Bianco at The Southbank Centre showcases the talents of some of the world’s boldest and brightest circus performers. But this isn’t a show where the viewer merely stares in amazement from the sidelines, rather it is an immersive experience with jaw-dropping stunts happening all around you. Taking a break from conquering death-defying heights, contortionist, hand balancer and aerial extraordinaire Ella Rose spoke to us about what it takes to perform in such a daring show and how circus pushes boundaries.
London Calling: Tell us a bit about your performance specialties, how did you get into it and how long have you been training for?
Ella Rose: I’ve been training since I was a kid, I grew up in Australia and they had a full time professional children’s circus, and I just did it like any other sort of hobby and really loved it. Then I was introduced into the full time programme combining circus performance with academic school. I grew up performing and training there until I was 16. Then I moved to Melbourne and I did more formal training at the National Institute of Circus Art, specialising in contortion, handstands and aerial training.
LC: What is it like to appear in the show with so many other talented performers?
ER: Honestly, I’m in awe every single day. From the day I got here I was like ‘oh my god, I can’t believe I’m working with these incredible people.’ It never gets old, everyday I think these people I work with are just incredible and so inspiring.
LC: Would you say it is different from a typical circus show?
ER: Circus is about pushing boundaries. People want to see things they haven’t seen before and see bodies being used in ways they haven’t been used before. They’re looking for different experiences and I think Bianco really delivers that. The way we use our space is really unique, there are no seats and the audience are standing. They move with us, which is really interesting. A lot of people aren’t quite sure what to make of it at first, but by the end they are really involved in the performance.
Photo credit: Tristram Kenton
LC: Obviously you’re doing something incredibly daring every night. Do you always feel nervous or has it just become normal for you?
ER: I think that a certain level of nerves in a performance is healthy, if you’re not nervous there’s a certain danger to becoming complacent. If you’re not feeling alive, like what you’re about to do is a bit crazy, you’re always really in touch with what you’re doing. But of course you don’t want to be freaking out about what you do, and that’s why we practice so much.
LC: It’s described as an immersive performance, what is it like being so close to the audience?
ER: I’ve never done anything quite like this. I’ve done shows that interact with the audience and done things where you rose through the audience, but never a full-length show designed specifically around them. It’s quite a challenging element for us, where we have to think about our act and the way that we perform. The audience is that much closer to you and you have to think about everything you do in terms of their safety.
LC: Do you get a real adrenaline rush from performing?
ER: In any live performance you feed off the audience’s energy, and the more they give, the more alive and the more adrenaline you feel. In a show like Bianco where the audience is so involved they give you so much energy and we get to give them a really good show as a result.
Bianco runs from 15 December – 22 January at Southbank Centre. Tickets are between £25-£39.50. Find out more here.