Eli GreenBalancing Act

You don’t have to be an acrobat, or even a circus performer to be concerned about the balance between life dreams and an all-absorbing work life. But if you are in the circus, you are not immune from this struggle any more than anyone else.

For Adelaide-born acrobat Eli Green, one of the star performers in Circus Oz, which is about to hit her home town with its latest show Barely Contained for the Adelaide Festival, this is one of the balancing acts she contends with. Wrapped in the work she loves, and in which she has been engaged all her life from the age of 6, Eli is faced with the reality of no base to call “home” for seven years: no predictable daily routine, and maintaining a relationship with a boyfriend who does stay put are part of the cost of pursuing her dream occupation.

However, her infectious enthusiasm for this itinerant, challenging and creative occupation bubbles through as this open, animated and passionate young woman expounds on life in the circus. She caught the bug as a child in Adelaide when she lived just down the street from the “Cirkids” circus training school. She watched the excitement there until she was old enough to join when she turned 6, and has never looked back. She looked sideways for a year, toying less enthusiastically with architecture studies, until the call of the National Institute of Circus Arts in Melbourne got her back in the Ring.

Balance is one of the things she enjoys about Circus Oz. Its philosophy demands equality amongst its performers, riggers, musicians, men, women, all of whom have equal opportunity for input into the show and its direction. But aren’t there prima donnas in any performing troupe? “Well certainly not on stage”, Eli assures me. There’s a huge amount of trust necessary in circus performing, especially in coordinated group acts, such as the hoop jumping which is part of Eli’s repertoire. “Each of us has full responsibility for the others, and everyone knowing that they all have the same sense of responsibility for each other creates strong personal bonds.”

A natural comic, Eli has had to find a balance between her urge to creativity, which she could give free rein to as a street performer, developing her act, (doing extraordinary things with hula hoops) playing the audience like a puppeteer on the one hand, and the crucial need to fit with live musicians and to ensure complete coordination with her fellow performers on the other. Nevertheless she asserts that she has been able to find the freedom to create, to express herself naturally, rather than having to be the “graceful, sexy female” so often expected of women in circus.

Circus Oz | Barely ContainedHaving toured interstate and internationally, does she notice differences between audiences? Outdoor audiences are different from those in the big top, she explains. Canadian audiences expect a great deal of political correctness – “ I had to be very careful!” European audiences are more laid back and accepting, and Australian audiences are in between. So how does she feel about coming home to perform in Adelaide? “I like Adelaide audiences,“ she assures me, yet there is something different about them in Festival time. That difference is yet to be divined.

Barely Contained will be new to Adelaide, but it has been well received throughout regional NSW and Victoria, and at the recent Sydney Festival. Inevitably thinking of Cirque du Soleil I wondered if it had a story line. I sensed a slight unwelcome-ness to such a reference, which presumably dogs - and bugs - any other circus troupe. Yes -  Eli graciously acknowledged that we must thank C du S for bringing circus arts to the forefront of peoples’ awareness. Barely Contained is loosely based on a Ballroom turning chaotic. It’s been on the road for about a year, and has evolved organically from its beginnings to what will be seen in Adelaide. And therein lies another balancing act: one of the greatest challenges – to keep the thread, while being creative and fresh, and “to make the 400th performance just as magic as the first”.

If Eli Green is anything to judge the magic by, this will be a show not to miss. Jump through any hoops you have to, to see it!


CIRCUS OZ: BARELY CONTAINED opens February 24 as part of the 2010 Adelaide Festival. Further details»

Top Right - Eli Green
Bottom Right - (l-r) Jeremy Davies, Flip Kammerer, Paul O'Keeffe, Eli Green, Emma J Hawkins, Tom Flanagan, Luke Taylor, Mel Fyfe.
Photos - Jess Bialek

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