Partners in life and partners on the stage! We caught up with Joana Dias and Mike Corr who are performing in our family show, Bedtime Stories, at the Gulbenkian in Kent on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th September. We wanted to find out a thing or two about how they got into circus, how they met and what they love most about Bedtime Stories……
What was your first experience of watching a circus performance?
JOANA: My first ever experience was watching The Monte Carlo International Circus Festival on the television. I loved one of the acts of contortionists and I remember going to my room every night after that and trying to read a book in one of the bendy positions I saw. Then I also went to a traditional circus with my primary school. I remember thinking It was one of the best experiences of my life.
How did you get into performing as a circus artist?
MIKE: I had practiced ‘Tricking‘ (Martial arts acrobatics) from a young age (about 11). I planned to study Philosophy at university and already had some placements. My friend had mentioned a circus school in London where he attended classes and as the time passed the idea became more and more appealing to me. Eventually I decided to go for it, nailed the audition, ditched my academic plans and went from there.
How long have you both been performing together and how did you meet?
JOANA: We met when studying at the National Centre for Circus Arts, we started getting closer by the end of the second year and then we decided to start training in hand to hand together. We share the same values and similar dreams. Since graduating we have been performing together for about 2 years. We’ve accomplished so much working together, personally and professionally. We visited already 15 countries together, it’s just amazing!
What are the greatest challenges of the job?
MIKE: It can be stressful at times in terms of learning routines and pre-show nerves. A mistake during a show can potentially lead to embarrassment or injury of which I have experinced both; injury especially can be very tough because it means you cannot work. In January, I twisted my ankle doing a backflip on a wobbly stage and then was home bound for several months, that wasn’t fun and it’s still not 100% now. In general though it’s pretty great, every day is different and brings new experiences.
JOANA: I did musical theatre/dance/singing before and if there’s a mistake you can always improvise safely but with circus, a mistake can cause an injury. In hand to hand it’s hard because you are not working just by yourself, you can also injure your partner. That’s why I respect this art form so much. I had an injury on my elbows so I had to try to find a solution in order to still work.
I love performing, it’s my passion and it’s my life. It’s always a surprise, you never know which kind of project is coming next. I don’t necessarily think of this as a job. With Circus you can be the hero of your story and you can make magic happen and being able to perform to different audiences is just the most amazing thing.
What do you love most about circus performance?
MIKE: In school I was very shy and used to get nervous reading aloud to the class. Now I have done live shows to over 40000 people and to see my self improvement makes me proud and feels a little surreal. Also the fact that on stage you get into a character which liberates you to act unlike you ever would in real life with all the confidence in the world.
JOANA: I feel circus performance empowered me. I’ve grown so much and finally found myself as an artist in a way that I couldn’t ever have found with another art form. I think also the fact that circus is always about taking risks, makes me more confident about myself. Circus has no race, sexual orientation or gender. You can be yourself or you can play other characters which is so much fun. I have performed for so many different audiences and each one of them has helped me improve as an artist. The best payment for what we do, for all of these years of hard work and dedication is a round of applause, a standing ovation, it couldn’t be better or more fascinating. When I look back I remember some of my family or strangers saying circus, what’s that? You can’t have a future. I think I can now say I’ve proven them wrong, and that’s so satisfying!!
Tell us about Bedtime Stories, why do you think the show has been so successful?
JOANA: It’s a really beautiful and touching piece of work. I was involved in the first creation week and I remember thinking I can’t wait to see how the show is going to be done. It’s successful because it’s a show for families, rather than just for children. It’s also really funny and silly but it has a message behind it that makes people think. This storyline blended with amazing circus skills makes it refreshing and exciting. I love the beds and beanbags that the audiences get to sit on – so comfortable!
MIKE: It is a show with many layers, it is silly and fun in some places but other scenes are very emotional and touching. It’s not a childrens show where the parents just sit through waiting for it to end – it’s a perfect example of a show that appeals to child and parent alike and brings up some real issues which I’m sure ring true to a lot of adults out there. Circus acts are universally entertaining for any age and they complement this storyline very nicely. Also, the fact that the audience are sprawled out over beds and beanbags is awesome and is a selling point within itself!
Do you have any tips for someone interested in pursuing a career in circus or aerial performance?
JOANA: Yes, follow your dreams. Anyone is capable of doing anything in this life in my opinion. In circus, dreams can come true with a lot of hard work, passion and determination. It takes years of work to have a good technique and performing skills. Some different disciplines are easier than others to some people, you just have to find which one makes you click and makes you feel special.
MIKE: It’s quite a commitment and certainly isn’t easy to learn, one flip which lasts for one second takes years of practice in itself. I do believe anyone is capable of anything (within reason) if they put their mind to it. Attending a circus school would be an obvious next step, not just to learn the skills but also as a gateway to the industry. Although it’s not necessary that was probably the best decision I have ever made and I would encourage anyone looking to pursue a career in circus to seriously consider it.
Catch Joana and Mike at the Gulbenkian in Canterbury on Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th September. Discounted family ticket option available.