So, over the Christmas holidays, among the piles of mince pies and copious glasses of sherry I compiled a ‘Performance CV’, applied for a foundation degree at Circomedia in
and fired off videos and letters to any circus-related job adverts I could find… Bristol
And it seems like all those applications are starting to pay off. A couple of days ago I got an email from Circus Space, calling me to an audition for the Olympic Torch Relay. What a nice surprise! I sent them a little practice video and my new CV and they emailed back to invite me to an audition. J
For Christmas I got an aerial hoop (nice! Thanks Santa, a.k.a. Fire Toys) and as I hadn’t had a chance to rig it, I was a little apprehensive about testing out for the first time at the audition. I’m certainly not a trained rigger by any stretch and my hoop skills are certainly not yet fully fledged!
|Where's the rigging??|
I wasn’t sure exactly what the audition would entail, as the email simply said I should arrive at Circus Space at on Saturday 7th January with any equipment/props I needed and await further instruction.
With this being all the information I had, I set to work trying to choreograph a routine. As I didn’t have time to train with a hoop, I tried to practice in my head and with the unrigged hoop. I’m not sure this simulation worked, but it was the best solution I could come up with at the time.
The evening before the audition I kept my housemates up until practicing (sorry about that!). My chosen song was Teardrop by Massive Attack and they must have been sick of hearing it (especially in the early hours of the morning)….
I arose at the next day to get ready, slung my hoop over my shoulder and headed out at 9am- making loud clanging sounds as I bashed it into corners and doors on my way out...oh dear, good start!
I got a few strange looks from fellow passengers on my way to
Street station, where I
noticed a few performer-looking types. I overheard one of them say ‘Look, she’s
got a hoop!’ which made me smile. I must have looked slightly strange, I wonder
if people knew what it was for? I met one guy who thought it was an inner tube!
How big must the bike have been?! Another person thought it was a TV aerial (I guess they got half of it right!).
Then, the metal door was rolled up and we all bundled inside. So many people to get through those doors! I gave in my name, was given a number and was then directed to another women to be photographed holding my mumber and my name. I looked at my number. 141! Oh god, I was going to be here all day…
We filed into a small atrium, where people immediately began practicing. Hoops, balls and handstands were pulled out of bags and I soon got talking to a group of acrobats from
The atmosphere was really relaxed and everyone was in very good humour. Australia
We were welcomed by the director of the show (named Sue) and told about what we were going to do. What she said wasn't really what I had been imagining. I envisaged that we would warm ourselves up and then perform our choreographed entries to the judge, one by one. However, this is not what the casting director had in store. Turns out I needn't have practiced to 2am after all...
First of all we were taken to a room filled with mirrors, where we were greeted by a zany woman, who showed us a contemporary dance routine we had to follow. This proved slightly difficult; there were loads of people crammed into a tiny space and the woman strung a sequence of moves together so fast that we barely saw them! Argh! Little did we know, we were being judged on our ability to learn and perform movements in a coherent, fluid style. Oh dear! Why did she go so fast? Everyone seemed a little flustered. We had 3 minutes to go through the dance in small groups and nobody could remember which move came next! Genius. I befriended an incredibly chatty rhythmic gymnast and a juggler, both who seemed surprised at this strange warm up, although invigorated by the free dance lesson.
We then we told to wait around half an hour until our next ‘session’. More handstands appeared and a whole spectrum of other circus tricks where tested out in the small space we had, which was, at this point, peppered with props. Everyone was so friendly and most, like me, had degrees in various subjects and were now doing ‘normal’ jobs, wanting to escape to the circus. I now was even more resolved than ever to join a circus!
Time for the 2nd session! Argh! Now we found out we had to do a class in acrobatics. This should be fun…I hadn't done gymnastics for ages. We all lined up on a long, blue tumble mat. Firstly we had to demonstrate forward rolls, then backward rolls, then cartwheels to a seated young guy in a red-checked shirt, who didn’t seem too impressed. Then came backflips, free cartwheels and standing back tucks. About half of the room bypassed the tumble mat at this stage, including myself. But there were some people there who were absolutely astounding.
|I'm sure this occurred at one stage..|
The guys in parkour groups turned backflip over backflip and ended with a twisting somersault. The girls in the acrobalance trio performed incredible feats of hand to hand, which took our breath away and earned rounds of applause. The ease and grace with which they performed these gravity defying stunts was magical. I was starting to feel a little jealous! Why did I stop gymnastics when I was so young?
Now I was starting to feel the stress of the day. We hadn’t had a chance to eat and I had only drank a small bottle of water….Oh well, no time to stop- we were swiftly ushered on to session number 3…
This time, the people who had come together as an act had to gather together. All the remaining people had to choose a group to join. Once everybody had chosen their preferred group, we were told that we had no more than 20 minutes to devise a performance piece. What?! We were given a few prop-inspired ideas relating to the Olympics, for example; prance around with a ribbon pretending to be “The spirit of the flame.”
I chose the Australian acrobatic trio and so did a variety of other dancers. Quick! Make a performance! Argh! We scraped together something incredibly off-the-cuff and ridiculous about the “competitive spirit” of the games, where we all ended up killing each other, and then it was time to sit down again and watch everybody else …
…Wow what innovative performances! One group presented the Olympic games ‘live’ with various entrants from different countries, using all the props they could find (like the blue tumble mat to represent a swimming pool. Amazing!), another group pretended they were Greek Gods who were climbing a Chinese pole to M
. Another contortionist did a very good job of pretending to be the
Olympic torch; carried around by his legs (which were around his head) by other people in his group. This was gripping stuff! ount Olympus
Then we were up. I totally forgot everything I was doing, was shaking with nerves and convinced I didn’t look dancey/flexible enough. We all ended up in a massive improvised heap at the end…did we pull it off? I’ll never know…
So then we were told to vacate the room while the directors conferred and thought about what to do next. I did a bit of casual passing with Juggler boy (I think his name was Kev? Or Ben? I forget!) and contortionist man, who had a very interesting moustache…
I also met a Russian girl who had brought her own handstand pedestal complete with silver holographic table (which must have been so difficult to carry around!) who was doing crazy stunts upside down with a ball. Another girl was wandering around doing hat tricks and split leaps and then started climbing a rope! Random. But incredibly cool.
Then we were called back and told about the next stage of the process. There had been much discussion and it was finally decided that the fairest thing to do would be to read out numbers of people who didn’t quite cut the mustard and keep back the rest for more physical feasts of endurance which would last until approximately .
I watched as people crossed their fingers and I saw the disappointed looks on faces as each number was called. As my own number was announced, I felt somewhat relieved. For me the day had been a tiny taste of what life would be like if I were to become a full-time circus professional. I didn't get the part it as it wasn't right for me yet. Plus, I wasn’t an acrobat and this was really what the directors were looking for. Also I was exhausted and couldn’t wait to go home to sit on a sofa and not perform cartwheels!
For me the experience had been about meeting new, incredibly interesting people and learning that there are so many diverse talents in the world. Having all these talents in one room made it look like it was easy and somewhat banal. I have to remind myself that this definitely isn't the case... J
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