Behind the Scenes – An Acrobat’s Warm Up

THE STRETCH TO CONNECT

For the next three years, Circa Contemporary Circus will call QPAC’s Playhouse home for a season each year. Here’s a glimpse of the company warming up for its five-star show Humans, which, after selling-out around the world, came to Circa’s hometown of Brisbane for the first time in 2017.

How does the troupe prepare for Humans, one of its most physically demanding shows to date; a show that involves a ‘six-on-one’ (six people balancing off nuclear scientist-cum-acrobat Marty Evans), and a full-grown man jumping on to the back of a female counterpart half his size mid-backbend?

Circa Associate Director Libby McDonnell explains: “For Humans it’s a 10-acrobat ensemble piece, so they’ll do about one hour of warming up. And warming up generally looks like rehab or pilates; it’s very individual”.

The troupe normally has a three-hour show call and glancing around the room, some of the acrobats have Therabands, some are doing form pilates, while others are stretching. And they’re talking. A lot. Mental preparation and team building is equally important.

“Depending on the show, and depending on where they’re at with the show and the note session they’ve had [with the director], they’ll do some connect...working on duo and solo material.

Eyes dart to Caroline Baillon who is casually standing on Nathan Knowles’ back, bouncing up and down.

“After that they go into a group connect, when they do the bigger balances and toss sequences, things that require most of them and also require the bodies to be a lot warmer and a lot more alert.”

Having spent much of her career in the worlds of ballet and contemporary dance, Libby points out how different an acrobat’s warm up is to that of a dancer. And it varies even more between specialties, be it contortion, aerial, or hand balancing.

“Because of the individual warm up required from the different body types and the different acts that you have in circus, they require a much more individual warm up.

“They’re not all going to do a ballet barre and do the same kind of exercise… maybe they’ll do some pilates or exercises that look similar, and then they’ll quickly move on to their very specific needs.

“It’s unlikely that you see a group of dancers doing what looks to be lying around for an hour before going into physical work. There’d be music, there’d be a codified series of phases, everybody would be aligning in that way. [Our acrobats] align and calibrate physically quite differently,” says Libby.

And just like that, Daniel O’Brien is cartwheeling around fellow ensemble members in various stages of splits, lunges and planks.

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