Performing In Shows
Performing In Shows
Lucy Francis (Arialist, acrobat, circus performer and teacher) gives expert video advice on: Do you get scared when you perform?; Where's the strangest place you've done a performance?; Where's your favourite place to perform? and more...
Do you get nervous when you perform?
Sometimes I do get nervous when I perform, and if I'm doing a handstand act which I have to be very still for then I get really nervous. That doesn't help but if I'm doing something like flying trapeze, then you use the nerves and turn it into adrenaline and excitement and that, the adrenaline, then takes over so it's good nerves. If bad nerves come into it then it generally equals up to a bad performance, so you have to use your nerves in the right way and just go with the energy that they give. It's more excitement than nerves.
Do you get scared when you perform?
If you're with flying trapeze for example, if you don't get scared, then you'll fall. You always have to have that touch of reality that yes, this is dangerous, and yes, I could fall, and you have to be a little bit scared to get your brain into the right focus mode to make sure that you actually catch your pass. If you're too scared then no, then you won't be able to do it. It's again about using the nerves in the right way to channel it into focus, and then it's good.
Do you wear something special when you perform?
Yes. If you're doing trapeze or rope, you want your whole body covered so that you don't get burned. If you're doing some sexy glamour show, then you have to wear not very much. But if you're doing aerial stuff you definitely have to be covered because if you get burned, it's pretty tough on the body. With flying trapeze you can get away with not really wearing that much because you just get caught by hands. You have to wear special wrist things for flying trapeze so that when you get caught, you don't slip. A lot of aerial performers wear rosin, which is the sticky stuff. You can't see it, but it is something that you have to wear if you're going to do something that you need to stick to.
Do you have a set routine that you perform?
Yeah, most gigs are set. A corporate there will hire an act, a ready made act. If you're in a show then you may go along, and there may be parts of a show where they say "oh, can you just improvise it within there?" I've done a lot of improvising gigs where I've turned up and not known what the hell is going on. I turn up and I'm okay, but if you've got experience like walkabout acrobatics for example, they will hire you just to entertain. You can do whatever you want. When you get there, you assess out the situation and then go "oh, theres a gap - I can do a row of backflips there". So sometimes yes, sometimes no - it depends. Generally, you'll have an act that will be hired.
How long does it take to learn a new routine?
If you've been a circus performer for a long time, and you've got the skills behind you, then you can learn an act in a night. I generally do. Someone may call and say, “Can you do a hoop act on Saturday night?” and I'll go “Yes” and then I'll make it up that night, put some music on and run it off in my head, and then the next day try it out. But if there are say more of you, or two of you in a routine and you need to sync it all together then it will take longer. You may need to train up to a month for a new act.
Where's the strangest place you've done a performance?
There's a lot of gigs where you can turn up, and, say, they've hired you for an acrobat. There's two of you, and say someone stands there, and they lift you in handstand, so it's very tall. You turn up, and you're in a room that's a normal sized room, and you're like, "Well, where do you expect me to do that sort of thing?" That happens quite a bit, and you have to find room. This one guy had a party in his flat, in his penthouse flat. And he said it's massive, it's really high. "Can you come along and rig up a bar and hang a trapeze off it?" This is all on the phone, and I'm like, "okay, yeah." He's explaining what he wants, lots of acrobatics around the room and stuff. Sure enough, I turn up, and it's like, okay, right. It was quite high, but not that high. So we did struggle to put a trapeze up, but we really couldn't do that much on it - just sit there and smile a lot at his guests. And then there was literally no space to do any acrobatics whatsoever, other than ask people to move so that I could just do a handstand. That was quite weird.
Where's the most dangerous place you've done a performance?
I guess the Dome was pretty dangerous. The top was fifty meters, we were performing at about forty meters high on a trapeze that wasn't fixed, well it was fixed but what it was fixed to was spinning around. So that was quite dangerous but good fun, very good fun.
Where's your favourite place to perform?
The dome, that was the best show I've ever done. It was the biggest and best - spectacular. And will never be done again, I doubt. I did that last year, the year 2000. It was because of the danger, the height, the space, the manicness of the whole show.
Is performing on the stage different from TV work?
Some things with TV, it's restricted. They may say that they want you to do just one move, but they'll only zoom in on a certain part of it so it comes off to be put on TV. And they work quite differently. They may, say for a dive, want the whole dive. Or they may just want to see the moment of impact on the water, something like that. I did one TV show where I actually had a stage to perform on, so that was like doing a show on the stage. It depends what kind of TV. It's the same as being an actor. You may turn up and they say, "Can you just sit in that box?" And we're just going to film your feet wiggling. Something like that. So, yes, it's different.
Do you work with animals?
The only animals that have been part of a show that I've been in is snakes, and I absolutely hate snakes. So other than snakes, no.
Do you regularly perform with the same people?
Yeah, with my flying trapeze troupe. Yes, I performed with them all the time, because it was an act, a group act, and same with acrobatics, I have a partner who I work with all the time. Generally, if you turn up to a gig, corporate especially, all the other acts that are on, you will generally know them all, and, every so often, you will go to another gig and say "Oh hi, You were at the last gig, I remember you." So yeah, it's quite a small circuit of people, and everyone knows everybody else, so you generally work with people who you've met before.
What is the best thing about performing?
The best thing about performing? It's the adrenaline buzz that I get from doing what I do. Flying trapeze, especially, is purely about the buzz and the physical aspect of it. You sweat, and people love it. It's always good to do something you get clapped for, and they like it. That's a really good feeling. Other than that, that's it, that's good enough - adrenaline.
What is the worst thing about performing?
The worst thing about performing? It can be really hard, the training. If you're in a show, it can be pretty demanding. Sometimes you're injured and you have to work through injuries, or perform and you know you've got dodgy areas in your body that you've got to keep an eye on. If the audience hate it, they don't like you, and they boo you.