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April 27, 2023 / by Kay / In events

Go on give it a show

One rig. Nine acts. Countless golden moments. It’s fair to say that the first Aerial Edge Open Rig Night was a hit.

The stage was set up with sound and light tech, the audience was receptive and the performers rose to the occasion.

All sectors of the school were represented on stage: students from the recreational classes mixed with Youth Circus and members of the full-time Foundation Course.

And that was exactly the environment we set out to create – a space where people could feel comfortable regardless of their background. Some were nervous because they’d never performed before, others had done many shows but perhaps in theatre or dance, or using different apparatus, so they were glad that it was a relaxed setting which cranked down performance anxiety.

It was a new experience for everyone. And every one of them finished the evening saying that they would definitely do it again.

Sidenote: if you would like to try a performance and would rather not be out there alone, you could arrange to go on stage with others from your classes. The Aerial Edge Community page on Facebook can be useful for organising things like this.

Recreational programme students

Kirsty Arnott & Lizzie Crane performing silks to Second Son by City of the Sun

Kirsty and Lizzie were inspired to try their first circus performance when they came to see the Aerial Edge teacher show…but it wasn’t until they came to class two days before Open Rig Night that they decided to take the plunge. Both Kirsty and Lizzie have been in musical theatre performances at university, but their first circus performance took more courage, especially considering they only started silks training in the autumn. They spent the class preparing their solo and side-by-side silks act with coaches Bara Dankovic and Nea Kunnari, and even slid in a couple of doubles moves, which they’d never tried before. “It was such a good feeling after the performance, I’m really glad we did it,” said Kirsty, and Lizzie added: “Another good outcome was having a video with lighting and music to show friends and family. It gives a much better impression of what we do than filming tricks in a class.”

Deborah Gilmour performing on bungee to Eat It by “Weird Al” Yankovic

Deborah decided at the very last moment to sign up for Open Rig Night – just before the list closed on the night before the show. She started circus training when we re-opened in July yet has been recently seen pulling off back somersaults on teeterboard and a string of tricks on flying trapeze. However, she chose to try a light-hearted take on a choreography that she’d been learning in Monday night bungee fitness classes, saying: “I love bungee because it’s such daft fun!” Never having done anything like this at all, she was nervous just ahead of doors opening, and wondering what had possessed her to sign up. Afterwards, she was buzzing! Deborah said: “I really enjoyed it – I’d definitely do it again! It felt great that people enjoyed it so much.”

Kirsten Connor performing single-point trapeze to Daylight by David Kushner.

Ten-year-old Kirsten wowed the crowd with her expressive and technically impressive act. She said: “I got inspired by seeing people’s determination to do their best at trapeze so I thought, ‘Open Rig Night is coming up, this is my opportunity to show people why I love trapeze’.” Kirsten has learned a range of circus skills since she started coming to Circus Fitness class, and has taken a particular shine to trapeze. “I worked really hard to get the perfect routine and then a couple days before the show, I was nervous and was debating on whether I wanted to do it. But I told myself I could do it, so I pushed the nerves aside and pulled through. “Right before I performed, I was shaking. But when the music turned on, I felt like I was where I belonged.”

Youth Circus students

Ellie Coyle performing static trapeze to Sculptures of Anything Goes by Arctic Monkeys

As a member of Youth Circus since before the pandemic, Ellie has performed not just in end-of-term showings but in previous Scratch Nights, but as she pointed out: “Everything has changed since then.” She was inspired by Judy’s Movement for Aerial Performance classes to push herself beyond her expertise in techniques, and explore different approaches to static trapeze. She said: “I was telling the story of lyrics of the song, and after Judy’s classes I felt I was able to be more expressive. “I love performing. It’s not something to be scared of, the audience was encouraging.”

Emer Devlin performing aerial rope to November Rain by Guns N’ Roses

Like Ellie, Emer has been exploring different ways of movement in Judy’s class to move her performance abilities to the next level. Although she too has appeared in many Youth Circus shows, she found herself a bit of stage fright just prior to the doors opening. Emer settled into the spirit of the show when she got into the air. Once she was up there, it all felt natural again and she put in a beautiful performance, starting with floor work and building to an expressive aerial presentation.

Full-Time Foundation Course students

Connie Rose performing aerial rope to Whistling Past the Graveyard by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins

For Connie, the song was the point of inspiration because it held joy and fun and was uplifting. She said: “The song chose me! This track came up when I was scrolling through music and gave me a boost at a time when I was feeling pretty boostless while we were rehearsing.” Connie gave a playful and energetic performance for her first-ever circus show, using the floor for dance and a reverse strip – adding layers of clothing instead of removing them. She said: “There was technique in the performance definitely but I wanted to accessorise it with movement. “I have done theatre performance with pro lighting before – they’re in your face, but they don’t change very much. This was more challenging because the lights change as you move around the apparatus. “It was also fun! It was a friendly audience. When you’re performing to people who do circus, everyone understands when it’s challenging. I always like performing, and this was a satisfying experience.”

Kenzie Huebschman performing aerial hoop to Stay With Me by Sam Smith

Kenzie’s whimsical act was inspired by shrinking her favourite jumper, which is a heartbreak that anyone who’s done the same can relate to! She explained: “It happened three weeks ago and I was very homesick because of it, I missed my mum and wished she could do my laundry. It was very traumatic to lose my favourite jumper, hence the heartbreak song!” Kenzie felt that her performance didn’t go well…but she was completely fine about that. She explained: “The practice went really well, then a ton went wrong during the performance, but that’s okay. I didn’t feel horrible about it. It was really nice not to have pressure in this environment.” Kenzie has been in at least three public performances since she was a child, having started ballet when she was six and gone on to theatre and musicals. She said: “I’m used to the lights and audiences and I work very well under pressure. For Open Rig Night, I really enjoyed the fact that all the people in the audience came to see works in progress, they weren’t expecting to see some piece that would wow them, so I was totally stress free leading up to it.”

Padraic Riddle performing dance trapeze to Zombie by The Cranberries

As a silks artist, Paddy has performed in scratch nights so he also enjoyed low-key approach of Open Rig Night for his first trapeze act. He said: “It was lovely because it was very relaxed, but the set-up was still really nice – the space was transformed, and the lights were really cool. “Compared to scratch nights, this felt a lot nicer. There was less anxiety around it but then the actual performance felt the same, just as fun, just as big a deal.” Like the other Foundation Course students, Paddy benefitted from tuition with Vee Smith, Judy Salloum and Michelle Ross in act creation and movement practice. He said: “Judy asked us to think of things that inspired us, like sounds, or lights or textures and mine was electric guitar in songs. “It was my first time on dance trapeze, so it was very much an exploratory thing, finding all the ways that I could move on it, especially going up the ropes. “The show was a really good chance for me to get to grips with this whole new kit and have a lot of fun on it instead of just doing technique classes. And it definitely gave me a bit of confidence.”

Monika Jarošíková performing aerial hoop with silks attached to Bound to You by Christina Aguilera

The most challenging part of the night for Monika was getting used to the lights shining in her eyes – a critical skill for any performer. She said: “I’ve done a gig and studio shows which have been lit but I’ve never had the lights in front of me like that. “It surprised me and threw me off at first. I was very aware that I couldn’t see anyone in the audience and could see my shadow on the wall – and that’s part of the experience of this kind of show. I need to get used to it if I want to be in a show with professional lighting.” Monika’s inspiration was personal trauma. She said: “I usually feel like personal experience is the best inspiration. I was not nervous before the show. Once I got used to the lights, I got into my role and I was happy with the way it went.”

Are you an Aerial Edge student with a hankering to perform? Chat to us about it! Email mark@aerialedge.co.uk or send a WhatsApp message to 07360 546 232.

Would you like to turn your love of your circus training into a new-level experience? There’s a four-week full-time course beginning in July, and our next four-month full-time Foundation Course in Circus Arts begins in August. Find out more here.