent of Will Rogers encircling both himself and his horse. And here I am fighting mightily to rectify gravity and rotational mechanics long enough to coerce a limp rope into a basic flat spin. So far, gravity is winning. “Let the rope fall right in front of you, don’t throw it so far out,” Roberts says, as my rope kinks into a tangled mess yet again. “Centrifugal force and the weight of the rope will keep it going. Let the rope do the work. Remember, it’s all in the wrist.” To be fair, trick roping is a skill that requires many hours of dedicated, almost obsessive practice. It’s not something you pick up in an afternoon. Roberts, 46, started roping when the producers of a kid’s club television program asked him to play Will Rogers in the Will Rogers Follies. He parlayed that gig into a traveling tribute show and speaking tour before joining Cirque du Soleil. “I got black eyes and bruises from practicing so much,” he says, the result of being repeatedly whacked with the honda—the small loop (often reinforced with steel or leather) through which the rope passes to form the loop and the spoke, or tail-end of the rope. Trick roping may not be as prominent as it was when Will Rogers popularized it during the 1920s or when Montie Montana famously roped President Eisenhower during his 1953 inaugural parade, but there is a dedicated group of ropers helping to keep the art alive today. To get started, you’ll need a length of lasso and a lot of patience. Samson spot cord—the kind with the cotton core, not nylon—is still the preferred rope-making material. Buy a pre-made trick rope, or fashion one yourself from instructions found on the Internet or in how-to books like How to Trick Rope by Clare Johnson (1994, Wild West Arts Club). Once you master the flat spin and learn to manipulate the rope so it doesn’t kink, advanced tricks like the Texas skip, the wedding ring, and the butterfly are all within arm’s reach (or a flick of the wrist). As for me, I finally manage a few rotations with the help of a hinged “cheater” that allows the rope to spin freely without fouling. It’s a start and offers some insight into how hard professional trick ropers work to make it look so easy.

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