Q&A/The Festival Sessions/Circus/Fringe World Festival

The ageless craft of circus

21 January 2019

Rachel Bodenstaff of CircusWA and Natano Fa’anana of Casus Circus have joined forces and talent to create Cutting Teeth for CircusWA’s Sliders Youth Circus.  Described as ‘a whimsical and fun look at the crossroad of youth and adulthood… a story of coming of age told through the ageless craft of circus’, Cutting Teeth will be performed by circus artists between the ages of 15 and 22.

Ahead of the work’s two Fringe World seasons, Seesaw caught up with Bodenstaff and Fa’anana.

Rachel Bodenstaff

Seesaw: When did you first know that you wanted to be an performer?
Rachel Bodenstaff: I was a “performer” from an early age, putting on shows for my family and getting my parents to film them. Although it was probably through performing at circus school that I realised I wanted to perform/work with artists.

Natano Fa’anana

Natano Fa’anana: I was a pretty late starter. I literally ran away with the circus at the age of 30. I had watched my brothers perform dance and circus but only tried my hand at circus at the age of 29. After that I was obsessed

S: Tell us about your training… 
RB: Most of my training has been “on the job”, but I have had the opportunity to train overseas and interstate for short periods of time.

NF: I like to say I am “backyard trained”. I had some community circus training in the early days but I couldn’t afford to do all the classes so I would train my aerials silks in a tree. In Brisbane I would see someone with skills I admired and that person would teach them to me. So I had no formal training, just informal fun learning.

S: Describe your artistic practice…
RB: My role is predominantly directing and mentoring young people, creating shows and performance opportunities for the younger generation of artists.

NF: I’m a big advocate for culture and substance in circus. I’m cut from a significantly sturdy yet fabulous cloth. My beginnings were Polytoxic, a six-strong collective which fused Pacific and Australian culture. Then Briefs Factory, which is an all male political, satire high octane cabaret. Currently I am co-director of Casus Circus (Knee Deep, Driftwood, Chasing Smoke). All creations have social commentary, high circus skill and culture.

S: What do you love most about what you do?
RB: I love to watch a show evolve. I love seeing it progress from a concept or idea into a full show. It is also pretty inspiring to see young performers develop as artists. I have had the opportunity to watch many of the young artists I work with grow from children to adults which is special in itself.

NF: So many things. As you know, I am currently working with Rachel and Sliders Youth Circus on Cutting Teeth. I enjoy passing my knowledge onto the next generation of circus artists.

I’ve known Rachel since our early days in our circus stories and we have supported each others careers over the last 10 years. Now together we are creating a show which is a joy. We bounce off each other and guide the young performers, creating a show that is both enjoyable in the making and hopefully on stage.

S: Funniest career moment so far?
RB: Too many!! Working with this crew I am in stitches most days!

NF: So so many. I once went out on stage without my pants on. I was supposed to wear them under my lava lava (a sarong). In this act I would walk out, stand proud and strong under a spot light and remove my lava lava. Mid-reveal I realised I wasn’t wearing any pants and sheepishly had to scurry back through the curtain to find my bottoms.

S: What made you decide to present work at Fringe World this year?
RB: It’s a fabulous opportunity to highlight what CircusWA has to offer and such a wonderful opportunity for this young crew. They are all so excited about performing our new show as part of the Fringe line-up!

NF: Cutting Teeth. I’ve been working with Rachel and Sliders Youth Circus sporadically over the last six months so it’s time to continue and then premiere!

Tell us about Cutting Teeth!
RB: Our show is about youth experience. It is a representation of the challenges, joy and journeys on which young people embark. It features some of WA’s up and coming artists with mad skills!

NF: Cutting Teeth explores that intersection in life that most young people face: leaving school, parting ways with friends, illnesses that influence life choices, influences from peers, family and friends. These themes are showcased through the lens of contemporary circus. You will see a four person rope act, a juggling act with costume changes, double trapeze, duo acro and something called puppy hammer.

S: Aside from your show, what are you looking forward to seeing/doing at Fringe?
RB: Fringe is not only a fabulously inspiring time but it is a time to catch up with interstate and international artists. The circus community is very close knit and it really is an opportunity to hang out, catch up and support each other.

NF: Apart from Cutting Teeth I can recommend, Club Briefs, Trash Test Dummies, Djuki Mala, Lovefool, Only Bones V01, Phat Cab Club, Yuck Circus and Laser Kiwi. These are mates and loads of fun.

S: What’s your favourite part of the playground?
RB: No brainer – monkey bars.
NF: Merry-Go-Rounds. But you have to go super fast with a drink in your hand.

Cutting Teeth plays at The Freo Big Top 24 – 25 January and at The Big Top at  The Woodside Pleasure Garden 31 January – 3 February.

Pictured top are cast members from “Cutting Teeth”.

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked as an arts writer and critic since 2007. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. As a freelancer she has written extensively for The West Australian and Dance Australia magazine, co-editing the latter from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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