Spotlight On…

Showcasing and celebrating the incredible freelance artists that Upswing has worked with: Discover what they’ve been up to over lockdown and learn more about how to work with them here…

Sadiq Sadiq

A man wearing white clothes is duct-taped to a large stone pillar
Photo by Glen Mccarty

We were thrilled to host an extract of Sadiq’s The Chosen Haram at our 2019 mixed-bill show Circus Circus Circus. Since then, Sadiq has transformed the show into a short film, and is now working to bring it back to the stage:

“As an artist, last year meant adapting your practice and your vision to the world we found ourselves in. Without stages to share stories I decided to take an idea I was working on for theatre and create a short film with it. This is the result.

A cross between circus and narrative film The Chosen Haram explores a queer relationship within the structures of faith, sexuality and addiction. This experimentation means that the idea is still growing and adapting and I can’t wait to share the live version to audiences when we can! ” 

A man is filmed about to balance on a chinese pole
Photo by Glen Mccarty

Learn more about Sadiq’s process with The Chosen Haram:

We invited Sadiq to discuss his creative process with the piece at our Slow Thinking Session 6. You can watch that here.

This great article by Sadiq for Dalston Superstore gives an insightful look into his journey with the piece and where his ideas stemmed from.

If you know of a creation space that Sadiq can develop ideas for the stage show of The Chosen Haram in, or have (physical or digital) space that would like to host the full length film, get in touch!

Stay in touch with Sadiq on Instagram 

Follow The Chosen Haram’s Dedicated Instagram

 

Symoné 

We followed Symoné’s journey with her piece, Utopian, throughout our 2018-2019 residency and stage show – Circus Circus Circus with Certain Blacks. Now she is developing that same piece into a theatre production, alongside much, much more! Take a glimpse into her world:

A woman wearing stilettos swings from a pole on a bright pink background.
Photo by Gerald Jenkins
“Lockdown has taught me to enjoy slowness and helped me to understand more of who I am as an artist and what I like to work on. I’ve been more aware of my own authenticity, what I love to explore in my work  and staying true to who I am in my art. The first start of lockdown I was actually excited by slowing down my work and being on stage. I was exhausted and understood then that as an introvert whose job is very extroverted, I was overdue the time to rest.
 
The past 10 months I have spent my time expanding my current practices with hula hoops, roller skating, pole dancing, and voguing. I have delved more into other practices, particularly writing, sound design and video editing, which I continue to learn.  Apart from that, I’ve learned that play is a huge part of how I like to make work, and sometimes relaxing, dancing in the shower, watching a film and playing a video game will naturally inspire my work in some form without me needing to be consciously aware. Or, it might not and that’s also important.
 
A black woman stands in a white room, spinning lots of hula hoops around her body
Photo by Momentos Photos
Over the past year I’ve been working on my live art theatre production, UTOPIAN (t&c’s apply), supported by Arts Council England, The Place, Cambridge Junction, and Buzzcut. Upswing was a part of the very babysteps of this project 2 years ago alongside Certain Blacks, and I’m so happy to say it finally the show has some legs! I have been fortunate to work with an amazing team of directors, dramaturges and artists during this period.
 
I have been able to do the things I have held in the back of my head, things I’ve “always wanted to do”. I’ve been working with The Feathers of the Daedalus Circus on a new circus drag king show. For 4 years now I’ve craved creating a drag king character and he is finally coming to life through this show.  At some point in the near or far future I look forward to performing with The Feathers of the Daedalus Circus and my own show UTOPIAN (t&c’s apply) on stage.
 
My latest news is that I have spent time working with Instagram to celebrate US Black History month, we collaborated on a project together where I had the opportunity to share what I do and why it brings so much fruition in my life. The interview was posted on their Editorial page and has over 2 million views so far.
 
A black woman stands in front of a brick wall in a sparkly blue bodysuit holding a hula hoop
Photo by The Cocoa Butter Club
I also will be working with ARC Stockton as one of the Artists of Change. This opportunity is immensely exciting for me right now, an opportunity to help make change in the theatre/performance sector with a company that is open to disrupt hierarchy in the arts. My time with ARC Stockton the next year will be spent working with their community, supporting POC and LGBTQI+ artists, and expanding my own artistic practice. 
 
Despite lockdown, I’m staying active, physically, mentally, and creatively. I’ve had some cool things happen over the past year, but I’m leaning away from old habits of “hustle culture” and just saying ‘no’ more, prioritising my health and wellbeing. My balance between my personal time and time with friends and family vs. work has shifted and I’ve created a circle of good people that check in and care for each other.”
 
Symoné keeps us up to date on her social media, as well as an exclusive Newsletter that comes out every 2-3 months with projects, performances and call-outs. Find links to those below, as well as her website where you can get more info on current work and online hoop coaching opportunities! 
 

Mike Corr

mid-shot of a man leaning on a stone wall outdoors in a navy turtleneck
Photo by Rachel Hardwick Photography

Mike has worked alongside Upswing as a freelance circus artist on some of our leading projects, like Bedtime Stories and our Circus Flavours events. Hear about his incredible feats over lockdown, and check out his Youtube channel below!

“Last year I have mainly been working on growing my youtube channel. I have made over 6 hours of juggling and circus tutorials with lots of circus training films and sketches.
 
I’ve kept up my training and adapted to the lockdowns, doing yoga daily for the past 6 months. I also started running and completed my first half marathon & lost a total of 10kg since march. 
 
I also managed to get a quick photoshoot in!”
 
Mike shares all of his circus know-how over on his Youtube channel, from ‘How To Tornado Kick’ and ‘How To Juggle’, to ‘How To Progress Faster & Learn Skills More Efficiently’ – and he uploads a new video each week! 

Zaki Musa

Back in 2020 Zaki took us up on a free ‘Support Surgery‘, offered by Upswing in order to help circus artists develop their ideas. He’s been kind enough to share his journey throughout 2020, and his next steps as a freelance creative:

A performer balances on an aerial hoop under a bright spotlight on stage.

“As with everyone during lockdown, I honestly felt directionless. I wanted to figure out who I was as an ‘artist’ so I could pitch myself to the right people

I came into the Support Surgery with a different set of questions, but left with better answers. Vicki [Amedume, Upswing’s Artistic Director] was very focused and gave me clear advice on a multitude of things, from funding, to my personal creative practice and understanding myself, and also where my “tribe” was. It forced me to think about what I had to offer as an aerialist, and what was unique/special to me.

Based off our conversations, I honed in on where the work was, what the acts looked like, and how I could deliver my own flavour and style – staying true to myself as a performer and artist, whilst fitting the theme/brief of what cabaret places are looking for.

Because of the Black Lives Matter movement, I’ve been questioning my identity and ambiguity, I’m not white, black or identifiably brown (ie south asian), and so it was also about me finding where I stood in a sea of performers as I couldn’t find anyone who looked like me, or did what I did – there was no clear path to follow.

I kept trying new ways of presenting myself as a performer during lockdown and, after the first lockdown, I definitely found a way of presenting that was niche to the queer cabaret scene. I spent time developing a floor/chair act as well, and worked to offer myself as a “boylesque” artist, working with the Raze Collective, Cocoa Butter Club digitally, Mariah & Friendz & Outhaus at Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, Bitten Peach at the Bridge Theatre, and other gigs.

A performer dances and smiles on a purple-lit stage wearing platform heels.

That being said, whilst it’s been surprisingly busy, it’s definitely been a push and a hustle as all the rates have been cut across the board, due to the coronavirus and seating.

I’ve definitely worked on establishing myself in the cabaret scene, but for 2021, I’d love to hone in on my voice and want to explore deeper themes surrounding performative masculinity in circus, and the pressure of fitting/ not fitting into a mould. I like the idea of playing with traditional tropes of what masculinity looks like in circus. The session really stayed with me as I try to find the balance of creative vs commercial.”

Zaki also created his own website over lockdown and is helping other creatives to set up sites that showcase their work, you can find out more about how to work with him, his online workshop series, and his recent projects here: