Sector Development - Upswing

Upswing is committed to offering high quality training in Circus Arts to professional artists and to the next generation of aspiring artists. We are particularly committed to offering training that is free or affordable and accessible to a diverse range of students. Below you can read about the significant impact we have had on the emerging careers of several young artists.


Milton Lopes

Milton Lopes

Milton Born in the Cape Verde Islands and raised in Portugal (now residing in London), he has a background in acting and music.  Milton took part in Step Up 2011. He continued training with Upswing after the course and then went on to be part of the Paralympic Opening Ceremony in London 2012, Extraordinary Bodies and The Kingfisher and the Damselfly by Everybody Dance.

The circus, it’s not very diverse and when you don’t see yourself represented you think “I’m never going to do this because this is not for me.”

I did my first aerial workshop in 2009 with Graeae Theatre Company. I started with a group of performers with different disabilities.  I did not feel I could invest in further training, I did not see the potential of a career.   As an actor, I already see myself constantly fighting against the lack of diversity on stage and screen, so I was not ready to start another war.

When Step Up came along it gave me an opportunity to gain experience. I was starting to develop ideas for a ‘Elephant…’ and one of my ideas was to use skills where my both hands are needed, like play the guitar. (I don’t have fingers on my left hand)

The intensive course and weekly training with Upswing encouraged me to carry on. A very important thing I saw in Step Up was people with the same dilemmas.   When you share a space with people that have similar experiences you don’t feel alone.

After that just kept getting jobs.  I kept thinking this is just a one off because I’m not a proper aerialist. But then I started having more and more work.  This year I have been developing “Elephant…’’, it has been 6 years in the making and began with a few monologues I wrote about being mixed race and having a disability.  I just finished my R&D in February supported by Lab:time2 funding from the National Centre of Circus Arts and Arts Council and firstly developed through the Open Lab scheme at Barbican/Guildhall. It will be a multidisciplinary show combining circus, theatre and live music.”



Mei Mac
Mei is an actor who has trained with Fourth Monkey Theatre Company and has performed extensively across a range of companies and settings.  She attended Step Up in January 2014, having just finished her acting training and keen to develop an additional craft.  She has now gone on to be part of the Inflight program.
“(Step Up) gave me a really solid foundation: all the training I’ve done since goes back to what I learnt on those 2 weeks in terms of the way you learn, safety, the pace at which you can work your body and a real understanding of conditioning- where your body needs to be in order to keep progressing. I feel very blessed to have had such a rigorous training from Upswing.

My biggest gig last year was being cast in a Birmingham Rep production. They were looking for actors with a range of skills and having circus skills on my CV definitely put me at an advantage over other performers.

Aerial training also teaches you mental strength. In aerial you have to fail many times before you get it right and that gives you extra resilience in the rehearsal room. Aerial is also the artform you have to be most calm for, this is another lifeskill I feel that I have learnt.”


Jessica Andrade

Jessica Andrade
Jessica is an actor who has trained at East 15 Acting school on the physical theatre course. She graduated in 2011 and took part in Step Up that January. She continued training with Upswing went on to become an education associate and is currently developing a solo aerial theatre piece supported by Arts Council England, Rifco Arts and Upswing.

“My Aerial artistic development began in 2011 when I took part in the two week intensive aerial programme, from there my passion grew. After the two week programme, Upswing continued to train me in aerial at National Centre For Circus, and we soon gained our ACDC membership to train there independantly.

I loved training and wanted to get more theatrically involved since I had graduated from East15 Acting School Physical Theatre, so when Inflight came up I jumped at the chance. This course gave me the chance to develop my aerial skills aswell as give me a creative outlet to experiment with ideas.

At the end of the course I managed to showcase my aerial theatre piece on silks using outdoor rigging in the woods. This gave me the confidence to produce my own creative aerial work. Thanks to the continuous mentoring and training from Upswing I am proud to be showcasing my aerial theatre piece at Watford Palace, part of Rifco Arts British Asian Festival 2016.”


Rachel Brennan 
With a 1st class degree in Dance from London Studio Centre,  Rachel applied for Step Up on something of a whim, her sense of adventure prompting her to get away from dance and try something different…..

“I was drawn by the attraction of a free week-long training that didn’t require me to worry about taking a financial risk.   Once up in the air I was hooked, and after the training immediately set about trying to find affordable ways to continue circus training. Until Inflight came along, I couldn’t afford aerial.  Living and training in London involves a razor edge existence, worrying about how best to spend any extra money, e.g do I join the gym or take a dance class? Both Step Up and Inflight have allowed me to put questions of money aside and just thinking about the training.

Getting a place on the 2 year Inflight program has been career changing. A year ago, I couldn’t do a handstand and was very scared to do a tumble, now I’m high up in the air, flipping around on the apparatus, realising I can actually do this as a career. Instead of just focusing on dance, I now would much rather focus on aerial dance and circus theatre. I’m still a baby in the game but I can now see where I want to go over the next few years…”



Daniel Ash
Daniel’s background is in physical theatre and cabaret work that fuses burlesque, mime and clowning. He attended Step Up in January 2014, and later that year was accepted on to the Circus Degree course at the National Centre for Circus Arts.

“Step Up not only gave us incredible physical training, but it also was really character building. It was like a condensed 2 week version of Circus School! Without that experience I would never have had the confidence to apply (and get in) to the NCCA training.

It is amazing to now be following my dream. If you’d told me 2 years ago that I would be entering my second year of Circus School and on my way to becoming a professional Circus Artist, I would have laughed! I am already getting gigs and am teaching regularly, so beginning to make a living out of it. I am told that graduates from NCCA enjoy a 95% employment rate, so I am feeling pretty positive about the future.”



Charline Kandilian
Charline comes from a Circus family – her parents run a Circus School in Grenoble. Charline has a Masters degree in Sports Teaching and Training from the university of Grenoble and she worked as a circus trainer in the family business before coming to the UK where she completed her Foundation Degree at the National Centre for Circus Arts in London. Her ambition has always been to combine performing and teaching in Circus.

“I feel that Upswing accelerated my career development by trusting completely in me and giving me the level of responsibility I knew I was ready for, but feared I wouldn’t get as I was fresh out of circus school.

I have always wanted to teach as much as perform and have never seen teaching as the poor relative, but feel that the two activities feed each other. I am particularly interested in how audiences who have taken part in classes view circus in a much more involved and intimate way, rather than simply being awed by the superhuman feats.

I have greatly valued the support and help Upswing has offered me in developing my own work as an artist here, and the fact that they have always been available to chat about any aspects of my practice.”


Anna BogosAnna Bogos Headshot
Anna discovered Upswing at Haringey Sixth Form College where she regularly attended the free “Enrichment Class” we offer there. Her talent and potential soon became evident and with encouragement from her teacher she applied for Inflight and got a place on the program.

“I feel that my lessons with Upswing gave me the skills and confidence to take aerial seriously and build up a routine which I performed at Diversity Day at college. I am now really enjoying Inflight and hope to continue my aerial training alongside my acting degree at Middlesex that starts in September. My ambition is to act, and to be able to perform aerial as an additional skill.”