Tag Archives: Circus

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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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.

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Persephone Bound_Leda Davies Photo Credit: PhotosDeCirque.com

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 dictionary.com 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.”

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Persephone Bound_Leda Davies Photo Credit: PhotosDeCirque.com

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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The unthinkable

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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.

Training_3


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.” (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.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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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March Madness: 5 Competition Tips with Coach Meaghan Wegg

It’s March which means competition and audition season is starting up again…

This year I’m starting off  with the Move With The Beat competition in Cornwall, ON. Where I will be presenting my Weggsphere number, as well as my acro-dance routine.

Meaghan Wegg on her invention the Weggsphere

Meaghan Wegg on her invention the Weggsphere

MWTB is a unique competition that combines dance, circus and aerial acrobatics. It also features an adult, and professional category for “professional dancers who are 18 years of age, currently studying at a superior level and wish to pursue a professional performance career.” (http://movewiththebeat.com/index.php/the-competition/classifications)

The competition was founded by my amazing coach and mentor Meaghan Wegg, who is all about “promoting new talent and career opportunities for the next generation in dance, circus and performance.”

My coach and mentor Meaghan Wegg

My coach and mentor Meaghan Wegg

Several months ago we got together in Montréal to talk a little bit about Meaghan’s circus story. Here’s a little bit of what she had to say…

Meaghan, you were born in small town Ontario, and you’ve spent many years touring and being on the road. What is special to you about Montreal?

““I moved to Montreal when I was 15. I’m a country girl, I had never taken a bus or metro or anything. I came here with nothing, knowing no one, and I grew to love the city because this is where I became an independent woman.”

However, it is important for Meaghan to stay connected to her roots. She often goes back to her sister’s studio in Ontario to teach, and of course she is the director of the MWTB competitions, which take place in Cornwall, Chatham and Grand Bend.

““I get to be a roll model for (people) back home which I love to be”

In addition to the MWTB competitions, Meaghan also is also a casting agent for special events with a new branch of her company “Move With The Beat Entertainment”, she is also a choreographer, teacher, world class aerialist and dancer.

Your background in dance inspires me, but do you ever wish you came from a gymnastics background?

“I’m very happy that I’m a dancer that became a circus artist. I was always at the ballet bar, hanging off like a monkey. I could not do a class without doing a cartwheel, or bending backwards. […] I did all my exams in dance. And I took my certification in Acrobatic dancing. When you’re at the circus school you only have 4 hours a week of dancing. So the first thing that I did when I graduated […] was to go back to the dance world. When I’m creating, it makes me different. I always think ‘how can I dance this?’ When I choreograph something on hoop, I always do dance choreography first and then put it in the air.”

How do you stay motivated? What keeps you going?

“Since I was little, there’s always been a fire, a drive inside in me, and if I really go back and think about it, […] the way that my mom and dad brought me up was super optimistic. […] I took all this advice from my parents […] if I wanted money I had to do 10 sets of push-ups, ever since I learned how to walk. They had a way of bringing me up that always made me want to work harder and be the best I can be.“

What’s your secret? How do you manage to do so many different things?

“My schedule is insane, and I’ve had to learn how to manage things. The word impossible means I’m Possible. That’s what it spells. Anything is possible, you just have to work, manage it.”

MWTB Competition also features a fierce line-up of adjudicators. You can find a complete listing, including bios HERE.

Personally, I’m super excited and honored to be participating in this event.

It’s been a long time since I’ve ventured into the competitive dance world, but I’m looking forward to performing as a professional, testing out my training and presenting my acts for such reputable judges.

If you are in the Cornwall area and you want to check it out the competition runs from March 20th-22nd, and I will be competing on March 22nd. Feel free to message me for more details.

 

Splits in the park in YYC

Splits in the park in YYC

 

 

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A look back… and a push forward

“The only person you should be comparing yourself to is who you were yesterday.”
Falsely yours, A. Nonymous

June wasn’t without it’s challenges, but like they say: “With great challenge comes great reward”, and rewards there were many.

It is with great pleasure that I am sharing with you my new aerial silks demo reel.  The video was filmed at École National du Cirque in Montreal and was recorded and edited by my talented friend Alexis Vigneault.

Léda Davies- Silks Demo from Leda Davies on Vimeo.

I am beyond proud of the end result.  It is a great symbol of my work this past year, and an excellent motivation to keep going!

I also received my prints from my first aerial photoshot!

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I really enjoyed playing with makeup and getting a chance to see my character come to life.  Now, I’m all set to head out and start knocking on company doors.  For a glimpse at some of the photos check out the Gallery.

Monday, June 30th was the opening of our show “100% femmes” at the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal.

141 Photo by: Hervé Leblay

It was 40 degrees outside with the humidity, and pavement and wind were interesting challenges, but we did really well.  We are beyond excited to perform our last two shows on Friday, July 5th and Saturday, July 6th. Feel free to check out some of the photos taken during our first show in the Gallery page.

If I were to be comparing myself, to the Léda who started this blog 1 year ago, I would have to say I’ve come a long way, and I can’t wait to keep going.  Anything is possible!

 

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July 3, 2014 · 4:18 pm

Cirqua Zerna

My first ever circus show in Montreal!!!!

I have been given the opportunity to perform in Cirqua Zerna, the annual show presented by La Caserne 18-30, the aerial studio I train at in Montreal.

I auditioned for the show back in February, and I’m very proud to be a part of this stellar group of artists.  There are so many fiercely talent people that I train with everyday, and it’s so cool to get to create with some of them, especially under the direction of Guillaume Biron.

I was cast as an aerialist in a silk quartette, which also includes a hammock contortionist (’cause that’s how we roll), and I will also be dancing and roaming the room as a character.  The show has a cast of 14, and the artists range from hoola hoopist, contortionist, jugglers, musicians and even an aerial chain act.

This will also be the first time ever I perform in a circus tent!!! For those of you reading this living in Montreal, the tent is situated @ 4375 Ontario Est , behind the Marché Maisonneuve.

This is a really exciting opportunity to share all my hard work for the past ten months to a public audience which includes my friends, my teachers, and also, hopefully, other circus directors, and scouts who might be interested in working with me (*wink* *wink*).

You can check out more information, like how to buy tickets, here: http://www.caserne1830.ca/cirqua-zerna.html

 

Come check it out if you can!

 

Zerna Poster

 

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Meet Eric

Me and Eric Saintonge

Me and Eric Saintonge

Eric Saintonge is my gymnastics coach. He has been helping me develop a stronger acrobatic base to make me more competitive in the world of contemporary circus. But, Eric’s experience and background goes far beyond front handsprings…

After spending six of his late adolescent years on the National Gymnastics Team, Eric went on to perform for companies such as Cirque du Soleil and Cirque Eloize.  It was through the touring production of Nomade with Cirque Eloize, that Eric was introduced to a new discipline the Cyr Wheel. 

Now, Eric tours his own Solo Cyr act at many special events throughout North America, and is a sought after personal trainer. Oh, and did I mention… he’s also a family man, and proud father of 2!

Here’s a little bit more about Eric:

 Gymnastics was your life for many years.  When Cirque du Soleil came “knocking on your door” what was the biggest reason that you left gymnastics and joined the company?

“At first I didn’t care about circus. I kind of a had condescending feeling towards it. I was good at school and wanted to become an engineer. Didn’t want to have clown written in my resume!

But then one of my ex-coach made the move to Cirque du Soleil and I saw him a few years later when Saltimbanco was in town (1995?) it’s then that he made me realize that becoming a circus artist would be a great continuity to what I’ve had been doing for the last 16 years. He said: “In the circus you will do what you good at”.   That had me thinking…no pommel horse, and I would be paid for doing stuff that I like to do?

One thing led to another, and the research and development team called me to do acrobatic research on an apparatus that they built, or would be building.

That was it, my foot was in the door, and the door hasn’t close for the last 18 years!”

Having a family is a big part of your life, but I’m sure continuing your career as a freelance artist, and now a personal trainer hasn’t always been easy.  How do you strike a balance between career and family life?

“As a freelance circus artist, I had to make choices. I try to not take long contracts that would have me gone for long periods of time. There is a big market in Europe, especially in Germany, for diner shows. Diner show is a theatre where you can go for dinner and while you eat or between services there’s circus act and all this is link together with an MC. The problem with this kind of contract is that they last between 3 months to a year, which is why I decided not to do them. As long as the contract last no more than 10 days to 2 weeks I’m usually fine (my wife as well, she has to take care of the kids!!) with it. As a matter of fact, as I’m writing this I’m a week away from an 11 days contract in Dubai!

As a personally trainer I can manage my appointments according to my children’s school and daycare schedule, and my wife (also a former circus artist) work schedule as well. It’s a matter of logistics!”

You traveled for a long time with some pretty big circus companies.  What would you say it the biggest thing you were able to take away from your experience of being on the road as a circus artist?

” I learn’t to take care of myself!  That might sound weird, but when I left on tour with Alegria in 1997, I had never been in my own apartment. I was living with my parents until the departure.

I also learnt that wherever you are in the world, and whomever you meet, at the end of the day we are all the same!  We are all humans and all have more or less the same daily problems and enjoyments.

I’ve traveled to small villages in Palestine, as well as performed in big cities like Paris, Sydney, Berlin….  No matter where you are kids will always play in the park!”

Now that you are performing and producing your own solo act, what would you say are the benefits to self-producing, versus working for a big circus company?

“Simply put, self-producing means that I am my own boss. I decide when I train, how I train, and generally get a higher pay.”

You’ve achieved so much already in terms of a career in circus.  What is you next big goal, and why is it important to you?

“I’m slowly moving towards more and more to personal training. However, I don’t want to be a regular personal trainer. I want to help people change their life.

I have recently become a certified CHEK Exercise Coach.  This course really was life changing. The approach taught by Paul Chek is an integrative approach. We look at an individual from different perspectives; nutrition, digestion, sleep, spiritual, emotional and gather all of the information and use it to create an optimize training program for this individual.

This means I won’t write them a program in 5 minutes. I go through the process of assessments (flexibility, posture, muscular, nutrition, sleep/wake cycle, digestion, stress).”

Here’s a clip of a Eric teaching push-up techniques for Cirque du Soleil!

If you could learn any other discipline in Circus what would it be?

“I would love to try the Wheel of Death!  It looks amazing. You must get such a huge adrenaline rush doing it.  But the name of it says it all…You could die!  So would love to try it without dying!!

wheel-of-death

Wheel of Death!

Trampo-wall is something that I wish existed when I first started to do circus. It’s an amazing discipline that is beautiful to watch.  I think I could have been good at it.”

I know you are an avid follower of the “Paloe” diet… what would you say is your favorite Paleo treat?

“I love a nice juicy steak with tons of raw and cooked vegetables. One of my favorite breakfasts is veal liver with bacon, raw vegetables (peppers, cucumbers, carrots) and avocado. (sounds delicious)  A nice sweet treat is an apple with almond butter.”

If you would like to know more about Eric, feel free to visit his website.

For more information on Paul Chek and the Chek certification visit: www.chekinstitute.com

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Good Enough

It has been almost a month since my last entry, with lots of new discoveries have been made as well and many improvements…

Hyacinth

Unfortunately, around the time of my last post my injury from November returned.  This time right before an audition.  I returned to a new osteopath, at Action Sport Physio, which I highly recommend to any athlete training in the Montreal area.  I was shocked to find out that my injury, which I originally thought was simply displaced rib (NBD!) was actually being caused by my liver.

This explained many issues I’ve been having with my digestion, mobility, nausea and even breathing. But, why was my liver acting this way?  Stress, but more specifically an anxiety on my part that I’m not good enough to achieve my goals.  The diagnosis of “stress” sounded far fetched to me at first, and then I dug a little deeper.  I remembered that each time I was injured I was putting an extra amount of pressure on myself.  I have been so concerned about not achieving my goals that I have been holding myself back.

atelophobia

What now?  Start believing in myself.  I have everything I need to be able to achieve my goals, my body is ready, I just have to let my brain catch up.  A little easier said than done, but I’m working on it (without too much anxiety of course!)

I have spent the past month retraining in a lot of ways, as well as accepting that this is not only a physical journey but also a mental one.

Contortion Stretch

I see this as a positive experience.  First off, I’ve learned to become more sensitive to key triggers in my body around stress and anxiety, and more importantly I have prioritized taking to time to stop, breath and address those issues.  In turn, this new awareness has unleashed a new power within myself.  I have realize that I no longer need to hide behind a veil of “not good enough”, and that in many ways my perfectionist outlook has been stifling my potential as opposed to encouraging improvement.

“It’s never either-or, never enjoyment versus advancement, so long as you conceive of advancement in terms of learning rather than climbing to the next rung of the professional ladder.  You ARE getting ahead if you learn, even if you wind up staying on the same rung.” (Chris Hadfield, An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth)

Some key changes that I have made to my program:

10 min of daily meditation – Even 10 minutes of quite can make a huge difference in reconnecting to the breath, and body.

Acknowledging every accomplishment– Instead of concentrating on my imperfections, taking the time to reflect on what I achieved at the end of every training session.  Sometimes, that may be as small as showing up.

Writing in a journal– I think a lot, especially when I am training alone.  Writing things down has helped me get my thoughts out, but also record what I did after a training session including recording my aforementioned accomplishments, as well as my goals for the next session.

Having fun– As the old saying goes: “It’s not the destination, but the journey”.  I used to think that attitude was lame, but more and more I understand how this applies to many things in life, including my training.  If I’m not enjoying my training day-to-day, getting into a company, or landing a perfect flip isn’t going to make me any happier.

“Success is feeling good about the work you do throughout the long, unheralded journey that may or may not wind up at the launch pad.  You can’t view training solely as a stepping stone to something loftier.  It’s got to be an end in itself.” (Chris Hadfield, An Astronauts Guide to Life on Earth)

Oh yes… In case you’re wondering I did the audition, injury and all, and I got the part!  I will be performing in my first circus show in Montreal in May!!!  More details to come…

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