photo: Marta Czajkowska Painted Cave Studios
FRINGE ACT 2015 INTRODUCTION
We are very excited to introduce Heather Booth who will make her debut at Fringe 2015 with her company Miraas Contemporary Circus. They will present their production, called Fado.
I hear that since you took up training in the aerial art form that you’ve “had a hard time walking on the ground ever since”. I am sure you do walk on the ground, but this is interesting. What does this mean?
I was an aerial junkie from the first moment I got on a trapeze — everything just feels more purposeful in the air. I find it challenging to move with intention — it’s easy to run through the motions in life, but it’s not easy to run through the motions on a trapeze. Aerial slows me down — my mind, my body — and I need that.
Is having a hard time walking on the ground what took you around the world? And in your travels around the world what was inspiring about sharing a moment with others you met for the first time?
This is a great question. I never thought about the connection between my passion for aerial and my love of traveling, but it makes sense. Both aerial and travel put you out of your element, both push you out of your box. I like having to use all my senses in a new way and having to adapt myself to new experiences. With aerial, you have to use your body and your sense of movement in a new way. With travel you have to forget what you “know” and learn to experience life another way. You can’t bend a trapeze to your will — you work with it, you move around it. Similarly, you can’t bulldoze your way into life in another culture, you need to work with it and figure out how to be yourself in it.
But, to get back to the question, actually university teaching and intercultural work took me around the world. I’ve been teaching and doing international work for about 14 years and that work has taken me to Costa Rica, Egypt, Macedonia, France, Israel, Palestine, Thailand, and a few other places.
Can you please share with us your artistic background and was your move here tied to artistic work or another reason?
I started trapeze informally in the late 90’s in New Orleans with someone who had trained in Canada and then moved to New Orleans. I didn’t seek out aerial, I pretty much bumped into it and realized we were a good fit. She had a trap and some great skills and she taught me and three other girls in a old warehouse in Mid-City. It started out as exercise and then we starting getting gigs, making costumes, and becoming more professional. We were small – four girls, one trapeze, a “crash pad” that was really a mattress, and that level of simplicity made us innovative. There were no small aerial studios teaching at that time; there was no YouTube, so our choreography was very self-initiated. After that, I got professional training in aerials and started my own company in Denver, Colorado, which I sold when we moved to Hawaii. I was lead instructor and creative director there for 4 years and during the summers I was traveling abroad for social circus work.
My move here wasn’t tied to my artistic work, but to my husband’s PhD internship. However, I was very lucky to find a new aerial family here and look forward to meeting more artists in the circus community.
Social Circus – I do believe this is a term that many may not have heard of. Can you please explain what is social circus? And how this applies to your work?
That is a big question, but to put it simply social circus is circus with a purpose. Social circus uses circus arts as a medium for creating social change and promoting social justice. Most social circuses work with disenfranchised youth, using the teaching of circus arts as a way of teaching other life skills. However, there are also social circuses that work with children in conflict areas or refugee camps, women who have survived physical or sexual trauma, or circuses that aim to build trust between certain cultures and groups. I’ve worked with social circuses in Israel, Palestine, and Thailand and all of them had slightly different goals and operated with very different levels of resources.
Do you feel that applying social circus in Hawai’i could help with a number of issues here?
I think every state could benefit from social circus. The two main social circuses in the US are in Atlanta and St. Louis and they have had great success helping disenfranchised youth build confidence, find motivation, build trust in others, and build awareness about their communities and their potential. In addition, many of these kids go on to professional circus schools and circus becomes a profession for them. All communities have issues that need to be addressed (whether it is homeless youth, teens taking drugs, racism, etc) and the mission of the social circus is created by those that live in that community to meet their needs. I would love to work with other circus artists and organizations here in Hawai’i to help start a social circus initiative here. Social circus seems to be more common in other countries, but I think that as circus becomes more popular in the US, social circus will become more common.
What is your Fringe 2015 show about?
I’d like to capture the emotions that a performer feels on closing night of performance — that crazy combination of joy, fear, anxiety, giddiness, sadness, anticipation, loss and love. I want to show the joy and turmoil of change. All of these emotions exist in every performer on closing night, but with this show I’m trying to break down those emotions in each performer. The idea for the show evolved as I brainstormed with my colleague Eva about how I couldn’t find one word to describe what I was imaging, and she told me about a type of Brazilian music called Fado. “Fado” is Portuguese for “destiny” or “fate”. She played some of the music for me, and it really captured what was going on in my head, and so the title was solidified. The show itself, however, will probably evolve in meaning until long after we perform it.
You certainly do have a strong background in the arts. Where can folks connect with you to learn about your art form?
I teach aerials to all ages at Still and Moving Center. I’m a firm believer in the democratization of aerial arts — you don’t have to be a former gymnast or a 20 years old to start doing aerial safely. It’s not about big drops or crazy skills, it’s about opening yourself up to something new, building on the skills you have, and setting realistic goals for new skills. If you are interested and committed to learning aerials, you can. I’m a very student-centered teacher and I love helping my students find success in aerial work.
If you were not involved in the circus community would you run away with the circus and see the world?
I’m already doing both!
O’ahu Fringe Festival wishes Heather Booth and the production of Fado all the very best with their performance at Fringe 2015.