Cirquetry | Vulcana

The fusion of art forms to create new and innovative work is not a new idea. Way back in the early 19th Century, creatives became excited about the fusion of different arts with opera, trying to create the perfect union of music, drama, theatrical effects, and occasionally dance. At this time, reviewer Carl Maria von Weber praised the opera Undine as ‘an art work complete in itself, in which partial contributions of the related and collaborating arts blend together, disappear, and, in disappearing, somehow form a new world’.

This is the perfect description of when the fusion of artistic forms works best for me; when they blend together to create new and surprising textures, ideas, and possibilities that could not be seen in the art forms individually. In Cirquetry, Vulcana sets the bar high by aiming to achieve this perfect blend of circus and spoken word.

Cirquetry, directed by Celia White, is a collaboration between award-winning local poets and a team of Vulcana’s circus artists. It was conceived by Chloe Callistemon after she saw circus and poetry performed in the same space a few days apart. Reflecting on the project, Chloe noted “Our idea is to go past the idea of circus and poetry alongside each other to find out what structures they have in common, how they join and separate, and how they can become enmeshed enough that you don’t know where/if one ends and the other begins….”

The idea of blending verse and movement is not new. Spoken word artists have blended movement and dance with their verses and circus performers have incorporated words and lyrics in their performances for years, including spoken word artists performing alongside circus performers. However, Cirquetry feels like it takes the idea to a new level.

The showing explores the ideas of the emotional and physical risk-taking in the bodies and minds of poets and circus performers. Instead of keeping to their art form of choice, the performers incorporate the skills of their peers into their pieces. The circus artists wax lyrical while climbing over each other and bouncing off bungy cords. Poets dance, play on aerial silks and balance off each other. The rhythms of spoken word replace music and give voice to the unspoken of circus. Movements give new layers of gravity, meaning to the poetry. It is a truly of a collaboration of art forms.

Highlights were the first two pieces, building the world of the show, as the performers repeated words to Georgia Bale performing on lyra. These words formed the core the first spoken word pieced performed by Rae White, while they were being moved and cocooned by the rest of the ensemble, and ending in the group moving in synch.  The blending of the artforms also worked perfectly for Raelee Lancaster’s performance about finding her voice. The incorporation of both her stutter and being thrust about the stage by the other performers added new layers depth and meaning for me. As someone who has always been drawn to movement as a means of self-expression, the physicality of the performance made the poet’s words more accessible and impactful for me.

Cirquetry’s 30min work in development showing at the 2019 Queensland Poetry Festival, is a gorgeous blend of circus and spoken word. It showcases the possibilities of how mixing them together can bring new depth and meaning to each art form, which begs to be explored further. I look forward to seeing how this collaboration develops.

Ads J saw Cirquetry on 24 August 2019 at the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts.

Concept | Chloe Callistemon

Director | Celia White

Performers | Maddy Grant, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Georgia Bale, Rae White, Raelee Lancaster, Chloe Callistemon

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