I was recently commissioned to broadcast a live Tweet from a public discussion hosted by Circus City in Bristol with American circus duo Ricochet Project as they discussed their work, including award-winning show Smoke & Mirrors. This discussion’s focus was set on the ‘why’ of making socially and politically engaged work, rather than the ‘how’.
For those who weren’t able to attend or tune in to the live Tweet, the full feed is now available here: https://storify.com/
Cohdi Harrell and Laura Stokes have recently moved away from their New Mexico roots to live and work in Europe. Before getting a chance to settle into their new home in Berlin, however, they launched into a tour of the UK and, following their final dates, local circus makers and enthusiasts from Bristol are given a chance to join Cohdi and Laura for a chat about the way the duo make their work, combining circus skills with socio-political awareness.
Bristol, in the South-West of England, has long had a thriving and experimental circus community, and is thought of by many as the unofficial circus capital of the UK. The city is home to Circomedia, one of the two British schools offering Degree-level circus training, as well as the biennial Circus City festival that celebrates local and international circus work in a variety of forms. Although the next edition of the festival is not until 2017, the organisers have hosted this discussion as part of their commitment to promote the development of circus in the region.
Today the American artists are joined by performers, directors, producers and circus researchers for a session focussing on the reasons for making socially and politically engaged circus work.
Kate Hartoch is co-producer of Circus City, and hosts the discussion, introducing the guests and opening up the questions. We quickly establish that the duo don’t set out to make ‘issue-based’ work, but rather to present their own truths through movement in a way that allows for open interpretation by audiences.
While this may be confusing to those more used to seeing shows with an explicit message, it is this openness that makes the work accessible on many levels. The specific container of aerial work, contortion, sound and dance provides space for audience members to make their own branching connections to the realities presented.
The conversation also includes reflections on gender representation in circus, the value of truth in engaging audiences, and Cohdi and Laura’s specific rehearsal processes.