During the penultimate week of August, we were the very happy hosts to a Diverse City circus skills and performance workshop which concluded with a world premiere of their new show Becoming.

Perdie is on hand to tell us more about the workshop below…

For a complete circus novice, entering a fully rigged, trapeze and silk adorned Concert Hall, was quite a daunting experience – and I wasn’t even participating in the workshop! After that moment, I knew that this week was going to prove to be an exciting and important one, and I was not wrong!

The week-long workshop was led by Diverse City, a company committed to equality and diversity in the performing arts. Invited along to join from Wednesday to Friday were a group of young people from the local area (affectionately termed the ‘Ensemble’), along with Diverse City’s youth performance company, Extraordinary Bodies Young Artists (EBYA). One of the main ideas behind the workshop was to provide people, with varying levels of skills and experience, the chance to explore aerial circus, drama, music, spoken word and dance.

One thing I noted almost immediately was how open and receptive the members of EBYA were to the Ensemble. The Ensemble were warmly welcomed in to the space as EBYA became immediately excited to share their ideas, skills and performances with them. Indeed, after a few hours it was difficult to tell who belonged to which group and by the end of the week it was hard to believe that many of the participants hadn’t met before Wednesday! It was a lovely to watch the participants interacting and learning from one another and hopefully some lasting friendships were formed within the week.

Another thing that really stood out to me was the growth in confidence of some of the participants. I saw several transitions from shy circus novices to excited, even extroverted performers. One that particularly stands out in my mind is Rachel, who had little to no experience of aerial circus, taking her first rather tentative ‘steps’ on to an aerial silk. When I returned the next day, I was astounded at the difference in her confidence levels, in less than a day she was well on her way to becoming an assured, calm and competent performer. I think what really helped those who were perhaps a little nervous or unsure was the welcoming, supportive and aspirational atmosphere in the room. Everyone involved in the residency was open and happy to help and, it was certainly inspiring to watch artists, such as Mel (a wheelchair user), whilst she expertly got up onto the trapeze or calmly mastered the aerial silks.

The workshops, whilst being in themselves very educational and (more importantly!) very fun, were all in preparation for the performance of Diverse City and EBYA’s new show Becoming on the Friday night. Within the workshops, the Ensemble were encouraged to devise their own exciting pieces, which could then be slotted in to the performance. This process proved successful and some really interesting and highly collaborative pieces were created.

Sitting in on the company’s rehearsals was a real treat and watching as the show developed with the input of the Ensemble’s ideas felt very exciting. However, perhaps the most exciting moment of the entire week was the performance of Becoming. Our invited audience of over 130 people were blown away by the talent, creativity and ingenuity of the young performers. 

This week was all about having fun, meeting and working with a new and diverse set of people and developing skills. I think I can safely say that these ‘aims’ (and more) were absolutely achieved!   

Published 31 August 2017