Circa Cartwheels Back On Stage
After 19 weeks away from the stage, Circa Contemporary Circus is returning, with sold out performances at Brisbane Powerhouse’s Lights On and HOTA’s Fireside.
Known for combining deep feeling with astonishing physicality, Circa push boundaries between movement, dance, theatre and circus.
Circa will premiere their new work Short Pieces for Long Nights, a suite of solos and duos, with cellist Matthew Jones from QSO and guest directors.
Circa have been busy during isolation, creating new shows and collaborating with Urban Art Projects for an art installation and performance series in Cube Studies.
We spoke to Circa artistic director Yaron Lifschitz on all things circus.
The Creative Issue: Your upcoming shows at Powerhouse and HOTA are already sold out. How pumped are you to get Circa Ensemble back on stage?
Yaron Lifschitz: We’re delighted to be back on stage. It’s been too long. It’s been such a profound and disconcerting disruption to everyone’s lives. Of course, the performing arts were the first to have stopped, to have a chance to reopen is amazing.
TCI: How will you reduce COVID risks for your performers, given the close physical contact between them during your shows?
YL: We’re covered by an industry approved, health department approved work-safe plan. There’s risks attached to everything, especially in the circus, so there are no guarantees. However, our plans include rigorous safety protocols. It’s quite an effort to get our artists on stage. At the end of the day, for them to do what they do, they need to be in physical contact. So, we’re protecting the audience and making sure we take very precaution in order to achieve that. These are tricky and uncertain times.
TCI: What has it been like to get back into rehearsing? Have your performers struggled to maintain their strength, physicality and flexibility during isolation?
YL: We were really lucky in that, even though we couldn’t work together, we had a number of people in the company who were partners and family groups, so they were able to work together. We implemented an online program of rehearsals and performance training, creation and strength and skill training. I think everyone’s done really well. They came out of a very intense delivery period, so actually a slightly longer rest period has been good for them. I think everyone’s really glad to be back at work.
TCI: Tell us a little about your new production Short Pieces for Long Nights?
YL: These are mainly pieces that we put together during COVID, and developed afterwards. They started as solos and duos. We’ve got fairly small audiences and fairly small stage spaces. We’d previously been doing a lot of large-scale group acrobatics and this was a chance to get back to solos, trios and look more intimately. We invited guest creators. I’ve made two pieces with the artists, two of our associate directors have also taken part, and we’ve had Thomas Kelly, a great Aboriginal choreographer. We’ve had Queensland Theatre make pieces. So, we’ve got kind of a diversity of arts and art perspectives, which is really great to see on stage.
TCI: Tell us a little about your Cube Studies production?
YL: Well, Cube Studies is almost at the other end. It’s the kind of production you have when you can’t necessarily have a production. We’re working with 24 participants in Graz, Austria, who’ll be in groups of six on the stage. There’ll be a black cube that reveals a dancer inside, designed by Daniel Tobin from Urban Art Projects. We have a director who’s on the ground in Austria. I’m working remotely via Zoom and we’re working with community-based acrobats.
It’s a project that happens in an empty opera theatre, where our performance of Leviathan was to be. The audience sit each in one of the opera boxes, there’s no one in the stalls in the theatre, so they’re watching the show in isolation. It’s a short show, about twenty minutes. We do about thirty of those in three days. They’re this beautiful moment of connection, that hopefully speaks powerfully to people about their experiences.
TCI: In Cube Studies, what is it like to collaborate with Urban Art Projects and present a work combining sculpture and performance?
YL: We haven’t got the sculpture yet, and we haven’t done the performance, so all I can say is we don’t know yet. It’s really disconcerting working on Zoom, because when you look at a room full of people on Zoom, they really are two-dimensional. I’m more of a sculptor than a painter in the way I work, so trying to sculpt using a 2D perspective, that is very disconcerting. What’s been amazing is just how great the energy’s been, and how everyone’s been willing to leap right in to a project like this. I’m really delighted. What do you hope for a show? You hope everyone’s safe, and you hope it’s good. Those are my aspirations for it. I want it to be a beautiful piece of art, and I want everyone to walk away and be healthy at the end.
TCI: Cube Studies is due to premiere in July at La Strada Festival in Graz, Austria. What are your plans for this, given the current travel restrictions?
YL: Well, I can’t go. So, I’m here, and our director who’s usually based out of Norway will be there. She’s spending a month in Graz. I slightly overestimated my ability to work remotely with this project, and I think it would have been very, very difficult, if I hadn’t had her on the ground. So that was a good experience to learn.
TCI: What else can audiences look forward to from Circa in the near future?
YL: We’re working on a project with Brisbane Festival. I’m not sure if we’re allowed to talk about it or not, but we can safely say that we’re doing something for Brisbane Festival. Then, we’re working on a bunch of new creations. We’re looking at taking a couple of them to film first, and making feature length films out of them, because we don’t really have access to the stage. That includes our new versions of Rite of Spring, Mirage and Humans 2.0. That should opening early next year, if everything goes to plan. At the moment, I can say nothing is going to plan, and there is no plan. As long as you’ve got enough optimism, something should go ahead.
We’ve also restarted our circus classes, which has been really wonderful. We’ve had a very strong uptake for Term 3, it’s been really terrific.
What: Circa at Powerhouse ‘Lights On’ Series
When: Fri 24th & Sat 26th July
Where: Brisbane Powerhouse, 119 Lamington St, New Farm QLD 4005
How much: Table of 2: $98, Table of 4: $196, Table of 6: $294
Tickets: Here (SOLD OUT)
What: Circa ‘Short Pieces for Long Nights‘ at HOTA Fireside Series
Where: Home of the Arts, 135 Bundall Rd, Surfers Paradise, QLD, 4217
When: Sat 1st August, 8pm
How much: From $260 for a table of 4, including food
Tickets: Here (SOLD OUT)