Promising breath-taking and powerful performances, the cast of NoFit State's Bianco teach us the foundations of classic circus skills.
Since its first run at the Roundhouse, Bianco has been on a whirlwind tour around the UK and Europe, constantly evolving. The show aims to push the boundaries of modern circus artistry while breaking down the fourth wall and allowing the audience to walk in amongst, and under, the acts. Keen to show us that it really is not as easy as they make it look, NoFit State invited Londonist to attend a circus skills workshop.
My uncle ran away to join the circus in the 1970s only to return a year later to burn down the parish hall while trying to impress the neighbours with his fire breathing act. With such circus artistry in my blood I was excited to enter the tent and meet the performers. The Tardis-like interior was packed with equipment, practising performers, and somewhat unexpectedly, a solitary saxophonist crooning away in the corner.
While artists from France, Spain, Italy, Finland, Canada, Ireland and the UK flipped, folded and contorted themselves around us — including a man doing a sort of solo kama sutra on a tightrope — we discovered we would be learning classic circus arts: juggling, hula hooping, and counterbalancing.
Blaze Tarsha was our hula hooping coach and seemed able to shimmy, wiggle and roll individual parts of her body simultaneously in all sorts of directions while hoops clung to her body. Explaining she found herself an accidental hooper, Blaze tutored us in some basic tricks before blowing us away with her ability to hoop with her hair.
Counterbalancing, the graceful art of flying through the air on a rope balanced by another person scaling and sliding the length of a ladder to keep you from falling, was next. Having been harnessed by the impressively-gunned Topher Dagg and his equally charmant French colleague, we took turns either flying through the air (in my case clinging to the rope for dear life) or scaling up and down a ladder to give the aeronaut more or less height.
It soon became clear that circus is a team sport with the riggers being the unsung (or at least unseen) heroes of the more spectacular arts.
Despite many years developing my ball skills, juggling coach Lee Tinnion showed relentless patience (and kindness) in the face of my unfailing ability to drop the balls before I had even thrown them.
Bianco promises breath-taking, powerful performances, and the workshop proves the artistry, skill and comradery behind these performances whilst also confirming that circus talent, in my case anyway, isn't genetic.
Bianco is on at the Southbank Centre until 22 January. Tickets £30-£39.50. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary ticket.