”After college I found a fabrics class before I found an adult tumbling class, and I fell in love!”
By EJ Wickes
Charlie Faraday at work (above)
Like all dedicated artists Faraday is her own worst critic. Regardless of her consistently innovative and provocative performances, she always demands better of herself. We asked what motivated her desire for the aerial arts; how she felt about its influence on pop-culture and the importance of always seeking qualified instruction. Here’s what she had to say:
The Metamodern: What inspired you to be an acrobat and clown? Or was it clown and then acrobat?
The moment when it ‘clicked’ that that was what you wanted to do?
Charlie Faraday: When I was a little girl I wanted to do gymnastics, but my mom insisted on swimming because of her (totally justified: I was and continue to be very clumsy) concern that I would hurt myself. After college I found a fabrics class before I found an adult tumbling class, and I fell in love! At the same time, I was working as a character at Disneyland. I suppose that would mean that I became a clown first, though I wasn’t aware of it at the time! I wrote my first “real” clowning act this summer while I was recovering from an injury and couldn’t perform in the air.
MM: Could you explain some of the differences between techniques, styles and what you do; why you might prefer one apparatus to another?
CF: There are a variety of different names for each discipline, depending on where you’re from (apparatuses have French names in addition to the English ones people may know because many of them originated in France). For the most part, each apparatus is exactly what it sounds like: hoop (lyra, cerceau) is a circular steel ring; fabric (silk, tissu) is two long pieces of cloth, rope (corde, corde lisse) is a rope, straps are two flat, woven bands, and chains are chains and trapeze is trapeze (but almost everyone knows what a trapeze looks like!). I’m not sure what pulls people toward one apparatus or another, though in my experience most acrobats working at a high level who can and do perform on everything still have a preference. I gravitate toward rope, fabric, and chains, though I’ve been flirting with trapeze for a few years.
MM: What type of employment did your career choice bring you when you were starting out? Must have had some interesting jobs that were related to your training?
CF: I was once the #1 call when an event at the Nesquick Headquarters required an appearance by the Nesquick Bunny, though I’m not sure that’s what you had in mind!
MM: Weren’t you in Disneyland for a while? You must be in hundreds of photo albums around the world! What was it like working for them?
CF: Disney has VERY strict rules on grooming and demeanor: natural colored hair, no tattoos or piercings, no swearing, no revealing clothing or any garments in poor repair. That said, one of my favorite characters to play was Pluto, Mickey’s pet hound (which I know doesn’t make sense because Goofy is a dog and is Mickey’s friend, but you’re just not supposed to think about it too much. Embrace the wonder.). Pluto is curious and mischievous and a big scaredy cat, so I got in all kinds of trouble from digging through trash cans to burying children’s autograph books in the bushes!
MM: Aerial performance art has become quite visible with the popularity of Cirque du Soleil, etc. over the years. We’ve seen it in pop music with Pink, etc. and there’s a great deal of crossover with modern dance with groups like “Bandaloop” and films like “Stay” starring Ewan McGregor, Naomi Watts and Ryan Gosling. (Check it out, good movie). How has this affected the credibility or popularity of the art?
CF: It’s been good for it, but with greater awareness comes the greater possibility for misunderstanding. Aerial disciplines are performed at heights of 20, 30, 50 feet, generally without nets or safety harnesses because of the risk of getting tangled. Performers work tirelessly to make skills look effortless and beautiful. Because of this, the dangerous nature of our work is easily downplayed by novice performers and teachers. The number one most important piece of safety equipment is a performer’s facility on the apparatus and intimate knowledge of their own skill and where it ends.
MM: Pop-culture has a way of integrating and mixing different martial art and dance aesthetics into physical fitness programs these days; Thai-Bo, Pole Dancing classes, etc. Where’s your head at with the commercialization of the art form in pop-culture and or physical fitness? Is it beneficial for the art; in some ways I’m sure it is. But sometimes, from a visual artist’s perspective, when something artistically elegant hits pop-culture through trend, there’s a certain amount of mass-marketing that occurs which tends to “spiritually” cheapen it to some degree. Does that make sense? What’s your perspective?
CF: My main concern with the popularity of the discipline is safety. It’s grossly irresponsible to train one day a week for a year and believe that creates a sufficient knowledge base to be able to begin instructing others. Unfortunately, I’m familiar with several accidents recently that resulted because of teachers who were still students themselves, skills being attempted before the student had a good understanding of the apparatus on which they were working, and instruction that was incomplete or downright incorrect. I don’t feel students should have to earn the right to train like they had to when family circuses were more in vogue, but I do believe that anyone who wants to teach should first ask their coach if they are ready to do so and heed their response, whatever it may be. Aerial yoga is a separate discipline that uses a different apparatus to teach different skills. I do believe that aerial yoga instruction can be done safely without a circus background. That said, because of the popularity of circus arts, many aerial yoga students want to learn more acrobatic maneuvers. In that case, they should seek instruction by qualified aerial coaches.
MM: What’s the “ultimate” gig for Charlie Faraday? What would be your ultimate specialty? Performance obviously; perhaps choreography; some teaching? Cirque? You are a bit of a dichotomy. So who’s to say what your ultimate gig would be. Maybe the Clown will take you somewhere you never expected. Talk about your experience with the Cirque process, etc.?
CF: My ultimate gig would be to have one of my acts purchased by Cirque or to be hired to workshop a new act with them. That said, I would be so happy to take work on any touring show now that I’m healed and back in the air!
MM: How does the Clown interact with the Aerialist? Is there “clowning” in the air and acrobatics in the clown? Have you experimented with any crossover there?
CF: There certainly is! There is a beautiful French duo trapeze clowning act that showed at Monte Carlo last year or the year before, and I loved the adorable clown duo on lyra in Cirque Italia this year! For me, the air is where I put dark emotions that I don’t know how to process on the ground, so I haven’t felt any inspiration to take clowning there. It’s a sort of sacred space for unpleasantness. I have incorporated acrobatics into my clowning work, however (on the ground!).
DARKER MARKER PRODUCTIONS
Charlie Faraday is a current member of both the Cirque du Soleil and Marvel Universe Live casting databases and is the former head acrobatic coach of the Southern California circus troop Airealistic. Her students later went on to train at the prestigious École Nationale de Cirque and the Joffrey School of Ballet. In addition to being a performer and professional acrobat, Charlie is also a personal health and fitness consultant. To learn more visit darkermarkerproductions.com