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Why not join the circus?

SKILLS: Amedume

CIRCUS PERFORMING has been enthralling audiences for hundreds of generations, from the early days of Roman chariot racing, through to the pop-inspired nouveau cirque that is prevalent today with companies like Cirque du Soleil.

Still, with many people familiar with the old saying ‘running off to join the circus’, the art form is looked upon by many as unconventional.

Circus Bites Back is a new dynamic aerial and physical theatre performance that will bring gravity defying aerobatics, comedy and live music to the masses.

Mastering the arena on the night, Vicki Amedume, creator of the aerial acrobatic company Upswing, explains how she intends to change the perception of contemporary circuses.

“Circus is not new but it is also not something that is accepted in the main stream as an art form,” she says. “Part of the reason of having Circus Bites Back is to bring circus to the general public, to people who might not have uncovered it.”

In a bid to banish the usual perception of circus and inspire future aerialists to dabble in the art form, Amedume has incorporated a variety of showcases.

“When people think of circus they have a traditional idea of what they think it should be. Contemporary circus mixes other things in to support a traditional circus. Artists mix dance with words and music and use their skills to communicate things.

“Circus is a language that anybody can understand. When you see someone climbing 20 feet in the air and taking those risks, you can see it’s not fake. It’s totally real and anybody can understand that.”


IN THE SWING OF THINGS: Vicki Amedume

Like all entertainment, circus responds to its time. In order to keep up with the modern spectators, performance companies have increasingly found themselves tackling social issues through their art.

“In my company, we worked with hip-hop and created a piece about the highs and lows of young love. We were able to create something that was explosive and larger than real life.”

Amedume’s introduction to the circus sounds like a tall tale. Set for a life of academia, the Ghanaian-born acrobat followed her dreams out of university and into the presentation ring at the age of 22.

“I come from an African family and it was always assumed I would be a doctor or lawyer. That’s what I was working towards at university. When I got involved in the circus, it was quite late. But I fell in love with it because it was extremely challenging and artistic. It was the first thing I had done where every time I finished training each day, I felt I had achieved something.”

Immersed in a world she never knew existed, the aerialist pushed herself in ways she never thought possible. This came as a shock to her family and especially herself, considering she had never stepped foot in a theatre before.

“My family didn’t take me wanting to be a performer very well. So instead of doing my masters, I ran away with the circus! It was a lot of hard work but it was the most exciting thing I have ever done.

“As much as I wanted to make my family happy, I can’t deny that [circus] was something I wanted to do; something I really loved and was passionate about.

“It’s that feeling of excitement and satisfaction of freedom that comes from working with your body. Anybody who does anything physical will understand the feeling. Discovering that I could make a living out of it was a bonus.”

Circus Bites Back is at The Albany, Douglas Way, London SE8 on December 15. For more information, visit www.thealbany.org.uk

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