training

We are Family

By Nicholette Routhier

I’ll begin with a glimpse into a recent rehearsal: Hannah said, “Nico, the look on your face after you fart is precious. Someone should take a picture.” Juliana immediately responded, “Oh, I did!”

Full disclosure: I fart in rehearsal more often than I’d like to admit, but, apparently, every time I do it, I look like this: 

So it can’t be that bad, right?

My ensemble members generally don’t mind my occasional tooting. In fact, some even say they like the smell. And, don’t get me wrong, I’m not the only one who lets ‘em rip! With the tumbling, flipping, and contorting we do with our bodies, we’re all doomed to squeak them out on occasion. It comes with the territory.

The reason why I share this is to let you in on a little secret: we UpLifters are uber human – we laugh, we cry, and yes, we even fart, and through it all, we love one another like family because, in our hearts (and our farts!), we are family. Our trust, love, and friendship run deep, and these qualities translate to the work we perform onstage. As performing artist Bay Bryan said after seeing our performance of "Terra Incognita"this summer, “Vulnerability flows throughout this highly energetic and at-times poignant performance, which is a testament to not only the choreography, but also to the talents of each individual and the talents of the collective as a whole…”

Our rehearsals are infused with passion for the theatre we create. I love this video appropriately called “Happy Dance." In it, you get a glimpse into one of the ways we express excitement and enthusiasm for new ideas. When we are struck with something powerful, it is not unusual for one of us to shout, clap, well-up with tears, or even do a “happy dance.” We honor our creative geniuses with deep appreciation and celebration.

As you can imagine, our rehearsals are not all fun and farts. Most of the time, they are quite intense – we work hard, train hard, and focus our creative energy for hours on end. At times, this builds a kind of pressure that eventually needs to be released. Sometimes we channel it into even more fiercely  physical work, sometimes we yell, sometimes we drop into deep conversations, and sometimes, we dance.

I love this video of Alyssa, Hannah and Moses in rehearsal because it perfectly represents the scope of our process in a brief, yet specific moment. Before you watch it, please allow me to give you a bit of context. In the beginning, you will see Alyssa and Hannah attempting a new skill. Alyssa is harnessed into a “spotting belt” and Moses is “spotting” on a rope attached to the harness. Hannah and Alyssa attempt the skill several times (Spoiler alert: They don’t achieve it.) They give the most common reasons for struggling with a skill (i.e. the clothes are in the way, someone is tired, etc.) Then they decide to let it go for the day. That’s when the magic happens. (You’ll have to watch to see what I mean! Trust me – it’s worth it!) What I love about this part of the video is that my ensemble members are as focused when they play as they are when they work. That’s the key - we flow between work and play with seamless precision. You might even say we’re professionals!

In the end, we’re people bonded together by a collective love, and through that love, we’ve uncovered a friendship like no other. Family. Truly. And you know what they say about families that fart together…

… make great art together!

Photo and video credits: Hannah Gaff, Juliana Frick, and Dan Norman

Aging Acrobats

by Juliana Frick

As mentioned in the previous blog post, we are making a new show! A lot is different this time around. From an ensemble of eight we have become three. Our last show we were a mixed-gendered group, in this iteration we are all female-bodied. We are all roughly the same size, meaning there is not as clear a distinction between the classic base and flyer roles (not that we have ever been interested in adhering to that formality). We are giving ourselves longer than two-weeks to make a show.

And finally, the difference that I am most interested in:

We are building a show with acrobats who are all in their thirties.

My sister, 13 years my senior, would laugh at me for making a big deal about being thirty. Yes, yes, yes, we are still young and all that blahblahblah etc. etc. BUT in the lifespan of an acrobat, we are entering into a different phase which more acutely begs the question:

How do we continue to gain highly-physical acrobatic skill while also gaining years (and all the wear and tear that comes with it) in our bodies?

Some of us began training our various physical disciplines when we were young. I started on the trapeze at age five, acrobatics at age nine and partner hand-to-hand at age ten. I had a beautiful short-lived career touring with youth-circus Circus Smirkus until I got kicked out for shoplifting when I was 14 (seriously). I stopped doing acrobatics at that point, picking it up again in my twenties where I promptly learned my first lesson of post-adolescent partner acrobatics: I can not simply rely on being smaller than everyone else. In my adult-body, I have to be smart. I have to think about form and efficiency and working with my partner to find the place of ease between us.

Now, a decade later, I’m undergoing a similar process. My primary mode of play is to SMASH. I love throwing myself into things, gaining power from high-velocity impact. For the last ten years my body could do this with little warm-up and recovery time. Lately though, it takes longer to get my wrists ready for weight-bearing. Impact with the ground echoes through my joints. I have to be more proactive in reminding my spine it is more related to a snake than a stick.

What I am discovering is that, once again, I have to be smarter in how I train. As Director of Training (capitalized to represent how ridiculously pleased I feel about this title), I’m undertaking a research project that looks closely at all the joints in our bodies. I’m trying to define in very specific terms what we are asking those joints to do in our work and then creating a training program to facilitate that.

UpLift is not interested in creating a spectacle of impressive physical feats. We are interested in using a highly-physical vocabulary to tell human stories. We are both acrobats and actors, athletes and poets. As I embark on this little research project, I will look at the physical forces acting on our bodies but I will also look at the stories we are telling, what qualities those stories require us to step into. To that end, my job in UpLift is to liberate us from anything holding us back from the full spectrum of physical expression.

I’ll let you know how the research goes.