Caro Meets Dance & Physical Interview

Lauren Herley: Closer

By | Published on Thursday 21 April 2016


Yaron Lifschitz’ award-winning Australian ensemble Circa is renowned for its boundary-pushing shows which blur the lines between circus, movement, dance, and theatre. They have shows playing in more than one country at present, but the one I am interested in is ‘Closer’, which is being performed at the Udderbelly Festival over on the South Bank for the next couple of months.
To find out more about the show, the company, and her own career and ambitions, I spoke to one of the performers involved, rope artist Lauren Herley.

CM: Tell us about ‘Closer’. How many performers are there, and what kind of circus skills can we expect to see?
LH: There are five acrobats on stage in ‘Closer’, three women and two men. We are artists who specialise in a number of disciplines such as vertical rope, trapeze fixed, duo trapeze, hula hoops, handstands, contortion as well as group based and ground based acrobatics.

CM: Are there specific themes to the show? Does it tell a particular story?
LH: The theme is about our individual journeys to find acceptance in our expression. At Circa we never tell or force a story. We allow our genuine, authentic presence and generosity on stage to speak to the audience in the way they choose to accept and interpret it.

CM: How does a show like this come together? How does the creative process work? Are there elements of individual development or is it more of a team thing..?
LH: In a creative development session at Circa, it is an incredible team effort, where you have to be there 100% for each other. We work hours a day in the rehearsal space for a new show, sometimes for only a short amount of time before the premiere, so we work on a tight schedule with our Artistic Director to develop scenes based off of improvisation. We also always train and develop on our individual numbers.

CM: The company is known for works which straddle genres… can you expand on that notion a bit? What are the aims of the group?
LH: I believe the answer to this question would be that Yaron Lifschitz, our Artistic Director, loves and admires circus in its traditional beauty, its risk and tension and heat. But he enjoys to strip it from its original way of being seen, and place it on stage in an order and form that becomes almost unrecognisable to the audience. Therefore, it “breaks” classic rules of what you are used to seeing in contemporary circus now.

CM: What are your personal specialisms? What made you want to develop these particular skills?
LH: I am a vertical rope specialist, but I also specialise in contortion and handstands. I am also a hand to hand flyer, general flyer and acrobat. I have been an acrobat for over 20 years of my life and I’ve danced as well. I decided I would dedicate my life to circus when I discovered rope, and how beautifully my body and soul responded to it. Love has brought me back to circus every day since – there’s nothing else I’d rather do!

CM: What attracted you to this kind of physical performance in general? How did your career begin?
LH: It’s the only art form where we are tested everyday in how far we would go to experience the extraordinary. The exchange between the artist and public is authentic and generous because of the physical risks we take.

My career began in my teens when performing a few gigs here and there, I would use the money to pay for circus school. I almost took a contract with Cirque du Soleil in Vegas but I was accepted to the National Circus School of Montreal. Going to that superior school was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I have now worked and created with companies such as Cirque Eloize and Les 7 Doigts de la Main as well as Circa.

CM: Do you see yourself working in this area in the long term? Are there any other elements of performance you’d like to explore?
LH: I will do circus until my body can’t any more, then I will teach. Teaching brings me an incredible amount of joy as well. I love to sing, take contemporary and ballet classes. I love burlesque as well, but circus is in my veins and I will live and breathe it until I can’t any more!

CM: What’s next for you, and Circa?
LH: After our London season at Udderbelly Festival, I will be in France working on a photography project, then I will head back to Australia where we will be rehearsing and in creative development for new projects. Then we will be in Edinburgh… and the tour continues!

‘Closer’ is on at Udderbelly Festival at South Bank Centre from 7 Apr-12 Jun. See this page here for more info and to book.

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Photo: Luke MacGregor