Caro Meets Dance & Physical Interview

Massimilliano Rossetti: Lost In Translation and The Oak Circus Centre

By | Published on Friday 10 April 2020

We first became aware of Lost In Translation Circus because of the company’s brilliant performances up at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

So we pricked up our ears when we heard the news that – because of the COVID-19 crisis – they and The Oak Circus Centre were running online classes for a number of different skills and age groups.

We recently told you about them in our Three To Stream tips, but I wanted to find out more: about the company, the online classes and its management team, so I arranged a chat with co-director Massimilliano Rossetti.

CM: Let’s start by talking about the online classes you are currently offering: who are they for and what subjects do they cover?
MR: Because of the situation of isolation that the world is experiencing right now, Lost In Translation and The Oak Circus Centre wanted to create something useful, something that can help people and our community to keep active and positive. This is why we invented the catchphrase Stay Active Stay Connected Stay Circus.

We have been running circus skills classes at The Oak for a few years now, some are aimed at circus professionals or people who may want to make their living in circus, but many are aimed at the general population, people who just want to maintain or improve their general fitness and who see the classes as a fun alternative to gym membership. So with the lockdown and social distancing we looked at which classes we could transfer online for as many people as possible to do at home.

We have different disciplines to choose from with classes for every age, from six years old to 90 years old. Everybody can participate. Some of the classes include conditioning, flexibility, handstands, hula hooping and juggling. We are creating a weekly quiz for people to have fun with and each Thursday we have an evening challenge that we are developing with Norwich Theatre Royal. This will range from a toilet paper balancing challenge to eating a fruit without hands, number of push ups in one minute, a chopstick and raisin challenge, and one to throw an object while doing a pirouette!

CM: Can you explain how the classes are delivered? How interactive are they?
MR: All the classes are delivered live on the Zoom platform with full interaction between the tutor and each participant. Questions can be asked and the tutor is there to watch and guide all the students. We’re striving to make it as close to an ‘in person’ class as possible. When you join a class via our booking page, email confirmation is sent with a code to join us on Zoom, with the date and the time of the class.

CM: Who is leading the classes? Can you give us a vague idea of how each class will progress?
MR: The classes are led by our international performers and tutors, some of whom live in the UK and some of whom stream from their homes in Ireland, Australia, Italy and France.

We developed a programme for the online classes where every week there is a small progression of what is taught and participants have skills to practice – homework?! – between one class and the other so that is possible for everyone to remember what is learned and also keep them active.

They can also email us with questions through the week if ;they are unsure about anything or have questions related to any of the exercises or tricks.

CM: How long after the lockdown started did you decide to do this? How long did it take to get things moving?
MR: We actually arrived back in the UK from performing around Australia and at the Adelaide Fringe just after the lockdown was introduced, so the country seemed a very different to when we left in December.

We were literally on the second last flight back to the UK from Adelaide. Our original flight was cancelled and for a couple of days it was touch and go whether we would be able to get a flight at all due to the pandemic.

We had a whole programme of courses arranged at The Oak that obviously had to be postponed. So we met with the team via video conference and we decided to create the online classes, this would have been around 48 hours after the lockdown.

CM: Do you think there might be a market for these online classes once the COVID crisis is over? Can you see yourself continuing to provide them once we are all allowed out?
MR: I think these classes can definitely have a life once this situation is over. We are getting people from around the country and beyond joining in, so they are reaching many more people than those at the Oak can and we are looking at how we can refine the delivery and develop this area.

CM: Can we talk a bit about your company’s history now? Tell us about Lost In Translation and what it does.
MR: Lost In Translation Circus is becoming one of the leading UK contemporary circus companies with a number of touring shows and more in development.

Next year we shall be celebrating our tenth birthday and we are preparing some surprises for this. Over this ten year period we have built the company from small beginnings to what it is now. We now have the creation centre and skills classes at The Oak, our own touring big top and four shows that tour around the world.

We love to mix and experiment, for example blending high level circus skills with a strong theatre narrative. Our shows all have a strong theatre foundation as well as the circus skills.

Our performers are based all over the world but the company is now based in our adoptive city of Norwich, which it may surprise some to know has a long tradition as a circus base. In Norwich we helped create 2018’s Circus250 project, a celebration of 250 years since the world’s very first circus. Along with Norwich City Council we helped the city to be named as one of the six national cities of circus for the celebrations.

CM: What would the company have been doing if the lockdown hadn’t happened?
MR: We would have been on a national tour of our show ‘Hotel Paradiso’ for the whole of April 2020. Then we would have had an Open Weekend celebration of The Oak Circus Centre. We would be preparing for our summer tour of Portugal and had a national television programme booked in Italy.

Our big top show had dates booked, including a weekend of international circus at home in Norwich that for the past two years has brought some of the biggest shows to the city. ‘Hotel Paradiso’ was also due to return to the Edinburgh Fringe and we would be creating and rehearsing a new production for next year.

CM: What have been the highlights of LIT’s existence thus far?
MR: Definitely our big top touring and the fact that we created our own international circus festival in Norwich.

CM: What aims do you have for the group in the future?
MR: Once this moment passes we want to go back to what we do best, making audiences all over the world go “wow!”, gasp and laugh, joining everyone together through the international language of circus.

The company is expanding and in the future we are looking to create another headquarters in Brisbane, Australia, and also to look at developing our educational and community side. We want to invest in the future of circus, training the new stars as we work towards becoming a true professional school.

CM: And now, what about you personally? How did you come to be in this career? Was it something you always aspired to?
MR: When I was fifteen years old I left home in Italy as a runaway. I travelled around Europe and lived rough. When I was sixteen I saw a really good juggler in a park, the first time I had seen such a thing.

I was really inspired and my girlfriend at that time decided to give me three juggling balls. I learned the three balls cascade in about ten minutes and after that, to be honest, I didn’t do much with it or the juggling balls at all. I was much more interested in other things and got a bit mixed up with a ‘wrong crowd’.

But then, at eighteen, I was in Portugal and I met some extraordinary street performers from Norway. This reignited my interest for circus, suddenly it became very real and there in Portugal I performed my first ever street show. After that I decided that circus was part of my future.

I felt motivated to go back to school to graduate, as I needed that to go to circus school, which was my overriding desire. I managed to get into Carampa Circus School in Madrid where I trained and graduated as a catcher. Then I went to London to study at The National Centre For Circus Arts where I graduated with a first class BA with honours.

Since then I have gained experience working for some major international circus companies, including No Fit State Circus. I am a Guinness World Record holder in my specialist circus discipline on the Korean Cradle and I have participated in Hollywood movies and toured with major international bands.

CM: What ambitions do you have moving forward? What hopes do you have for the future?
MR: I look around me and I see what circus has the power to do; it can save lives, create professionals and give people a job. I am looking forward to giving opportunities to the new generation of circus artists, training them, nourishing them with my knowledge and experience, sharing my artistic view with them and hiring them to perform in our touring shows!

CM: What are you doing to stay sane during this period?
MR: A lot of learning new online skills and resting a lot, which is something I’m really not normally very good at! I’m being social with online platforms and looking at ideas for new shows or projects.

I love the planning aspect of what we do. Also I’m very fortunate because I can share this isolation with my wife and we are lucky to have each other. A thought goes to all those people that are by themselves in these hard times, we hope you can stay safe and well.

Lost In Translation and The Oak Circus Centre’s classes are currently scheduled until mid May. You can book places via this page here.

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Photo: Steph Potts