‘Circus helped me realise that academic abilities aren’t the be all and end all of success’

PUBLISHED: 18:00 03 April 2017

Luke juggling his clubs

Luke juggling his clubs


Luke Hallgarten grew up in Golders Green and attended Hampstead Garden Suburb primary and King Alfred’s before running away to join the circus

Luke Hallgarten grew up in Golders Green and attended Hampstead Garden Suburb primary and King Alfred’s before running away to join the circus. He tells BRIDGET GALTON about his choices.

Q How did growing up in Golders Green prepare you for circus life?

A The biggest influence on me was the Heath. Having a large green open space was the biggest privilege of my adolescence. Walking or cycling to school everyday with trees all around gives you time to think more openly about your future.

Q What prompted your decision?

A I’m dyslexic and school never came easily to me, I’m not very good at sitting still and had little academic confidence. Circus gave me a passion and confidence in myself. It helped me realise that academic abilities aren’t the be all and end all of success.

On stage I was finding more and more conviction but I failed my AS levels pretty spectacularly and it was then I decided circus was the way forward. I spent three years on the FDA and BA programme at the National Centre for Circus Arts (NCCA in Hoxton), before continuing my studies in France.

Q How difficult has it been to learn your craft at Le Lido circus school?

A Circus skills take a huge amount of time and dedication. I currently train 2-4 hours a day, but whilst at the NCCA it was 5-7 hours. Le Lido is an ‘école superieure’ which means everyone has finished a circus school and is at a high technical level. It’s one of the only completely free circus schools. We are paid for our training, we are not graded and the pedagogy is largely based around autonomous learning. Once a month we have a public show of new work.

Q What’s the difference between traditional and contemporary circus?

A Good question! Traditional circus is generally about human ability whilst contemporary circus is about the human condition. In the same way that ballet is close to pure expression of technical ability, whilst contemporary dance questions what can we express with that ability. People think circus is all elephants and red nose clowns whereas now it’s about reality. There’s no illusion, no hidden string. Just real people with very real risk.

Q Your show at Jackson’s Lane is about identity

A We are eight artists from eight countries who all moved to France for Le Lido. It was a big shock realising how different cultures view our own. I always considered roast dinner was our national dish, but everyone else said it was fish and chips! We started thinking about what we assume about our identities and how others view us which led to looking at how we typecast ourselves as say a sporty or a party person. We then turned this on its head. What if the nerds played sport and the royal family were a bunch of ravers?

Q The show explores ‘collision and collaboration’.

A We wanted an ensemble show that was not cabaret style of act after act but more creating an artistic universe. We also wanted to celebrate each of our cultures and us individually. It’s collaboration in the creation of the show, collision in the personalities within. As we went on we realised these two words are intrinsically linked, collaboration cannot happen without the collisions of ideas and the resolution of a problem. And collision cannot happen without individuals working on the same thing.

Q What’s the most difficult thing you’ve learned?

A Ooh, I’d say juggling seven clubs. After three years it’s still not stage ready. Hopefully I’ll be performing it by July.

Si Ca Vous Derange Pas? is at Jacksons Lane, Highgate April 6-7.

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