Cirque, Culture & Diversity

“Big results require big ambitions”- Heraclitus

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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.” (http://www.cirqueoffmtl.com/mission.html)

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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

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It’s time for a change

February is one of my favorite months!  The days are starting to get longer, it’s a short month so it feels easily accomplished and let’s face it I’m a sucker for Valentine’s Day.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day with all of you I’m posting my new favorite chocolate waffle recipe.  It’s gluten and dairy free, and a great treat after your morning run (feel free to add a little extra protein on the side).

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Go to recipe page.

With no entry since October you must be wondering what I’ve been up to.  Well, I’ve been busy to say the least.  Scroll down to find out more about this circus monsters journey!

Training with Dynamo

Since September I have had the great privilege of training with the renowned physical theatre company for young audiences Dynamo Théâtre. We meet 3 times a week to develop our acrobatic and hand to hand skills.

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When I began working with Dynamo my front handsprings were inconsistent, I couldn’t hold a handstand for longer than 30 sec and I had never partnered with another person.

Now I’m proud to say that I have a clean, consistent front handspring, I’ve done front flips off people shoulders and I’ve even been the base in a 2-high column.

Not only has my training with Dynamo Théâtre strengthened my acrobatic skills, it’s also introduced me to a whole new community of theatre artists in Montreal.  As a bilingual Anglophone entering a Francophone environment I have become more confident communicating in French, which in turn has opened the door to new friendships and hopefully future collaborations.

Not one… but TWO cabarets!

I performed in the “Naughty Parent Cabaret” produced by Krin Haglund from November 30- December 1st 2016.

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Sticking with the theme of “a night of grown-up only fun”, and poking fun at parenthood, (something I know very little about) I decided to go out of my comfort zone a bit.  I created two new pieces for this cabaret.  One was a song (melody borrowed from 4 Non Blonds, “What’s going on”) that I sang while playing the ukulele and the other was a physical comedy piece where I sported a huge baby bump, and struggled to do every day things like tying my shoes.

Naughty Parents Cabaret – Leda Davis from Le Radiant – Krin Haglund on Vimeo.

In January, my husband, and co-collaborator, Jed Tomlinson and I performed a 5-min love story using only legs at the OFFSIDE Wildside Theatre Festival at Centaur.  It was a blast and we look forward to performing together again in the future.

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Grants/ Funding

A big part of being a freelance artist and creating your own work means asking for money.  Since January I have been working on grants to support my project “Persephone Bound”.

Spring 2017 I will be returning to the TOHU for a second creation residency with my team of collaborators.

In the meantime I’m working with an amazing team of dramaturgs at Playwright Workshop Montreal to complete the script for this multi-disciplinary production.

Stay tuned for more information on how you can help support this project!

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Health and Well-being

As always, winter can be a tempting time to over indulge in sugary treats, or over eat while exercising less because it’s so darn cold outside.

That’s why for the month of February I’m going back to the basics. For me that means recording what I eat.  It’s hard to know where I need to make changes to my diet if I don’t have an idea of where I’m slipping in the first place.  Knowledge is power.  That’s why I’m kicking off my health goals this month with the simple task of recording what and when I eat.

You can see an example of the type of food log I like to keep HERE

What do you do to stay on track of your health and wellness goals?  Share in the comment section below.

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Persephone Bound- The Process: Part 1 and 2

“Sans Filet”- La TOHU Montreal, QC Photo Credit: Herve Leblay

“Sans Filet”- La TOHU Montreal, QC
Photo Credit: Herve Leblay

I began the project “Persephone Bound” a year ago, although the experiences that have informed this project, and this method of creation, has been something I have ben developing for quite some time. I don’t recall the exact moment the myth of Persephone became my point of interest either, but I’m grateful it did.  I have always been inspired by Greek Mythology, it’s larger than life nature, it’s dramatic and often devastating stories.  As for the straps, I began taking classes on straps to strengthen my skills on silks.  There was something about the simplicity of the equipment (in shape, not in technique), and the fact that with the straps the body become the main focus, that made me fall in love.  One by one these elements began connecting to each other, and as I researched the story of Persephone, the movement on the straps become even more clear.

Part 1

November 2015

I performed a monologue on the silks  (recovering from an injury meant straps were not possible) at a work-in-progress showcase in Toronto know as AER Time, curated by the talented circus women “Femmes de Feu”.  In a way this performance launched the project.  This was the first time my director (and husband) Jed Tomlinson and I worked together on a show that I had conceptualized, and that he was directing.  Although we have collaborated on many theatre projects in the past (Shhh, Freak Show, and various cabarets).  Jed and I were exploring a new type of process.  We wanted to integrate the movement and text on the aerial equipment as authentically as possible.  Some key things we learnt along the way were:

  • Poetic or virtuous movement is strongest when it is a metaphoric representation of the characters struggle, as opposed to mimicking the words being spoken.
  • All movements need to be carefully selected and justified.
  • The words spoken must be honest.

What is Virtuostic Movement?

To me, virtuostic movement is a demonstration of skill.  For example, in Ballet, a virtuostic movement might be a series of fuettes.  Usually this is a movement that the audience sees that they recognize as difficult, or that they themselves can’t do.

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Circus is ALL about virtuostic movement.  The emphasis in contemporary circus is on skill level and technique.

But, I’m a theatre artist and I believe in storytelling.  I’m also a professional circus artist and I can do some pretty crazy things with my body.  What Jed and I discovered was that if you’re going to put these movements, like the splits for example, into a performance it is important that the movement is justified, honest and it should avoid being a literal representation of what the character is saying.

The performance at AER Time in Toronto was a vital first step to our project.  Adam Lazerus, a well know physical theatre creator and performer in Toronto facilitated the talk-back afterwards and also gave us many good questions to reflect on.

Find out more about Femmes du Feu and AER Time HERE

December-May

The project didn’t end at this 10-min presentation.  I took all I had learnt from this experience and went to work.  For the next 6 months I wrote, and re-wrote my script.  I would trained rigorously on the straps.  My goal was to gain as much strength, endurance and straps vocabulary as possible, so that when we entered into creation mode I would be ready.

Authentic Movement in the air:

On some of my training days I focused on creation.  I took a theme, an image or an emotion that I was writing about in the script and I embodied that thought or image while in the equipment.  This technique is inspired by Authentic Movement and my movement training with Val Campbell.  While traditional Authentic Movement is not usually performed alone, I was able to glean from its guiding principals.  With eyes closed I dropped the thought, or feeling into my body and I allowed my body to organically respond to it’s own internal clues.  Using this technique I was able to discover new movements, new pathways, new ways of using the equipment.  Now, instead of only having my wrists in the straps I had my legs, waist and even neck in the strap loops.

Authentic Movement:

Authentic movement was pioneered by Mary Whitehouse, and later was transformed into lay-practice by Janet Adler  It is a movement practice that “physicalizes the active imagination”, where the mover and witness is asked to suspend judgement, interpretation and projection.  (Recommended reading: Authentic Movement: Essays by Mary Starks Whitehouse, Janet Adler and Joan Chodorow)

All of this ground work was ensuring that my movements and text were authentic, and honest.  And, because I was creating both the text and the movement at the same time I was ensuring that my choices were remaining justified.

Here’s an example of one of those movement explorations:

Part 2

June- July

At the end of June I began a 3-week creation blitz.  I had the great fortune of getting a research and creation residency with La TOHU.  These residencies are offered by La TOHU with the aim to “stimulate the evolution of circus aesthetics. It encourages the exploration of new forms and practices in the field by offering a space dedicated to research activities and innovative initiatives.” (http://tohu.ca/en/services/artists-services/research-and-creative-residences/)

During my 3-week creation period with Persephone Bound, it was vital to my process that the movement and the text were developed together in an organic way. The following is a brief overview of how that process was realized.

Text Process

I wrote the first draft of the script before the rehearsals started.  Jed and I had several discussions about the content beforehand, and I wrote several other subsequent drafts.

I wanted to have a script as a frame work.  I find it very helpful with devised theatre to have a text to work with, even if that text will change, and boy, did it ever change.

On the first day of our creation workshop we wrote down all the scenes on sticky notes and put them up on the wall.  Then we literally cut up all the different versions of the script and placed the parts we liked under each scene.

Jed_ Sticky Notes

Jed- At The Screaming Goat Collective Studio

Cut Ups and Sticky Notes

Example of the cut up script (Screaming Goats Collective Studio)

Whenever we’d reach a hurdle in terms of the story line, we would begin a movement exploration or clown improvisation exercise.

Movement Process

The process for developing the movement, as well as applying the text to the movement was as follows….

1- Authentic Movement practice

Either Jed or myself would be ‘the mover’, and the other would act as ‘the witness’.  The mover would drop an intention, word or character into their body.  Then with eyes closed, they would let their body respond through movement to that intention word or thought.  Sometimes sound or words would also come out.  Once the mover felt like their expression of that thought was complete they would stop and open their eyes.  Then the witness would repeat certain things that they saw.  This was a technique I had used with Val Campbell when creating another solo show of mine “The Disembodied Lady”.

2- Gesture

After the Authentic Movement practice was complete I would then select some of the movements and develop them into gestures.  Anne Bogart and Tina Landau describe gesture in their book The Viewpoints Book: A Practical Guide to Viewpoints and Composition as: “A shape with a beginning, a middle and an end” (p.9).  When I’m turning an organic movement into a gesture, I’m defining it’s beginning middle and end.  I’m memorizing it, and being as specific as I can with it.  Bogart and Landau go even further to breakdown gestures into “Behavioural Gestures” which “belongs to the concrete, physical world of human behaviour” (p. 9)  and Expressive Gestures which “ express an inner state, an emotion, a desire, an idea or a value” (P. 10).  The gestures  that I was refining from the Authentic Movement practice were Expressive Gestures.

3- Work with choreographer to build movement phrases

Once I had collected enough gestures I began working with my choreographer, Lucie Vigneault, to expand the gestures into movement phrases.  I like to describe a movement phrase as: a series of gestures with a beginning, a middle and an end.  Something that Lucie helped me with was ensuring that the gestures didn’t become false once I incorporated them into a movement phrase.  As if the gestures were words, and the movement phrase was a sentence.

The gesture cannot be an over exaggeration, or a demonstration of what you are already saying. If this happens the movement risks seeming false, exaggerated or unnecessary. The gesture is an opportunity to layer poetic suggestions or themes.- Notes from rehearsal

 

4- Apply the gestures and movement phrases to the aerial equipment through open improvisation with live percussion

From the beginning I had a desire to incorporate live percussion into this project.  Luckily, I had an insanely talented team of people working with me on this project, and Jed was one of them.  Besides being my director, Jed is also an experience drummer and he would accompany me live during our rehearsals at the National Circus School.  In an open improvisation structure,  Jed would play different rhythms on the drums and I would improvise with the movement phrases I had developed with Lucie, only this time I would incorporate them on the aerial equipment.

At the end of the improvisations we would take an inventory of the sequences on the equipment that we liked and ask ourselves if we saw any possibility for them to be included in the show.  After that we would apply the text.

Sometimes the sequences were never put up in the air, but we would follow a similar process: Authentic Movement, Gesture, Movement phrase and apply movement to text.

Straps & Text Exploration

Here I am exploring some text in the equipment

Other times we would take a step back from the open improvisation and use other strategies such as:

  1. Exploring the aerial equipment as Architecture
  2. Using Open Viewpoints to develop new floor patterns, or try integrating the text in a new way.

It is important to note that the development of text and movement was happening simultaneously. This is key, because one would often influence another. We would begin the day working on the text, applying what we had discovered in the movement exploration the day before, and in the afternoon we would apply the changes in the script to new movement vocabularies.

This would happen continuously throughout the process.  Writing, cut-ups, movement exploration, repeat.

I also feel compelled to mention that we had a lighting designer, Luc Valée drop-in to a couple of our rehearsals to offer his perspective.  We would show him our progress and he would offer us ideas either for the script or for the staging.  I can’t wait to perform the full length show with his ideas!

Although we were not able to present a full-length performance of the new work in this particular residency, we were able to participate in a Sans-Filet hosted by La TOHU.  “ A jump into the void” as the name suggests, the Sans-Filet was a public presentation of works-in-progress by various circus artists in Montreal, QC.  We had decided to perform the opening section of the play, which begins by interacting with the audience, leading up to a 5 min performance on the straps. The presentation took place in front of nearly 800 people, and our act was warmly received by the audience.

Here is a sample of the work so far:

 

Thank you for continuing to support this project.  More updates on the process and the project development to come!

 

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Strong Woman

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I was talking to a friend the other day, who was telling me how, unfortunately for her, she develops muscle really easily.  In order to rectify this muscle gaining “issue” she has sworn off any physical activity that might make her body, specifically her arms, too bulky.

 

Her main fear being that if she gains too much muscle she will look MANLY.

Let’s talk about this!

“By disallowing ourselves as women to portray strength we are indirectly contributing to the notion that women should be frail, soft, weak […]”

For one… Why are we as a society accepting this idea that a strong woman is UNATTRACTIVE?  To me a strong body, on any gender, is a demonstration of confidence, independence, health, longevity.  That’s a pretty sexy list right there.

By disallowing ourselves as women to portray strength we are indirectly contributing to the notion that women should be frail, soft, weak; and, that men should be muscular, strong and powerful.

Why is a muscular body on a woman associated with so much negativity?

How is this:

Less SEXY than this…

 

Strength is not only about aesthetics, it’s also about HEALTH!

Now, it s not my intention to get into a big gender debate, so allow me to also remind you of some facts…Strength is not only about aesthetics, it’s also about HEALTH!

Strength training has repeatedly been associated with the reduction of bone loss.  T.V. Nguyen in his article Bone Loss, Physical Activity, and Weight Change in Elderly Women: The Dubbo Osteoporosis Epidemiology Study explains that: “From a public health viewpoint, physical activity has long been advocated as a component of a healthy lifestyle,43 in part in relation to osteoporosis prevention.” In Nguyen’s extensive study he concludes that : “active women had minimal or no bone loss, while less active and sedentary women experienced significant reductions in bone density.”

These are FACTS, I’m not making them up!

By building muscle you are not only helping reduce body fat, you are helping your body live longer.

Here are some more advantages to weight training, as outline by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Develop strong bones. By stressing your bones, strength training can increase bone density and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
  • Manage your weight. Strength training can help you manage or lose weight, and it can increase your metabolism to help you burn more calories.
  • Enhance your quality of life. Strength training may enhance your quality of life and improve your ability to do everyday activities. Building muscle also can contribute to better balance and may reduce your risk of falls. This can help you maintain independence as you age.
  • Manage chronic conditions. Strength training can reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic conditions, such as arthritis, back pain, obesity, heart disease, depression and diabetes.
  • Sharpen your thinking skills. Some research suggests that regular strength training and aerobic exercise may help improve thinking and learning skills for older adults.

I work really hard to build muscle. I recognize that my passion for this might be greater than the average person.  However, you don’t have to be a professional circus artist or an athlete to be healthy, 2 weight training sessions a week can make all the difference.

By making myself stronger I’m not only contributing to my ability to excel in my chosen artistic discipline, I’m also helping myself live a longer, happier life.  I will not sit idly-by and allow my body to degenerate, in order to support the notion that as a woman I am not supposed to look strong.  Muscles are sexy on everyone, because healthy is sexy on everyone.  Now go out there and lift some weights!

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August 20, 2016 · 2:15 pm

Me and my straps

The road to creation is never a straight line.

It’s December.  By now I’ve been training on straps consistently since August and it’s time, time for me to buy my own equipment so I can do the things I set out to do.

Traditionally aerial straps are used for conditioning and performing feats of strength.   The loops at the end of the 9 feet long cotton covered polyester straps are used for the circus artist’s wrists so that he/ she can hang, twist, and suspend in the air. But I my intentions are different.  My goal is to dance in the straps. I want to slip my legs and neck through the straps.  I want to translate my vocabulary on silks onto this new equipment.

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Straps Exploration at the National Circus School in Montreal

And so, before I head off for a tour, I decide to order my very own, custom made straps.  I want them to be long so I can perform dynamic drops, I want the loops to be wide so I can hang from different body parts and I want the fabric to be soft so that I don’t rip my skin to shreds.

As we know, buying things off the Internet can be risky.  A year and a half ago, when I was buying a new pair of silks I made the mistake of ordering the fabric too short (11 yards).  Then, because I placed the order in the USA, I had to go through a big ordeal with Canada Customs, who decide to charge me an exorbitant amount of money in customs fee (which I was later able to get refunded).    This time I was smart.  I did my research.  I made sure to order from a reputable company, which specialized in selling high quality aerial equipment.  I made sure to measure the length of the loop I wanted.  I ordered from a Canadian company, so I didn’t have to worry about customs, or the high US dollar.  But, as it is with the creative process, things went… differently than my perfectly laid out plan.

It was 2 weeks before I was scheduled to leave for my tour.  My straps arrived and I was SO excited!  I opened the package… But they were the wrong color, the wrong loop size and the wrong material.  How could this happen? I specifically asked for cotton covered straps and instead I received aramid fiber (must more abrasive).  I called the company.  The customer service representative didn’t speak “circus” and explained that the owner was out of town.  When I finally get a hold of the owner, he told me that if I mailed the straps back, and drove out to the factory to pick up the new pair, I could have my order fixed and ready before I left town.  GREAT!  I sent back the straps.  When I got the new straps (generously picked-up by my husband!) and open the package…  They’re too long, they were the wrong color, and they were too wide.  “I’ll never be able to work with these”, I cry out.

Straps 1

More exploration on straps at the National Circus School in Montreal

I call my friend and ask her to come over, and through my tears, I show her the equipment.  She looks at them and shrugs: “You can make these work.  They’re not that bad.  And it’s good that their long.  We can make a temporary knot in them for when you’re training with lower ceilings.”  I sigh.  “Ok”, I say, “I’ll try them out.  Worst comes to worst I’ll sell them”.  So I bring them to the studio the next day.  My friend helps me tie the temporary knot, and… It’s not so bad.

In the end I did take the straps on tour with me, and I made an effort to train on the equipment whenever I could.

When I got back home, I went to the National Circus School to train, where I knew I could hang the straps without worrying about their length.  The first day I hung my straps in the new space, a fellow artist came up to me and commented: “Wow, those are so cool.  You have so many movement possibilities”, and another said: “I like your straps!  Their really unique.

Unique.  That’s exactly what I had wanted them to be.  Suddenly… I’m in love.

Straps 3

My first “flag” on Staps at the National Circus School in Montreal

Now I’m going to the studio to train every night that I can.  I can’t get enough.  I have embraced the challenge, and accepted that these straps are different.  Just like me.

Sometimes you’ve got to go with what you’ve got.  Sometimes, trusting in the unknown is what makes the magic happen.

Up Coming…

We’ve launched our new studio!

The Screaming Goats Collective

Studio

Here’s my husband Jed working hard on the new studio!

We produced our first workshop “Intro to Pochinko Clown”, taught by Jed Tomlinson at the beginning of May.

Goats Poster

Next, we are excited to present the “Get Off You A$$ Creation Lab

This 17.5 hour long workshop will provide you with a variety of tools on how to generate new material and create a unique performance.

Visit our facebook page for more details (https://www.facebook.com/screaminggoatscollective/)

Persephone Bound

I’m honored to announce that my project: “Persephone Bound”  has been accepted for a creation residency curated by the TOHU.  This creation residency will allow me to rehears for 33 hours with my director, choreographer and designer at the National Circus School. At the end of our creation period, there will be a work-in-progress presentation to an invited audience.  More dates and details to come…

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May 17, 2016 · 9:57 pm

And then I ran up a mountain…

It’s noon, on a drizzly Tuesday.  I go to the staff washroom, put on my leggings and lace up my runners. As I head down the elevator my co-worker smilesShoes_MTL at me “Going for a jog?”  “yup, I’m headed up the mountain”, I say with a sigh.  This has been my by weekly ritual for the past two months.

Outside is chilly, and although it’s December winter hasn’t hit the city yet, and in a few strides down the sidewalk I’m already feeling warm.

The climb up the mountain starts on the corner of Sherbrooke Ouest and Peel.  It’s a straight climb until you reach the base of the park, and then after a short series of stairs you find yourself on a winding path in the forest.  The city disappimage4ears.  Only the sounds of the birds and your runners hitting the dirt road are present.

This is where I work through my thoughts.  This run is my chance to reconnect with my body and my breath.  To let go of pain, and to let inspiration in.

In the past few months I have faced  a series of injuries, health issues, and personal difficulties and my training has been sporadic.  I still make an effort to get on the circus equipment, and do my sit-ups, but my focus has been elsewhere.  On the path, my focus is living.

As I climb up the mountain I’m alone.  Once I’ve burned through my anger, and pushed past fear, all that’s left is love and breath.

At the top of the mountain is “Beaver Lake”.  The first time I saw it I couldn’t believe it existed.  “There’s a lake up there and I had no idea!”, I told my coworkers the first time I made it all the way up the hill.   This time of year the lake is almost always deserted.  The water is still, like glass.  I stop to look over the water, conjuring the calm surrounding to slow my heart beat which is still trying to catch up with my feet.  As I pause, I’m reminded that there is more to life than what’s inside my head.  There is more than my computer, or my cup of coffee, or my future.

Then, after a 60 sec rest, I start back down the way I came.

The way down is almost as thrilling as the way up.  My stride gets longer and longer as I give into the incline.  I pick up my pace with ease.  The climb up is a fight, but the way down is modestly satisfying.  On the way down, I don’t need to work as hard, and my breath is easy.  I can turn my attention to release.  Letting go of the pain in my rib, or hip, or heart.  I can turn my gaze up, instead of 2 inches in front of me.  It takes me almost half the time to go down the mountain than it did forimage5
me to climb up.  I leap over the curbs of the sidewalk and dodge the letter carriers.   I race out of the forest and back into the city.

Back in the elevator on my way back up to my desk I have no regrets.

I didn’t make it all the way up the mountain the first time.  I got half way and turned around.  There are still some days  I don’t make it all the way up.  But, that’s not the point.  The run is not about reaching the lake.  Sometimes I have the urge to dig deep and keep going, sometimes it’s calling out my name, and sometimes I pat myself on the back just for lacing up my shoes and g
etting outside.

Mount Royal is a far cry from the Rockies, but the air and the quiet remind me of home.

I have no idea what this next year has in store.  I have no concrete plans or destination.  There will be uphill climbs, and downhill sprints, and hopefully a few moments of stillness at the top.

 

Happy Holidays.Leda_Mountain

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