STEP UP Creatives Ensemble 2013: Circus Skills

It is now Wednesday and my body is still feeling the effects of the clowning and circus skills session at New Perspectives last Sunday! My arms and legs still feel stiff and I swear my abs, or rather ‘my core’, will never be the same again. However, it was easily one of the most fun and enjoyable things I have ever done.

We started off the morning with a workout. You may be thinking a walk around the room, ‘filling the space’ and a few energetic drama games. You would be wrong. I mean an actual workout. We ran around and then stopped every few moments to hold different Pilates positions for 45 seconds or do star jumps, press ups and the like. We did this for around 15 minutes before cooling down, and whilst we all clung to our water bottles and tried not to look physically exhausted, Cat informed us that where she trains they do this for at least half an hour every day!

Circus Skills Workshop

Following this, we moved onto different balances. We were told that counter balances do not have to be with someone who is similar in stature to you as it is more about getting the physics right and using your core muscles. We started off with a few basic ones but then tried a couple where there was a ‘base’ and a ‘flyer’. Put simply, the base is the person doing the lifting and the flyer is the one being lifted, but this doesn’t mean the base has to be immensely strong, or the flyer exceptionally light, it is more about holding your own weight by engaging your core. Initially, it was a little worrying as I think we were afraid of falling or hurting each other, but as confidence grew it was amazing to see different people performing the balances together, and at the risk of sounding soppy, I think the trust needed brought the ensemble closer as a group.

Just before lunch was one of my personal highlights of the day where we did cartwheels and forward rolls! My 7 year old self was unleashed and there was a definite thrill in rolling around the room. Everyone threw themselves into it despite never having done it before, and I think we were all a bit reluctant to go to lunch – it seemed once the 7 year old was out it was hard to put it back again!

Circus Skills Workshop

Fortunately, the afternoon was to be just engaging as the morning. Ria lead us in a number of exercises. In one we had to maintain eye contact with someone whilst another person used everything in their power to try and distract you; in another we had to take our partner on an imaginary tour of the room. Afterwards we did a master/servant style game where the servant wholeheartedly believed they were doing what the master wanted but actually did the complete opposite. Needless to say, all of these very quickly resulted in lots of laughter and were exceptionally entertaining.

We finished off the day by doing some manipulation work with different objects, these involved books, jeans, coat hangers and a Pilates band among other things. Thinking about how the object moved through the air and connected to our bodies we created short sequences and then worked in pairs to create a short routine.

Circus Skills Workshop

Overall, Cat and Ria were inspiring to work with, and I came away with a great deal of respect for circus performers. Whilst it may sound like a lot of fun, it is evidently very physically challenging. The day definitely made me consider how we use our bodies in performance and to think more creatively about how to move across the space. It also showed that when using objects, meaning can be found when we interact in more imaginative and unusual ways.

Emma Hayes, STEP UP Creatives Ensemble 2013


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