Running rings around other acts hula-hoop artist Lisa Lottie is just one of the many performers appearing at Laya Healthcare’s City Spectacular event in Cork’s Fitzgerald Park says Ken Phelan
“I STARTED hula-hooping when I was 20 years old, which was quite late, but not too late, thankfully. I really got into it and couldn’t stop practising; I really enjoyed it and after some time literally ran away and joined a circus.
“I just thought it was something I didn’t want to turn down and I thought I’d give it a go. As it happened, it turned out really well.
“The job with the circus was in India. The Indian government in 2005 had suspended the licences for using exotic animals like lions and tigers etc, so in an attempt to save the circus — which was an Indian tradition running for more than a hundred years — they thought it would be an ‘exotic’ idea to get white people performing instead.
“So I was part of a team of four European performers who were used by an Indian circus as new entertainment. When that job came along, I knew I wanted to travel and see the world, so it was a really exciting opportunity for me.”
Although running away to the circus helped give Lisa a sense of direction, conditions there left a lot to be desired.
“I didn’t really like the circus very much because the working conditions were a bit harsh and also they didn’t look after the animals very well. They didn’t really look after the people very well either. I didn’t enjoy it very much, but it was still an experience and still the best thing I’d ever done in my life — the best decision I’d ever made.”
What did Lisa’s parents think of her joining the circus?
“They thought it was very very weird, but you know, my parents are really awesome people and they always let me do just whatever I want in order to find the thing I love the most.
“I don’t think they took it very seriously when I told them I was going to become a circus performer, but now they’re very proud of me and really love what I do.”
Lisa is mostly self-trained, but also trained at the National Brazilian Circus School in Rio de Janeiro and holds a degree from the Conservatoire for Dance & Drama in London. In 2011, when Lisa graduated from circus school, she set up a world tour, which was booked out straight away.
“I’ve pretty much performed at every street performance festival in the world, in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Dubai, the Middle East — I’ve done most of the big street performance festivals. I’ve also performed at big music festivals like the Rock in Rio music festival in Rio de Janeiro , and also Rock in Rio in Las Vegas and Lisbon. I’ve performed at Glastonbury music festival and a bunch of other music festivals, so with my act I’ve probably performed in about 50 countries so far.”
LISA’S act, being so physically demanding, involves a lot of training, conditioning and practice to gain the flexibility and skill required. Lisa trains an hour and a half to two hours flexibility a day, as well as training for hula hoop tricks and anything new for the act. In total, she trains up to five hours a day, six days a week. In preparation for a show, are there any specific preparations needed?
“It really depends on how cold it is outside, so if it’s a beautiful summer’s day I might spend 30-45 minutes stretching on a yoga mat in the grass, but if it’s quite cold and it’s raining then I might find shelter somewhere and probably start an hour to an hour and 15 minutes beforehand making sure that my body is warm enough to do my stretches in my show. Otherwise, you can get really hurt.”
What does Lisa think is the attraction for her act?
“I think it’s because it’s not as common to see a solo female performer — it’s mainly a male-driven industry, so that’s one thing. Often, I’m one of a few or maybe the only female solo act at a festival, so that’s an attraction to start with.
“Also, I think one of the biggest demographics for my show is little girls, young girls with their families, because I use hula hoops and I’m all about pink and sparkles, pretty things and unicorns and that sort of stuff. So I always find that I really get on with young kids in my show, even though my show is for all ages. I like to perform for little girls so that I can show them an example of a strong female character and that anything is possible if you want to do it, even if that thing is hula-hooping.”
Finally, would Lisa recommend other youngsters to run away to the circus?
“Absolutely!’ The circus is the ultimate combination of theatre, gymnastics, comedy and dance — the best possible combination for anyone who wants to have a shot at a career in the arts. That’s the most beautiful thing about circus - it’s everything!
City Spectacular’s top-class performers guarantee fun for all at Fitzgerald Park
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