A metal vertical pole, usually covered in rubber and secured by three stabilising cables. There's a kind of classic, traditional style of Chinese pole that uses the equipment for gymnastic feats – whether holding difficult static positions or kicking off the pole to perform somersaults – but there's also a strong movement of practitioners who are working on technical invention, experiments in fluidity and style, and, many of them, on enriching Chinese pole technique with some of the characteristics of breakdance.
As an aerial discipline, it's interesting. Different to corde lisse or silks or trapeze because the terrain of the equipment is always unyielding – the pole is rigid, and there's no way to wrap-in or to truly rest; it's simultaneously easier to climb and harder to be on. It's useful perhaps to think of it as a floor that happens to be differently rotated, and having something to stand on and jump off enables more explosive and aggressive action – which is where the discipline starts to find sympathies with breakdance. Circular/looping movements are also much less prevalent in the vocabulary of the pole, guiding artists to straighter lines and greater vertical movement. Drops are actually slides.
It's not super common, but there's a subgenre of swinging Chinese pole, which is probably self-explanatory. Smaller poles are set-up to spin sometimes, strip club style. Another variation is to have two or more poles set-up in a line so that artists can jump and travel between them.
Blindscape takes place in near darkness, in underground caverns, across rooftops, beside waterfalls and under the ocean. The audience are free to move wherever they like, but are guided by sound queues delivered by smartphone as they search for light to reveal the performance happening around and among them. John Ellingsworth talks to the artist Skye Gellmann about glitch art, losing control, the character of light, and combining improvised physical performance with game design.
It's all about the carrots. In a carrot-driven society where everyone wants more carrots and is not content with the carrots they have, human beings are reduced either to unthinking automatons or to cruelly acquisitive, carrot-hungry Machiavellists.
A scandalised woman in front of me is reaching round to cover her son's eyes as Marilén Ribot, wearing a knotted corset of rope, struts back and forth to a disco beat.
One memory of InStallation is a chain of enduring images, seen through washes of blue and white light. A Chinese pole swings as a pendulum, casting a crisp shadow.
There's a certain kind of artist for whom their life is their work—meaning not just that they dedicate themselves full-time to their art-making, but that what they present on stage, or in books or on canvas, is, or feels, very close to the way they must conduct themselves from day to day.
By the end the stage floor is torn up, the Chinese pole has been felled, feathers and tyres are everywhere. The set is a wreck, but then it always was...
Ah, circus theatre! The age-old dilemma of how to combine two opposing forces: the drive from ‘theatre’ to present characters telling stories that reach us through memory and imagination (evoking ‘there’ and ‘then’), and the drive from ‘circus’ to be in the here and now.
There is a stone. A deep, obsidian black, it is wrapped in white cloth, held in a square of light, until a man comes to unwrap it. It is not something he's found, but something he has been drawn back to, a token of his past that he swallows and carries like the memory of a sin.
The Royal Opera House's Firsts season, pulling together short work from dance, physical theatre and circus, is becoming an important stopping point for circus graduates: a chance to rethink and extend degree material, and a bridge between cabaret work and the very distant and distinct prospect of a full-length stage show.
Within the first ten minutes two audience members have been pulled up on stage—Tom, who’s busy peddling the bike that provides the theatre’s electricity, and Saga, nervous and clutching a handbag, who’s philosophically brutalised by the ringmasterish whiteface.
After being substantially rained on earlier in the day I turned up at the Wales Millennium Centre wearing three different people’s clothes, including a too-small purple hoodie under an Iranian wool cardigan—by chance the perfect ensemble for Wardrobe Diaries.
A double review of two recent productions that combine aspects of hip-hop (music or dance) with circus performance: Tom Tom Crew at the Udderbelly, and Avant Garde Dance (with Gemma Palomar and Telma Pinto)'s The Silver Tree, part of the Paradise Gardens festival.