We have invited our members to tell us a little more about themselves, their backgrounds, inspirations and thoughts on the exciting art forms of Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle in Ireland (and further afield)!
First up is the very talented Aisling Ni Cheallaigh who has worked and trained with fellow ISACS Members Fidget Feet, Irish Aerial Creation Centre, Ether Productions , Aerial Cirque and Taking Flight, to name but a few. Enjoy reading about Aisling's experiences in the world of Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle!
Photo: Anton Privel
Can you describe your work?
I am an aerialist, homegrown and hand reared by a conglomerate of companies and coaches including Fidget Feet, Irish Aerial Creation Centre, Ether Productions , Aerial Cirque and Taking Flight. I delight in flight and movement and while I specialise in aerial hoop I am also known to dabble in Rope, Fabric, Doubles Trapeze and Cyr Wheel. I have travelled far and wide performing with various companies and have even landed in Montreal for further training. I am free range, organic, and corn fed.
How did you first get involved in the Irish Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle Network (ISACS)?
Photo: John Lalor
I was dragged to an ISACS AGM a few years back by Niamh Creely of Ether Productions and to my surprise thoroughly enjoyed myself. I have been a member ever since and now attend all their events of my own free will!
What is your earliest memory of experiencing Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle?
When I was seven my parents brought my sister and I to see Fossett's Circus in our local green. I was coming down with the flu and I vividly remember shivering on my mothers lap surrounded by the smell of horses, straw and popcorn. I spent most of the performance asleep, woken now and again by the cheers of the crowd as someone in sequins flew through the air. Despite such egregious conditions one act stands out in my mind, a flying trapeze artist blindfolded himself mid act and continued to fly through the air like all the others. At one point he almost overshot the podium and his fellow artists had to catch him to stop him falling 10 meters to the floor. It was the most exciting thing I had ever seen.
Can you identify an inspirational moment that inspired your work significantly?
Photo: John Lalor
It's difficult to pinpoint one particular inspirational moment that has influenced my work, there have been so many! I find myself often inspired by the people I have the privilege to work with every day. Chantal McCormick (Co Founder of the Irish Aerial Creation Centre and Fidget Feet Aerial Production Company) has been a major influence and source of inspiration to me ever since I started aerial. She has been a constant mentor and friend and I wouldn’t be where I am today as an artist without her.
There is one moment that really stands out that has had a significant impact on both my work and my life. My friend, coach and mentor Shane Holohan was studying at Ecole National Du Cirque in Montreal and invited me over for a visit in early 2014. Before leaving he convinced both myself, and Ronan Brady, who was travelling over too, that we should attend the auditions at ENC. ‘Sure you might as well’ he said, ‘and you never know, you might get offered a place!’ So off we went, to what is generally considered to be the best circus school in the world to try our luck.
As we queued outside in the snow waiting for the doors to open the gravity of our situation began to dawn on us. All around us people were chatting about what they had done over the past year or two in preparation for this audition, some had attended two year circus courses, others had attended ENC’s year long preparatory course. At least two of our fellow auditionee's had competed in the Olympics! And there was Ronan and I, me with two years experience of doing aerial and Ronan with less than a year.
Things went pretty as much you would imagine for the rest of the day. The acrobatics portion of the audition was particularly memorable. We were all given five minutes to warm up on the floor before the audition began. It was a sprung floor which I am told is a common gymnastics thing. However I had never seen one before ‘Look at this!’ I exclaimed to Ronan, ‘There’s actual springs under the floor!’.
After the warm up it was time for the auditioning to start. Twelve judges filed in and one by one and we were called up to perform a list of moves. I was able to execute the forward roll and the backwards roll, although the sound of my back smacking into the sprung floor made more noise than the other auditionees landing double front tucks. I managed to get as far as cartwheels before I had to start saying pass. But once you start to say pass they don’t just leave you alone to wallow in your own mediocrity. Each time they call out your number you have to stand up, walk forward, look at all twelve judges, say PASS and then make the long journey back to your place.
I would have thought, sitting there that I would have felt an overwhelming sense of humiliation, yet I didn’t. It's humiliating when you make a mess of something your good at in front of your peers. It's humiliating to lose at something when you think you really should have won. But sitting there watching the other auditionee’s I felt inspired. These people were amazing, they were doing things on that floor I had only ever seen on TV coverage of the Olympics. I had to sit on my hands at one point to stop myself from clapping (apparently its not the done thing in an audition).
I feel that that experience has really inspired my over the past few years. It opened my eyes to the wider circus world and helped me to understand what it really takes to be a world class circus performer. It inspires me to train harder every day, not because I think I can ever get to that level, but because I am no longer scared to fail.
What was your first experience like of presenting work to an audience?
Photo: John Lalor
My first experience of presenting work to an audience was in 2012 as part of Ether’s Mirror Mirror at the Drogheda Arts Festival. We had been working on it for four months and it only ran for one night. I remember the excitement of standing in the wings waiting for the house lights to go down, I was nervous but mostly I was excited. I have always been a bit of a show off and for the first time I had the opportunity to do it legitimately!
What advice would you give to someone wanting to show work publicly for the first time?
Hmmmmm thats a hard one, I always struggle when showing new work for the first time. It’s hard to let go of something that has only be alive in your heart and mind and share it with the world. The only advice I can give is what I try to tell myself (although I don’t always listen!) Enjoy yourself and don’t be afraid to fail.
Are you working towards any new projects at the moment?
Photo: John Lalor
I really want to focus on personal development and training in 2017. I am currently working on a couple of new projects; Ronan Brady and I are making our first doubles trapeze act which is both terrifying and exciting. I am also starting to learn Cyr wheel, which I unexpectedly fell in love with in July. I had tried it years ago at the Irish Aerial dance Festival and hated it. In fact I walked out in the middle of the class and didn't come back after receiving a whack in the unmentionables from an errant wheel. I am also slowly working towards a new hoop act, which I am really excited about.
How do you feel about the Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle sector in Ireland right now?
The Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle sector feels like its growing exponentially at the moment. I have met so many amazing people this year, all working on new and inspiring projects.
What do you think is necessary for the art forms of Street Arts, Circus and Spectacle to develop and grow in Ireland?
For our sector to further develop we need to continue to grow, make work and inspire one another. We need to be open and welcoming to both new and established artists and give them all the support and help we can. Together we have a stronger voice to lobby for more funding for our sector.
What is the best compliment you have received for your work?
The best compliment I ever got was on a recent tour with Fidget Feet’s, Cinder and the Ella’s. After the show a little girl came up to us and asked us if we could really fly because that was the only way we could have done everything we did in the show!