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Q&A/The Festival Sessions/Circus/Dance/Fringe World Festival/Visual Art

Dance that defies gravity

11 January 2021

Celebrating the strength of three women, She is Strong is a work that sees two local companies join forces. Aerial dance collective Natural Wings and Rachel Collier Photography have created a work that promises to leave the audience with a sense of community and connection.

Photographer Rachel Collier takes Seesaw readers behind the scenes of ‘She is Strong’.

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A woman stands with her back to the camera. She is twirling five hoops about her body, she is in motion and her arms are extended upwards. Another woman watches. They are both wearing light coloured tops and black loose pants. The image is black and white.
Natural Wings rehearsing for ‘She is Strong’. Photo: Rachel Collier Photography

Seesaw: Hi Rachel. Can you tell us a bit about your own venture, Rachel Collier Photography, and Natural Wings?
Rachel Collier:
Natural Wings is a multi-award-winning company, known for fusing circus with dance and theatre. Rachel Collier Photography is passionate about invoking emotion through imagery; telling stories and capturing the natural/ raw moments.

Natural Wings’ first self-devised work won the Best Solo Show at Wellington Fringe in 2006, and has since produced nine full-length aerial dance/circus works, and won six awards including Best WA Circus Show at Fringe World (twice) and The People’s Choice Award at Toronto Buskerfest.

This team of strong, inspired, creative women are dedicated to connecting with their audiences and making the arts accessible to all.

S: Tell us about She is Strong, the work Natural Wings and Rachel Collier Photography are presenting at Fringe World 2021
RC:
She is Strong is a celebration of strength in every sense of the world, telling the stories of three inspirational women through circus, dance and photography. The show is raw – much of it is improvised, the moments natural, the relationships honest. We endeavour to leave our audience feeling a sense of connection, community and joy of which we have all felt in creating this work .

S: What inspired you to make this work?
RC:
We wanted to create something raw, something real. We wanted to celebrate flaws, the struggles, the journeys that make us the women we are today. We were inspired to show some of the behind the scenes of women in circus and the stories that allow us to create in the way we do.

S: Take us behind the scenes of your show – what happens backstage?
RC:
We all have different backgrounds and experiences and this leads to an interesting mash up of pre-show rituals. There is ALWAYS coffee. There is dancing to a specific jam which generally also involves a sing along. There are check ins with one another and intention setting for the show. There is support and love, there are profanities and there is a pre show “whoosh.”

A woman hands from the ropes of a trapeze, which flings out behind her. Her back is to the camera. Two women watch her. They all wear white fitted tops and loose-fitting black pants.
‘The show is raw – much of it is improvised, the moments natural, the relationships honest.’ Photo: Rachel Collier Photography

S: Aside from your own show, what are you looking forward to seeing at Fringe World 2021?
RC:
Our people. Fringe is such a wonderful celebration of the arts in Western Australia and it is such an amazing opportunity to catch up with friends, support one another’s shows, share a bite to eat, train, skill share and generally just be in fabulous company. We generally end up exhausted but happy humans.

S: No interview is complete without reflecting on 2020. How has living through a global pandemic shaped or changed your practice?
RC:
It has made us hugely thankful to be in the position we are in; to be performing and doing what we love, when so many of our friends across the world are still not able to do so. It has made us appreciate our family, friends and colleagues. It has forced us to slow down and revaluate where we want to be as artists, what type of work we want to present. It made us train differently, learn new skills and pushed us out of our comfort zones in so many ways.

S: What has been your pandemic silver lining?
RC:
This show. She is Strong was created during this pandemic. The concept came to light in the midst of it. It was actually birthed during a camping trip following Fringe World last year so it is pretty special that it is now being presented for Fringe 2021.

S: What is your favourite part of the playground?
RC:
We are a troupe of aerialists so it’s gotta be the swings!

She is Strong plays the Art Room @ Girls School, 15-24 January, as part of Fringe World 2021.

Pictured top: ‘She is Strong’ tells the stories of three inspirational women. Facing the camera is Dawn Pascoe. Photo: Rachel Collier Photography


“The Fringe Sessions” is an annual series of Q&A interviews with artists who will be appearing at Fringe World. Stay tuned for more!

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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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