Interview with an Aerialist: Phoebe Knight

Phoebe Knight talks to us about her transition from dancer to aerialist, her favorite circus skills, and her coffee addiction. 

You go to “circus school”, is that correct?
I started circus classes during my dance training, to learn something physically exciting and fun, without having to think about meaning. After a couple of years of taking evening classes every so often in flying trapeze, and then Chinese Pole, I decided to apply for the 16 week foundation course at The Hangar, Woolwich. Here we studied full time many different disciplines; trapeze, silks, hoop, rope, pole, flying, acro, acrobalance, performance and yoga. The course builds to a performance, where each student showcases an act. I specialised in Chinese Pole.

Is there a particular area of circus skills about which you are passionate?
Chinese Pole is definitely my main passion, but I am also very passionate about circus that is fun and accessible, yet is also trying to break performance boundaries. I think that’s where my dance training and critical eye comes in.

Did you find in your studies that you excelled in a certain area?
Due to my build, I definitely took more to basing than being thrown around. I also think that my background helps me with my body awareness, so improvising on equipment (once I had a good foundation of knowledge) came more naturally.

Previous to circus school you were a dancer, how did the transition from dancer to circus artist come about? Do you still dance?
I half mentioned this previously, but I was fed up of contemporary dance being so inaccessible and trying to mean something; I just wanted to have fun and something to take my mind off my studies. This is where flying trapeze came in. And during these classes I would watch the people on the Chinese Pole with such awe that I just had to give it a go. I sometimes dance, and it is something I would like to do more in the future. One day I wish for all my experiences to be able to gel alongside each other and enhance one another, so I will continue to dance when the time is right.

How much time do you spend training? Do you train outside of the school time?
Unfortunately I do not train as much as I wish; paying my rent gets in the way. But I am working to change this. Over the summer I am taking part in an internship with Chaplins Circus, where I shall be training, performing and learning all the technical aspects, all summer long.

To be good at your chosen field, have you had to make any sacrifices? If so, what are/were those?
I don’t believe so. But then again this is something I’m taking time to build up. Over the years the sacrifices will grow, but I don’t believe them to be sudden. Just gradual growing away from things and focusing more on where I want to be and what steps need to happen to get there. Starting circus has definitely had it’s challenges, but it has also challenged me to be kinder to myself and others, physically and mentally.

What is your diet like? You must have eat healthily to keep strong and energized when you train in such a difficult field.
I’m a vegan, and I definitely find that when I’m training a lot, I have to be conscious of how I’m fueling my body, be that with iron and protein supplements and making sure to eat enough and drink plenty of water. One thing I really enjoy about training is that you can feel that the fuel you have fed yourself is being turned in to energy. But of course it’s important to treat yourself too. And my coffee addiction probably isn’t that helpful…

What has been your proudest moment so far, in regards to ground based work, and aerial work?
Definitely the showcase at the end of the foundation course. The course was so intense and the performance was a culmination of years of hard work and personal challenges. Having never performed solo in front of an audience before made the performance even that much more daunting, but hearing the audience react during the act, and the cheer at the end, was such an overwhelmingly emotional and happy moment. That’s another thing I love about circus. The audience are involved; you receive instant feedback through their reaction, and you are with them, rather than just being watched by them.

Do you ever feel at risk during a performance?
I haven’t yet, but that’s because I have always been cautious with safety; double checking and always keeping an eye out for any risks. And Its good to listen to your body. If you know you are really tired when training (like, your body is telling you ‘no’ tired) then you need to listen to it. Same goes for the monthly cycle; it all affects your awareness and to stay safe you need to listen to what your body is telling you.

If you had to provide a training tip, or words of wisdom to our readers, what would it be?
To not compare yourself to others. Everybody is a different body with different experiences. You shouldn’t expect to be at the same level as someone else, or pick things up at the same speed, or be good at the same things. All you need to concentrate on is yourself, and you will see the improvement within yourself. And to be proud of the effort, the accomplishments are just the icing on the cake.

Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
Living in a movable self built home, performing, teaching and rigging, with a beautiful community of people. Somewhere sunny.

Author: Victoria Snaith

Snaith founded touring theatre company, Dread Falls Theatre, in 2011. Inspired by folk tales from around the world, Snaith immerses audiences in magical and imaginative worlds through her use of imaginative stage design, physical storytelling, puppets, and circus skills.

To learn more about Victoria and her work visit www.facebook.com/dreadfallstheatre or Tweet her @victoria_dft