This month we interviewed National Centre for Circus Arts BA Hons graduate, Joana Dias about her experience training here and her plans for the future…
When was your first experience of circus?
My background is dancing and singing and I met a guy who said to me “Ah Joanna you have to go to Chapitô” [circus school in Portugal]. He said “you’re so creative, this will be a great experience”. I remember walking into this school and it was really colourful and joyful. I knew that I wanted to try circus. I think I’ve always had it in my heart a little bit.
How did you make the decision to train at the National Centre for Circus Arts?
I was thinking of going to France but because dance was my background I always wanted to come to England. I did ballroom dancing for seven years, but my destiny dropped me in another direction and I’m here!
What support have you been given at National Centre for Circus Arts?
Everyone was really supportive; I made friends straight away. I had some struggles in the first year as I auditioned [to do hand to hand] with a partner and he left a few months later. It was really sad because it was a discipline that I was really passionate about and suddenly I couldn’t do it anymore.
Being in another country is hard and for me it was the first time away from my family. I’d never worked before so I had to grow up; to be less of a girl and start to be a woman. I could’ve stopped, there were moments when I thought “I’m just going to give up” but I had the support of my family, my class and all the degree office. They all supported me to try another specialisation and find me. I also had financial support from the Leverhulme Hardship Fund – I had to apply a few times because I didn’t have any money and I couldn’t work 30 hours a week to pay my rent, my food and everything. I also had friends that supported me and gave me lots of love. That was great and I felt like I wasn’t fighting alone.
What have you enjoyed most?
All my classes were really fun, especially in my discipline [aerial hoop] – I’ve had a great relationship with my teachers. Before, I didn’t feel like I was special but here, on this course and in this environment I feel special. I feel unique with my colleagues – each of them, they know me… it’s nice to know that people identify with you as an individual.
What are you doing at the moment – tell me about Hōp and performing with Silver Lining.
Hōp was really good. We did a lot of research – trying to find what hope is and Struan [Leslie, the Director] was really enjoyable to work with. We went to the Tate Britain and saw some paintings by William Blake and Francis Bacon and then we went to the [London Wonderground] Spiegeltent to see where we were going to perform; it was so cosy and intimate. I just wanted to create something which I’d never done before and explore something new on the hoop or hand-to-hand. Working with others was the thing that I really focused on – I really wanted to give it everything I could.
I was really excited to perform with Silver Lining. We had a week of rehearsal time in the Creation Studio and it was a bit scary because I was like “we’re just going to rehearse for a week and then go out and perform!” but it was really good. They do a lot of improvising so we could try things. Of course there are always limits but we can improvise and work with the audience. For me this is really good because I haven’t even finished school yet and I’ve already been getting some experience.
What are you looking forward to about graduating? What are you worried about?
I want to just perform, or teach, or both… and create shows! I’m worried about how people are going to see me in the real world… how people are going to see me as a performer. I think it’s going to take a lot of time to find myself as a person, an individual and an artist. I’m looking forward to doing other things… to train with other artists as well; I think you learn a lot if you train with other people. Maybe I’ll go to other countries and other places where people train because at the moment all I know about circus is in London and a little bit of the circus in Portugal.
Have you got any specific plans for the future?
Yes, I’m trying to create a company with [fellow students] Angeliki and Chiara. Working in my own company would be the perfect job for me because I can sing, dance, do circus, build a tent… And create something around all the different skills I have instead of doing something for someone else.
What are the three best things about being a circus artist?
You can be the hero in your story; Circus is a community, and for me it’s about sharing; finally, you can travel. I think circus is still a travelling art form. You can go to the street and you can make a show, you can go to a theatre or a tent, you can go to different countries. Travelling is the best thing.
What are the three worst things?
Injuries; being afraid of falling… of dropping, not catching the hoop, it’s really bad to get the fear; and I still feel like people in general don’t see circus as art. They always see it as entertainment only and a lot of the time that’s in a tent with clowns. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; I like clowns. But their idea of circus is not the same as my idea of circus. And for me that’s a bad thing now because I don’t know if we can change all of the minds all over the world.
What advice would you give to someone who was considering training in circus?
Stay focused and try different things and find what is best for your body. Circus isn’t just about one trick that you can show to people. You can do that but I think circus is about trying that trick and trying to explain something with that trick.
If you had a magic wand, what three things would you like to do in the next five years?
It’s not that I want to be famous, but I want to be unique and I want people to talk about me, to know that I’m different. I want people to say “she’s amazing” or “I couldn’t stop looking at her when she was moving or doing that trick”. I want to be in a company, so much. My own company and I want to find the relationship between movement and circus skills.