Silver Circle, a community circus initiative, has produced a formidable five original productions in six years. Renee Liang talks to Silver Circle member Leslie Sanderson about the company and its latest production, Dystopian Dreams.
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Silver Circle is a community circus initiative based in Auckland, with the skills of acrobatics, dance and aerial circus passed on through a growing circle of practitioners. Silver Circle has also grown into a production company, producing a formidable five original productions in six years, as well as numerous collaborations and one-off showcases. I was lucky enough to work with Silver Circle members on a show called Culture Clash a couple of years ago, and since then I’ve watched as their work has evolved. Dystopian Dreams, their latest work, is one of their most theatrical to date, exploring a dystopian society where oppression and dehumanisation are the norm. I interviewed Silver Circle member Leslie Sanderson about the company and Dystopian Dreams.
Tell us about Silver Circle productions: how did you all meet and what are your aims?
Silver Circle Productions is the performing branch of the Silver Circle Acro family – a delightfully diverse group of lovable carnies with a shared passion for all things exciting, challenging, and new. We’re an all-inclusive community circus group that aims to enable and encourage people to try things outside of their comfort zone. Our motto is “We can do that!” and our members come from all walks of life. We have doctors, dancers, engineers, actors, statisticians, students, and everyone in between. Anna Cruse, one of the founders of Silver Circle, is also a big part of the Auckland couch-surfing network and she’s always bringing new people along, often fresh off the plane! As such, we have a huge base of skills and experiences to draw on and learn from. I got involved after meeting Anna, Ben, and Vanya while working together on the TAPAC production Culture Clash in 2012. Every effort is made to give people the opportunity to perform, whether they are a seasoned veteran or first-timer, but it is in no way a requirement to join.
How would you describe your work?
Ha! The impossible question! Every time we produce a show an inordinate amount of time is spent discussing how it should be advertised. Circus-cabaret is usually a pretty decent catch-all. We do a great deal of acrobatics, aerial arts, dance, and burlesque, while also including theatre, comedy, fire spinning, hand balancing, juggling, and more. We’re also known for combining these in unique ways (acro-burlesque is always a hit). It’s always a challenge and never boring!
What productions have you done to date? What artists and other productions inspire you?
Silver Circle Productions was formed in 2008 and since then has produced five shows: 1001 Knights (2009), Joie De Vivre Vaudeville (2010), Bon Mort Vivant (2011), Dark Tales (2013), and our current show Dystopian Dreams. We have also collaborated with numerous other artists and productions and regularly feature in periodic events such as Aethercon Steampunk Convention and Queerlesque.
Our inspirations are as varied as our group, but locally we are huge fans of The Dust Palace. We also attended the Auckland Arts Festival 2013 headliners Cantina and Urban en masse and were in awe of every moment. The involvement of a number of our group in TAPAC’s Culture Clash has heavily inspired our most recent work and encouraged us to delve into more challenging, theatrical circus productions. Oh, and of course there are also the endless cheerleading, acrobalance, and other circus videos on Youtube!
How often do you meet up, and how do you make a new work?
Every Tuesday night from 6-9pm at Auckland Girls’ Grammar Upper Gym on Hopetoun Street is open training. Come along and pick up a skill! Everyone is welcome. We also train at Auckland Girls’ on Sunday afternoons but that time is generally used for rehearsing specific acts or individual training. Quite a few of our number train as often as six days a week, including formal classes at The Dust Palace and PoleRevolutionz.
Acts tend to be conceived through animated discussions following attendance at one of the many amazing productions that are on near constant display in our vibrant city or, alternatively, when something goes amusingly awry at training. For example, acro-burlesque was born when, in the middle of a stunt, serendipitously loose clothing and a slipped position resulted in my base nearly pulling my pants off by accident. Full shows take much longer and much more preparation. Dystopian Dreams has been in the works for nearly a year, starting with monthly group brainstorming sessions.
Tell us about your newest work. Is it an evolution of your style?
Our newest work is Dystopian Dreams. It is easily the most ambitious work that we have put forth to date. With this production we have tried to push our own limits and present a story of oppression and rebellion and its many potential outcomes using circus arts and dance to convey multiple threads in a theatrical style.
Who are your audience?
This is another delightfully difficult question to answer. We have enormous support from other circus groups and enthusiasts around the country, as well a large contingent of generally-theatrical people such us live action role players (LARPers), period re-enactors, and steampunk enthusiasts. We have a lot of local support throughout Auckland that can’t be specifically categorized as well!
Who are your key creatives?
It’s difficult to pinpoint the key creatives in a group connected by their shared passion and creativity. I would be here all day if I went into all the amazing and diverse acts being produced on a constant basis by nearly every member. There are a few people whose names you may recognize from recent activities, however. Mathilde (Praline Parfait) has made a name for herself in the burlesque scene and is responsible for a large number of our dance choreographies, with 25 years of training backing up her expertise in burlesque, cabaret, and contemporary. Ivan the Red is a self-made Jack-of-all-Trades that regularly delights with original dance, burlesque, fire, and character performances. Pandora Cherie is another in the dance and burlesque scene, known for her cheeky demeanour and fabulous costuming. Anna Cruse is a driving force behind a lot of our ‘recruitment’ activities and performances as igniting a passion for circus in others is definitely one of her key strengths. Acrobatic choreographies tend to be co-creations of all the members involved.
What shows are you working on next?
While we don’t have anything large in the works at the moment, being deep into production with Dystopian Dreams, keep your eyes out for Silver Circle Cabaret Nights. These are periodic one-off shows featuring a range of new faces and established performers and showcasing the full range of skills present in our group. Praline Parfait created Silver Circle Cabaret Nights to address the growing need for performance opportunities as our member base has grown and we are hoping to make them a regular monthly event once everything settles after Dystopian Dreams closes.
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Dystopian Dreams, The Rose Centre, Belmont, Auckland. 8 pm 25 Februaty to 1 March.