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PLAYING WITH FIRE:Will Flanagan, who features in the Pitch’d Circus Arts Festival this month
PLAYING WITH FIRE:Will Flanagan, who features in the Pitch’d Circus Arts Festival this month
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Embrace the art of showing off

THE idea of ‘running away with the circus’ has long been frowned upon in many circles, but there’s a growing community of Cork artists striving to dispel this age old taboo and prove that circus is a fun, beautiful artform for everyone.artform for everyone.

This month, Cork will host its first ever Circus Arts Festival — Pitch’d — running across three weekends from September 16 to October 1, in conjunction with Sounds From a Safe Harbour, Cork Comedy Festival and Cork Folk Festival.

Run by the team at Cork Circus Factory, the festival is funded by Cork City Council and Arts Council Ireland, and according to its website, it aims to “educate artists and the public in what circus is, what it can be, and what Cork can offer to the world.”

Cormac Mohally, Circus Factory founder and director, who is one half of Cork street theatre and comedy duo, Lords of Strut — who recently gained fame reaching the semi-final of the Britain’s Got Talent TV show — says circus should not be shunned but rather embraced as “the art of showing off”.

“There’s a lot of personal challenge and achievement in circus. It’s about self-improvement and exploration. It’s about learning something new and showing other people the amazing things you’ve learned while making it entertaining,” said Cormac.

“It’s about connecting with other people to create something unique and beautiful. Circus is a multi-disciplinary art form and has scope for a really broad range of talents. Some people multi-disciplinary art form and has scope for a really broad range of talents. Some people Circus is a multi-disciplinary art form and has scope for a really broad range of talents. Some people focus on the comedy side of things and want to make people laugh while others want to explore movement, dance, acrobatics and aerial performance. It encompasses and encourages a wide range of skills and there’s a big cross-over with physical theatre and other art forms,” he said.cross-over with physical theatre and other art forms,” he said.

The Circus Factory was founded in 2009 by a small group of artists in Camden Palace, then moved to Albert Quay for five years before relocating, due to development, on the Centre Park Road, where the group this year took on a five year lease of a large warehouse with a high roof suitable for practicing aerial skills.

The community has grown considerably in the last few years. Not just in terms of membership having risen to over 100 regular attendees, but in terms of the almost 2,000 adults and young people who have attended Circus Factory workshops and classes, plus the thousands of people who have enjoyed street performances by Circus Factory members during the city’s various festivals.having risen to over 100 regular attendees, but in terms of the almost 2,000 adults and young people who have attended Circus Factory workshops and classes, plus the thousands of people who have enjoyed street performances by Circus Factory members during the city’s various festivals.

 IN A SPIN: Kathleen Doherty gives two masterclasses on September 23 and 24 as part of the festival.

IN A SPIN: Kathleen Doherty gives two masterclasses on September 23 and 24 as part of the festival.

Circus Factory committee member Louisa Sloan got involved with the community three years ago after moving to Cork from Wicklow. She has a background in visual arts but had no experience of physical performance.

“I’d been doing yoga and pilates and I was interested in getting back to dance and movement and some friends recommended the Circus Factory. I went along to an open session and I was quite shy but the group was really friendly and I was ‘flying’ on the first day, doing partner acrobatics and learning how to do handstands!” she said.

“It took me a while to get fully involved but I started doing courses in aerial silks and trapeze and I developed a real passion for it. Circus is a lovely way to explore creative movement and there’s a lot of fun in skill-sharing and learning from others. It’s very much about engaging creatively with other people and the circus festival is all about connecting the Circus Factory with the public,” she said.

Louisa said that Pitch’d is also about providing high quality training and creation workshops with national and international artists that are open to performers involved in various disciplines including circus, music and theatre. There’s an eclectic programme of live events and workshops on offer, including free family street theatre shows and activities for people with no circus experience to take part in, including juggling, acrobatics, music and movement classes, to aerial performance and choreography.

“The festival is open to anyone interested in the creation of physical work. There will be collaborative workshops exploring music and movement, culminating in live performances, and there will be free workshops giving people the opportunity to try out all kinds of circus skills. I’d encourage anyone to check out the programme and see what they’re interested in because there’s something for everyone,” she said.

Cormac added that there are also many different levels of enjoyment in circus but that connecting with the public is what brings circus to life.

“The festival will give people the opportunity give circus a go and see what they like. There are so many disciplines and so many different levels of enjoyment — from getting involved and learning something new and gaining a sense of trick satisfaction, to going to the challenge of taking what you’ve learned to the stage and showing people what you can do, be it amature or professional.

“One of the reasons I love circus and street theatre is because it brings the arts to people who find it hard to go through the doors of a traditional theatre.

“Circus performers are artists and that’s why the Circus Factory is so important because it gives artists somewhere to train and grow the circus festival will bring circus to a wider audience across Cork,” he said.

Pitch’d Circus Arts Festival takes place in various locations around the city over three weekends from September 16 to October 1. See www.circusfactorycork/pitchd or www.facecebook.com/circusfactory