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Circus Tricks: Interview with Yaron Lifschitz

23 April 2016 | Lydia Cooper

Yaron Lifschitz is the Artistic Director of Circa, a company that’s bringing a bold new show to the Udderbelly Festival this spring. We chat about pushing the political, accidental career choices and rubbish drawings.

London Calling: Can you tell us about your new piece Closer, which will be performed at Udderbelly Festival this spring?

Yaron Lifschitz: It’s a show that combines high-level acrobatics with great warmth and connection – it imagines a world where intimacy and power are not opposites, where humour and thrills can co-exist, where show tunes and electronica can mix. I really wanted to create a show of intimate elegance, simplicity and joy that would put a smile on people’s faces and warm their hearts but which was not just fun – these are complicated times and I wanted to make something enjoyable.
 
LC: What were your influences and inspiration for Closer?

YF: Mainly the five incredible artists I work with. I have tried to draw the show from them – from their skills and personalities. It is a happy group of rich and complex artists and that seemed like a perfect place to start.


LC: The performance was designed with the ‘upside down purple cow’ of Udderbelly in mind. How did you go about creating it?

YF: I never tell the details of how we make shows! But roughly you start at the beginning, go ‘til it doesn’t work, panic, fret and then imagine something…

LC: Your choreography demonstrates a clear interest in lines and shapes, forms and bodies; it sounds almost like fluid drawings or animations. Do you explore any other art forms in your spare time?

YF: I am the WORST drawer. I also can’t act, dance, sing or do anything artistically. I like ideas and how they work in the real world. So for me the choreographic dimension of circus is full of all the basic compositional elements. It’s like Kandinsky – colour and shape creating emotions. I tend to overanalyse things, so the wordless and improbable power of circus is a good discipline for me. I know it connects and moves people but I really don’t know how. I don’t think I have many hobbies actually – travel, reading, talking and listening to music are about it.
 
LC: Your recent work The Return dealt with the experiences of refugees over the centuries and was loosely based on a work by Monteverdi. What, in your mind, is the connection between politics and physical performance?

YF: The body is always political. It is both absolutely actual (the most present thing we have) and at the same time a jumbled storehouse of fantasies, connections, traces and histories. It is always changing and becoming. Plus we all have one! So it is constantly negotiating and arguing and it is the perfect place for ideas to fight it out. And most ideas, at their heart, are political. This doesn’t mean slogans and shouting.  Closer is about intimacy, warmth and connection. These are deeply political thoughts. Would you hug a Muslim? A Jew? Donald Trump? 
 
LC: How did you become involved in creating circus pieces in Brisbane and eventually becoming the Artistic Director of Circa?

YF: I failed as a theatre director. I ran away to Brisbane and to circus and had the privilege of being away from the limelight, making things up and experimenting. It was one of those happy accidents. 
 
LC: You’ve pioneered circus as an art form, founding Circa in 2004 and pushing the boundaries of what can be realised on stage. Where do you envisage Circa going next?

YF: We are always evolving. This year we will present eight new creations, each one of them different. The world is so big and there are so many ideas we can only ever scratch the surface. 
 
LC: Circa will be at the Southbank Centre for two months, from April to June. Will you be staying in London throughout this period? If so, what are your plans for spending time in the city? 

YF: I’ll be there for about half of the season. I love running along the Thames in the early morning, the great galleries and museums, some shows, lots of meetings and catching up with friends. As London goes into spring and summer it becomes a thrillingly alive city – I love it.

 

Circa’s show Closer will be at the Southbank Centre at Udderbelly Festival from Thursday 7 April - Sunday 12 June 2016. Tickets from £14.

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