• Chinese Pole

    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.

  • Magazine

    By John Ellingsworth on 2 October 2012 in Features

    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.

    By John Ellingsworth on 30 October 2010 in Reviews

    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.

    By John Ellingsworth on 16 August 2010 in Reviews

    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.

    By John Ellingsworth on 19 July 2010 in Reviews

    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.

    By John Ellingsworth on 19 May 2010 in Reviews

    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 John Ellingsworth on 15 May 2010 in Reviews

    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...

    By Dorothy Max Prior on 4 March 2010 in Reviews

    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.

    By John Ellingsworth on 22 January 2010 in Reviews

    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.

    By John Ellingsworth on 27 November 2009 in Reviews

    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.

    By John Ellingsworth on 16 October 2009 in Reviews

    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.

    By John Ellingsworth on 7 October 2009 in Reviews

    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.

    By John Ellingsworth on 21 June 2009 in Reviews

    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.