World Circus Day- A Time to Regroup and Transform







(One of my last aerial training sessions for my MFA Thesis Project)

Today is #worldcircusday.  I am an aerialist and I haven’t been in the air, in suspension, for over a month.  I, along with practically everyone else in Canada, have been grounded.  It is a sobering experience, to say the least.  Every day I seem to encounter a new stage of grief.

A week ago, I was on a Zoom conference call (a phenomenon that has become an unwelcome, yet necessary aspect of reality), with an organization called En Piste.  En Piste is a national circus arts alliance aimed at promoting, valourizing, representing and providing access to services for professional circus artists and arts organizers in Canada.   The purpose of this meeting was to survey the needs of those in the circus industry given the current changes to the arts sector and to gather feedback on how the industry might be able to move forward with the idea that isolation may be the new normal. “We need to be thinking about how circus can adapt with the understanding that things might not return to normal until December at the earliest”, said Christine Bouchard, executive director of En Piste.  DECEMBER!  My heart sank.

I asked myself two questions.  First, will I recover?  As an aerialist, can I realistically expect to be back at work in the air after taking 8-9 months off of my training on the equipment?  No.  Realistically, things will not be back to normal. Then I asked myself a more important question, is going back to normal what I want?

“…perhaps we need to surrender rather than resist.  Perhaps we need to transform.”

I recognize that right now there’s a lot of toxic positivity going around.  When I see someone talking about how great of an opportunity social distancing is on my Facebook and Instagram feed my knee-jerk reaction is to unfollow them.  Not only is this a very privileged outlook, but I also feel sad and I don’t want to stuff all my feelings down to be productive and positive right now.

And yet…

If this truly is our new reality.  If theatres, and circus tents, and arenas can’t reopen their doors in the foreseeable future, perhaps we need to surrender rather than resist.  Perhaps we need to transform.

My perception of the circus has always been tied to the notion of achievement.

“Look at this cool new thing I did!”

“See how high I can climb, how fast I can spin?”

(Photo: Me doing a cool thing in the air and sharing it with the world)

For many, including myself, the circus is an outward display of strong, brave and bold physical artistry.

This outward display of skill is likely not going away (nor am I suggesting it should), but perhaps in this time of stillness and solitude, a deeper more profound connection with our art can emerge.  B. K. S. Iyengar in Light of Life (2005) when speaking of the asana corpse pose, or savasana, says “a practitioner who can put aside his every identity can access places where no plump ego could squeeze through” (235).  We, as artists, are being asked to transform, to reinvent not only our processes but our identity.

Perhaps now when we invert, be it on stage or in our living room, we won’t only be thinking, “look at this cool new thing”, but we will also ask “what does this inversion mean to me?” and  “how does this make me feel?”.

“Our world is on fire, but the structure that is keeping that fire contained is community. “

As I sat in on this Zoom conference, which was made up of circus artists specifically from Western Canada, I was excited.  This was the first time I had ever been in a room (albeit a virtual one) with artists from my discipline and region at the same time.  The whole time I kept thinking… Community.  Our world is on fire, but the structure that is keeping that fire contained is community.

In the transient and nomadic world of circus, the notion of community is felt under the big top and in the training space, but now is growing to include our living rooms and are homes, regardless of whether you are a circus artist from Calgary or living in the circus mecca of Montreal.  Perhaps, after this pandemic, there is a future for circus where “community” can be understood more broadly.

And, not only is our circus community expanding nationally right not, but it is also growing internally.  Our community is beginning to include ourselves. My heart and gut and spirit are now being given the space to be just as valued a part of my body’s community as my lats and biceps once were.

I read recently that someone had predicted that after social distancing ends there will be an influx of solos launched out into the world.  I predict, or rather hope, that in the circus there will be an outpouring of work that is deeper, more sensorial and more connected, both inwardly and outwardly, to a larger and stronger community.

There are no straight lines or direct courses of action anymore.  We, as a nation, have been launched into a state of the unknown.  But perhaps in this place of grief, we as circus artists can begin the beautiful and challenging process of transformation.


Works cited

Iyengar, B.K.S. Light on Life: The Yoga Journey to Wholeness, Inner peace, And Ultimate Freedom.  Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale, 2005. Print.

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How Circus Has Taught Me Resilience

In a few days, I will be heading back to school to pursue an MFA in theatre practice at the University of Alberta.  This challenge has conjured many feelings including excitement, curiosity, anxiety, but also fear.  What am I so afraid of?  Failure.  But failure doesn’t have to be a fearful thing.  It can also be an opportunity for growth and resilience.


Photo by Stephen Walker on Unsplash

Oxford defines resilience as a person or object’s, ability to bounce back or “recover quickly from difficulties”. But, is all difficulty created equal?  Is it enough to simply recover from adversity? Or, is the bigger test of character, someone who can not only face hardship but learn from that situation and grow?

When I think of someone who is resilient I think of the refugee who comes to a new country barely speaking the language and having lived and experienced horrible things, and yet is able to overcome the odds stacked against them, learn the language, get a job, and create a new life for themselves.  Or, the First Nations peoples who have had their land taken from them, and multiple attempts made against them to annihilating their culture, and yet they continue to persevere, to teach the next generation and care and defend their land in whatever ways they can.  Or, my mother who when diagnosed with cancer and managed to survive the disease while still taking care of her children and maintain a healthy lifestyle.


My Maman- After completing the Run for the Cure.

These people are resilient.  They have endured hard circumstances and seem to have returned to a normal way of being.

Based on these examples I’m not sure I can prove any resilience in myself.  What hardships have I had to overcome?   I’m a fairly privileged person.  Sure, I’ve had my heart broken, and lived through times when money has been tight, but I’ve always had food to eat, and a friend or family member to hold my hand. I haven’t been to war or had my culture taken from me, or fought a disease.

If I haven’t experienced any great hardship, am I resilient?

If I haven’t experienced any great hardship, am I resilient?  Is there a scale that measures one’s resiliency based on the adversity they’ve faced?

I don’t think resilience is that simple to measure. Richard S. Citrin and Alan Weiss describe resilience as: “Our ability to effectively plan for, navigate successfully, and gracefully recover from challenging and stressful events in such a way that we are strengthened by the experience.” (The Resilience Advantage: Stop Managing Stress and Find Your Resilience, xviii) In other words, it is not the circumstance you have lived through that determines whether you are resilient or not, it is how you choose to react to that circumstance and who you become as a result.

Nothing that faces any kind of adversity is ever unchanged.  Even the trampoline, whose surface easily recovers from the weight of someone bouncing repeatedly on it, does eventually stretch out, and, with time, even breaks.


What is beautiful about the human spirit, is that it has the capacity to be impacted by its hardships, and not only rebound from the circumstances but be transformed from them. Not everyone grows from difficult circumstances.  Some people hang on to the past forever, for others the circumstances are too insurmountable, or they lack the support or the teaching.

My greatest teacher of resilience has been my training and performing in circus arts.

My greatest teacher of resilience has been my training and performing in circus arts. Circus disciplines that require a great deal of resilience.  The things we ask our body to do are hard, and yet we learn to persevere.  We put ourselves in uncomfortable positions, such as meat hook or flag,we hang off of structures sometimes 50 feet in the air, and then we learn to quiet our anxieties, breath and perform.  Although there are times when my body is tired, weak and unmotivated, I go to the gym and train anyway.  Why? Because I know I will get stronger.  I know that move that feels impossible right now, will one day be easy, “Learning to cope and even succeed with complex challenges effectively means that we build more confidence in our ability to take on the world.” (Citrin & Weiss. P.8). Circus has taught me that by not giving up, no matter how hard something may seem, it will get easier and I will succeed.


Leda Davies- Aerial Straps Montreal, 2018 Photo credit: PhotosdeCirque — Jim Mneymneh.

Resilience is not as simple as the Oxford dictionary would like to suggest.  Not all obstacles in life are created equal, and the human spirit rarely remains ‘unchanged’ by difficult circumstance.  However, a truly resilient person is the one who grows in their challenges and perseveres. The skill of resilience can be taught, but a strong will and support system is equally valuable.  The reward for our resilience is not returning to “normal” but witnessing the evolution of our human spirit and the pride of attaining our goals.  So, bring on the fear and the failure.  My circus training has given me confidence in my resilience, and regardless of the outcome, I will be a stronger person ready to take on the world!


Citrin, Richard S., and Alan Weiss. The Resilience Advantage: Stop Managing Stress and Find Your Resilience, Business Expert Press, 2016. ProQuest Ebook Central,

“Resilience” Def.1. Oxford University Press, 2018. Web. 2 September 2018.





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Asking Why

I have a great respect for circus artists and their constant effort to keep trying new things.  Always asking, how can we make this better? Cleaner? Stronger?

But what about the why?  Does motivation matter?

Why does my body move? What is the intention of the movement?

To seduce…

To soar…

To free…

To conquer…

” […] in life, everything we do and say has an intent, whether conscious or unconscious.”

An intention in acting, also called a motivation or objective, is a driving force that fuels and grounds an actor in a scene.  The idea is that in life, everything we do and say has an intent, whether conscious or unconscious.  When an actor plays the intention of the character in a scene it can help give the lines a deeper meaning and a more honest delivery.

Persephone Bound_Leda_Davies_Aerial_Circus_Theatre_02

Persephone Bound_Leda Davies Photo Credit:

In circus, the lines of text are the movement and the apparatus (or other circus artists, and sometimes, the audience) is the other character on stage.  When a circus artist knows their intention, they are able to unlock the honesty in the movement and breathe new life into what is otherwise a mechanical exercise.

If the artist doesn’t ask herself why she moves, how is the performance ‘art’, and not ‘sport’?  What is the difference between a circus act and an Olympic event if the person on stage doesn’t know what they are trying to communicate to their audience?

“[…] in order to uncover the meaning the artist must ask why they move.”

In French the circus performer is often called “l’interprête”, the interpreter.  A quick search on will tell you that a person who interprets, “gives, or brings out meaning”.  Therefore, it is the circus artists role to bring out the meaning of the choreography, and in order to uncover the meaning the artist must ask why they move.

Triptyque par Samuel, Anne et Marie

Triptyque des 7 Doigts de la main

I recently attended a circus forum in which the speaker, Samuel Tétreault of Les Septs Doigts de la main, was giving a brief history of contemporary circus and compared it to the evolution of contemporary dance.  Contemporary circus is a rebellion from traditional circus, said Tétreault, just as the flexed foot in early contemporary dance was considered a revolt to the mutiny of ballet, not that long ago in circus a flexed foot was considered avant-garde.  Now, contemporary circus artists wear street clothes instead of leotards, and in some cases, as with the shows of Les Sept Doigts, the artists speak directly to the audience, and share personal stories.  These are evolutions of an art form. If circus is to evolve why not address the fact that these are human beings performing these death defying feats, not props or objects.  They have two eyes that look out into an audience, a heart that beats and a mind capable of desire.

“An artist’s job to captivate you for however long we’ve asked for your attention. If we stumble into truth, we got lucky. And I don’t get to decide what truth is.”

In season 3, episode 17 of The West Wing U.S. Poet Laureate Tabatha Fortis, played by Laura Dern says, “An artist’s job to captivate you for however long we’ve asked for your attention. If we stumble into truth, we got lucky. And I don’t get to decide what truth is.”

Persephone Bound_Leda_Davies_Aerial_Circus_Theatre_03

Persephone Bound_Leda Davies Photo Credit:

In circus there are many things that can captivate an audience.  The draw might be the strength of the artist, their flexibility or their audacity to hang upside-down from one’s ankle 10 feet in the air.  It might also be the large (or small) scale of the apparatus, or it might be the number of acrobats in a pyramid.  I’m all for being ‘wowed’, but personally I want more from my art going experience, otherwise it’s merely spectacle. Often times, when I watch contemporary circus -acts I can’t help but disengage from the experience. Without intention behind the movement I’m simply not captivated.

“I don’t want the glitter and fanfare if it means losing the heart, the humanity.”

I don’t want the glitter and fanfare if it means losing the heart, the humanity. The movement doesn’t necessarily have to tell a story to keep me captivated (although my mind may do that subconsciously), but the movement must have intention, because that is the difference between circus as a skill and technique and a rip your heart out, can’t peel my eyes off the stage, wondrous performance.

Intention gives a movement life.  Intention is the artist’s job.  Intention has a role in the evolution of contemporary circus. Intention is what makes movement art.  And that is why the circus arts must ask “Why”.

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Creating A Daily Practice

What if this year you could create something that is as nurturing as it is fulfilling?


It seems like only yesterday I was concocting the ultimate iced coffee, and now I’m sip’n on the comforts of a homemade pumpkin spiced late.  Alas, with the winds of change also comes the opportunity to lay a new foundation.  What if this year you could create something that is as nurturing as it is fulfilling?  If I could give you one gift this fall (besides my delicious fall recipes) it would be a daily artistic practice.

I used to have a “forever goal”, a goal that I always had but I never seemed to be able to accomplish.  I wanted to have a daily practice.  I made it out to be this HUGE thing.  It would have to be a long, hard and rigorous. I sweat so much in the planning of my daily practice I never actually practiced any thing.

Then two summers ago I read “Creating a Life Worth Living” by Carol Lloyd, and I was inspired to rethink my method.

Lloyd calls a daily practice, “the daily action” and she suggests it be ‘fifteen minutes of focused activity performed every day at the same time of the day” (p. 4).  She explains that “[…] the daily process is by far the most crucial.  For it is in the present moment that creative work happens, and without a rigorous relationship to today, the power of tomorrow is no more than a shadow puppet casting elaborate shadows over all our endeavors.” (P. 4)


I decided that every morning before I did anything else, I would sit outside and drink a cup of coffee, alone.

Living downtown in a busy city I often find it hard to connect with nature, which is a big source of inspiration for me.  Drinking my coffee in the morning outside gives me the chance to sit with my thoughts, without any pressure, and let myself be inspired by the fresh air.  These 15 minutes are not a meditation.  Rather, I let my mind be open, granting myself “fifteen minutes of emptiness within the blur of living.” (Lloyd)

Rain or shine, or tour or on vacation I take my 15 minutes.  Even in the winter you will find me, bundled in my double layered down jacket sitting on my back step, watching the snow fall.


I believe that this ritual has unlocked a secret weapon inside me.  By taking 15 minutes to be alone with my creative self, before anything else (that’s right I don’t even peek at Facebook) I’m sending myself the message that my creativity comes first.

I’ve been committed to my daily ritual for over two years now.  I started my daily ritual in March of 2015 and I have stuck to it ever since. This level of commitment is not because I’m some sort of super human with unyielding dedication.  I committed to these mornings because they were short, easy, and enjoyable.

“Don’t say you’re going to stop biting your fingernails, say you’re going to stop biting one finger nail.” – Sonny Krasner

One of the reasons I didn’t follow through with my goal of having a daily practice before was because I didn’t think it was possible. I couldn’t commit because I believed that “to practice” meant to work in the studio for 4-6 hours minimum a day.  Sometimes putting all these requirements on our creativity actually limits our playfulness.

Imagination will come to you when it knows that door is open” (Lloyd, p.7)

I work a full-time job on top of running a theatre company and training 12-16 hours a week.  Sometimes these sacred 15 minutes are my only moments where I can be free.  Through this ritual I’m “silently teach (my) mind (my) creative life comes first” (Lloyd p.9)

Since starting this daily ritual I have gone on to create great things!  For example, I have written and will soon be performing in my own solo show, titled Persephone Bound, that features aerial circus, text and live music.  I did not consciously think about creating this show in my morning practice; however,  I there were many moments of inspiration in my 15- minutes, and those inspirations have weaved their way into several aspects of my show.


The weight of winter is lifting.

I’m ready to let the sun melt the frost on my heart.

Are you?”- Persephone Bound

If your creative spirit is calling out for more.  If you would like more structure, self-discipline, and would like to strengthen imagination I highly encourage you to create your own “daily practice”.

For more information on the “daily practice” read: “Creating a Life Worth Living” by Carol Lloyd.

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The unthinkable


Last week during training I did the unthinkable… I took my shirt off during training!

The studio was empty, and I had been working hard.  I thought it would be nice to see what my lines looked like on video without any tank top interference.  So, after a big gulp of courage and took off that extra layer.

What’s the big deal?

As a professional circus artist living in Montreal I have the great pleasure of training next to elite athletes every day. Being in this environment can be very inspiring, but it can also be intimidating.  I can’t help but look at these circus bodies and think: “damn girl”!  I also can’t seem to stop comparing myself to their bodies and think “that ain’t me”. I’m a mean, lean, circus machine, but all I can focus on while I’m at training is the fact that I don’t have a six-pack.

“This isn’t necessarily the fault of the circus industry […], but an issue of my own lack of self-confidence. “

This isn’t necessarily the fault of the circus industry, even though there is a great deal of pressure to “look” a certain way, but an issue of my own lack of self-confidence.  Just the other day I was talking to a girlfriend who proudly announced that she went to her hot yoga class in a sports bar and tights.  I was so inspired by her body confidence, and ashamed that I didn’t have the same level of self-assurance.

*Speaking of six-packs… check out this video by the folks of Cirque du Soleil*

Two summers ago my goal was to get a six pack and I worked with a coach to reach my goal.  Getting to that level of lean body mass and maintaining it in a healthy way meant a high level of commitment and sacrifice.  I’m talking diligent meal planning,  not enjoying a pint of cider on a patio, or treating myself to a summer gelato.  In the end I decided I wasn’t interested in attaining that “perfect” body image.  I held on to the good eating habits and allowed myself the freedom of having the occasional treat.  For me that is a more sustainable model.  But, there was another element at play that I was forgetting… Self-love.

“Let’s face it, the biggest person judging me… is ME!”

I make a conscious effort to eat whole food, eat consciously, and limit my refined sugar.  I have felt the benefits of eating well balance, and properly proportioned meals.  But, I still struggle with having a positive body image.

That is why training in my sport bra the other day, and snapping that pic (see above) was such a huge moment for me.

I’m shifting my thinking. I’m proud of my body without being spent on getting ripped.

Let’s face it, the biggest person judging me… is ME! And I don’t want to feel ashamed of my body.  I want to be proud.  I work hard, I’m strong and my body is amazing.

So strip off those layers, and ignore the nay-sayers.  We all deserve to feel free in our own skin.


If you want to learn more about “the cost of getting lean” I encourage you to read this article by Ryan Andrews & Brian St. Pierre of Precision Nutrition.

For support on finding a healthy balance with food and exercise, or if you struggle with a food intolerance, I encourage you to contact me for a nutrition consultation. See my nutrition page.

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Cirque, Culture & Diversity

“Big results require big ambitions”- Heraclitus

panel image blue

On July 14th, I co-facilitated with Nicki Miller (Only Child Aerial Theatre) a round table discussion on equity and diversity in contemporary circus presented as part of the OFF MICC.

Diversity has become a hot-topic at the Montreal Complètement Cirque Festival over the past couple of years.  Last year, in the context of the festival, the Montreal Working Group on Circus, led by Louis Partick Leroux facilitated “Encounters with Circus and its Others”, and this year Andréane Leclerc, Angélique Willkie, Éliane Bonin, Dana Dugan and Miriam Ginestier co-produced Cirque OFF which sought to “assemble and advocate for an environment of candid expression and the exchange of ideas
​to liberate the circus form and foster agency.” (

Although each of these events had their own unique presentation models, they both featured professionals of the circus community in North America who are seeking an evolution of the art form to include a broader range of artists, performances and opportunities.

Nicki and I had a similar objective with our panel discussion.

We assembled a panel of presenters including:

Dana Dugan (Concordia), Alisan Funk (Concordia & ENC), Susie Williams (Acrobatic Conundrum), Joseph Pinzon (Founder and Creative Producer of Short Round Productions), Thomas Lenglart (Cirque Eloize), and Guillaume Saladin (Artcirq)

Our main goals were to

  • Define what diversity in circus includes.
  • Identify ways we embracing diversity in circus.
  • Where have we seen progress so far?
  • What have been our limiting factors towards further growth?
  • Destigmatizing diversity as a subject and opening the conversation for further public discourse.
Acrobatic Conundrum

Photo by Wittypixel Featuring: (top) Xochitl Sosa and (below) Ellie Rossi- Acrobatic conundrum

Can white people talk about diversity?

We did our best to have as diverse a panel as possible, but there was one problem… We had a glaring lack of representation of people of colour, receive some criticism.  I was told flat-out by one participant that as a white person “you have no idea what it’s like being perceived as a minority, and you don’t really have the right to talk about these issues”.

Which got me thinking… Can white people talk about diversity?

For one, I don’t know a lot of circus artists who aren’t white. Admittedly, this was one of my motivating factors for creating this discussion in the first place, but it did create a problem when trying to find panelists and audiences members of colour.  I relied on my friends on Facebook and a handful of recommendations from peers to find panelists and attendees.  I had contacted other circus leaders in the industry who recommended some people of colour, but many were on tour, or could not attend.  We had no budget or stipend to offer artists traveling from abroad.  The result was that we only had one panelist who was not Caucasian.

“I recognize that I am privileged, and as such I am compelled to make an effort to use my privileged and my voice to have an influence in my community.”

Secondly, as a privileged white person I don’t know, and I will never know what it is like to be a part of a cultural minority, therefore I cannot genuinely empathize with the issues and struggles a person of colour faces on a daily basis.  However, I recognize that I am privileged, and as such I am compelled to make an effort to use my privileged and my voice to have an influence in my community.  My objective with the panel was to create a space for people who felt they were not being represented or supported by the circus community due to their difference and to create a dialogue about how we can create more depth in the circus domain looking forward.

Despite a lack of representation of people of colour, our panel was made up of 50% women, 50% men; 3 Americans, 2 Canadians and 1 dual citizen; 2 queer, 3 straight and 1 non identified person.  We also made sure to include people from different backgrounds including circus performers, educators, producers, casting directors and social circus facilitators.


Photo credit: Artcirq Iglookik 2005

We were not only speaking of diversity of cultural representation on stage, but also varieties of gender, race, and cultural perspectives) and in artistic aesthetic (theatrical tools, circus disciplines).

“I choose to use that influence to discourage systemic disadvantages and promote the inclusion of any person, regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation.”

We asked our attendees to share with us where they wanted to see more diversity in circus.  Some of the responses include:

  • Gender roles
  • Subject matter- beyond love stories with a male counterpart
  • Transparent, responsible, reflective processes of creation
  • Educate circus audiences of different, less commercial forms of circus
  • More diversity of preparatory circus education

Growing up with privilege, I have been taught that I have an influence over the way things work out.  This is a great gift.  Personally, I choose to use that influence to discourage systemic disadvantages and promote the inclusion of any person, regardless of their race, gender or sexual orientation.

“Through this panel I hoped to share the insights I have gained about diversity with my artistic peers.”

Yes I am white, but I support diversity and celebrate difference.

I wear many hats, and one of those is as an administrator at McGill University.  Through this role I have learnt about various admissions process and outreach projects that have been established by the university in an attempt to diversify the student body.  Through this panel I hoped to share the insights I have gained about diversity with my artistic peers.

Would it be ideal to have people of all different type of cultural backgrounds, sexual orientations, genders and abilities facilitating and attending these events?  Absolutely!

I hope that the panel discussion inspired many more conversations.  By producing this one event I have been exposed to so many more artists from different backgrounds and I look forward to including/ supporting them.

“[…] please educate me!”

And if you’re reading this and you are a person of colour, or any minority for that matter, please educate me!  Share your experiences with me and let me know how I can help support your voice.

The event cirque culture & diversité/ circus culture & diversity had just over 20 local artists in attendance and over 30 people have viewed our live-stream to-date.




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The Long Lens Approach: A sustainable creation model for the future

Cirquantique - Cocktail avril 2017-0650

Léda Davies on straps in Persephone Bound, performed at Cocktail Cirquantique, April 2017 in Montreal. Photo by Louis-Charles Dumai

For the majority of (English) theatres in Canada a rehearsal period is 2.5 weeks long, the rest of the 3rd week is spent in tech and then it’s SHOWTIME! This is the standard theatre creation model.  Generally, this timeline is followed due to necessity.  Rehearsals cost time and money, and a show doesn’t start generating revenue until it’s got an audience.  However, is this the most advantageous model?  Is this model producing a high quality of art, or is there benefit in taking what I like to call “the long lens” approach?

The creation process for Persephone Bound began in the Fall 2015, and is only now entering the production phase.  Although part of this long-term process model was necessary due to full-time jobs, and busy touring schedules it has given the production multiple layers, enabled us to integrate multiple disciplines without sacrificing quality or technique and has made producing this project financially viable for the small independent company that I run.

My partner Jed Tomlinson and I began exploring the themes and artistic elements of the show in November 2015, when we participated in AER Time, a work-in-progress showcase curated by Femmes du Feu.

We wouldn’t go into another creation period until end of June 2016.  However, in the 6 months leading up to the residency I wrote several drafts of the script, and trained rigorously on the straps (the apparatus I eventually decided to use in the show), gaining as much strength, endurance and vocabulary as possible.


Léda Davies on straps in Persephone Bound, performed at Sans-Filet, August 2016 in Montreal. Photo by Hervé Leblay

We participated in a research and creation residency with La TOHU in June 2016. Our rehearsals were split between time on the equipment at the National Circus School and time in the studio (see: Screaming Goats Collective).  The first creation residency allowed us to answer many questions about the project.  We developed our own creation process, clarified the story, re-wrote the script, defined the role that each discipline would have in the production and specified who our audience would be.   At the end of the residency I performed a short excerpt of the opening scene in front of nearly 800 people, and the feedback during the talk-back with the audience was very positive.  But still, the project was nowhere near complete.

Recognizing that I needed to develop the script further before we could complete the choreography I teamed up with Emma Tibaldo, dramaturge with Playwrights Workshop Montreal.  From November-May 2017 I wrote multiple versions of the script and would meet with Emma and Jed to update them on my progress.  This time also allowed me to research the themes of sexual consent, the laws and the individual stories of survivors which enriched the script and my own character.

This past May we began a second research and creation residency with La Tohu.  We reunited our whole collaborative team, completed the choreographic sequences and added the element of sound, which would be played live throughout the performance.  At the end of the residency we were able to perform the entire production for an invited audience.

“Like the perfect chocolate cake each layer of the process added a satisfying nuance.”

By slowly building Persephone Bound over a two-year period we were able to present a thoroughly developed story and rich characters.  Although many of the original scenes from the first workshop ended up being cut, their essence remained.  Something that was once a scene might now only be a line, but that line carried with it greater depth and importance.  Like the perfect chocolate cake each layer of the process added a satisfying nuance.

“With time on my side I was able to develop my strength, technique and straps vocabulary until the apparatus literally became an extension of myself.”

But these layers would be ineffective if the technique wasn’t there.   With time on my side I was able to develop my strength, technique and straps vocabulary until the apparatus literally became an extension of myself.  Persephone Bound features not one, but four aerial sequences and I’m literally attached to the equipment the entire 40 min long show.  From a circus perspective this is unheard off.  Most solo aerialists in a Cirque du Soleil production are in the air for 6 min IF that.  But, having the extra time to train allowed me to build up my endurance so that I didn’t get injured and I could safely execute all my skills.

“I would not have been able to produce any of these workshops if it weren’t for my full-time job.”

Lastly, this long lens approach made this project financially viable.  As I mentioned earlier, most companies can’t afford to take this much time to create a project because they need to get their shows in front of an audience as soon as possible to make money.  The difference being, I am not a large-scale theatre company.  I am an independent artist creating this project because it excites me artistically and I believe it is an important story to tell.  I would not have been able to produce any of these workshops if it weren’t for my full-time job.  This meant that I had to train after work, and on the weekends.  I would spend most of my lunch hours working on my script.  I collected my over-time hours so that I could take paid leave to produce the residencies.  I’m not saying it was ideal for me to be working a full-time job while producing and performing in a large multidisciplinary project, but when grants didn’t come through I could keep going, and I wasn’t broke at the end of the day.  For the emerging artist wondering how they can viably create and produce their own projects the long lens is a financially sustainable model.

“…the long lens approach allowed us many benefits which included developing characters, a script and movement with more depth, successfully integrating high level movement disciplines without sacrificing technique or causing injury and we didn’t go broke…”

I would like to add one more thing, and that is about deadlines.  Yes, the long lens approach allowed us many benefits which included developing characters, a script and movement with more depth, successfully integrating high level movement disciplines without sacrificing technique or causing injury and we didn’t go broke, but it’s still important to have a deadline, even if that deadline is one year away.  In fact we had many deadlines.  I would make deadlines for new scripts, and meetings with my dramaturge and the creation workshops gave us deadlines for when we would present certain elements of the play.  The time commitments kept us focused, and motivated.

All these qualities have taught me that a long-term creation plan, or “long lens” approach has many advantages and I would encourage any company looking at devised work, or interdisciplinary performance to consider adopting this model.  It just might keep the art of theatre alive for generations to come.

Cirquantique - Cocktail avril 2017-0419

Léda Davies on straps in Persephone Bound, performed at Cocktail Cirquantique, April 2017 in Montreal. Photo by Louis-Charles Dumai

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