By A Thread: Open Letter From One Fell Swoop Co-Founder

Published in Arts  

What happens when you give seven acrobats thirty metres of rope?

Circus piece 'By A Thread' by One Fell Swoop explores the relationship between trust and play, as the performers are hoisted and swung around creating tableaux and mesmerising examples of cause and effect.

Here, co-Founder of One Fell Swoop Charice Rust pens an open letter about the show and circus itself.

“'By a Thread' is an ensemble circus show that uses seven acrobats and thirty metres of rope strung through two industrial pullies. We use this seemingly simple framework to explore how we relate to each other, and find ourselves part of a new wave of contemporary circus expression.

Borrowing the wave metaphor from feminism, Antonella Casella, Senior Artistic Associate of Circus Oz, recently described the changes contemporary circus has undergone in the last 40 years, ending with a nod to its future.

The ‘first wave’ of contemporary circus emerged in the 1970s through companies such as Circus Oz and Cirque du Soleil that moved circus away from the classical form with animals and a ringmaster, and started using it to tell stories. The second wave saw smaller companies strip away even more to focus on the raw physicality and human endeavour of acrobatics.


The wave metaphor is useful in circus’ understanding of itself, and how we can track the way a new form emerges that looks very different to earlier forms. We are excited to be riding the crest of the third wave of contemporary circus, part of an explosion of new companies that are pushing how circus can be expressed as an art form. Aided by the work of the previous groups stripping back the conventions of the classic forms of circus, this new wave is characterised by work that is elite in skill, genre-crossing, and steeped in complex ideas and the authentic lived experience of the performers.

We made 'By A Thread' to use the evocative meaning implicit in acrobatic skills to explore larger ideas. If one acrobat is on the rope then the ensemble must provide an equal force to the other end to hold them aloft. The trust and risk inherent in acrobatics is used to illustrate the trust and risk in our relationships as individuals, in partnerships, or in groups in society. The physics of our pulley system is the vehicle through which we explore everyday ways of relating to others – moments of confusion, hilarity, romance, fear, isolation, friendship – life magnified.

– Charice Rust”

'By A Thread' plays Big Top at The Pleasure Garden (Fringe World Perth) from 12-25 February and The Peacock at Gluttony (Adelaide Fringe) from 2-18 March.


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