ROBBIE CURTIS Hitting new heights

Robbie Curtis is an acrobat and dancer, who has been performing, teaching and choreographing both nationally and internationally for over 10 years. Having worked with Cirque du Soleil, Circus Oz, the Australian Ballet, Australian Opera and more, Curtis is internationally recognised for his mix of dance and circus. Now leading his own group as Founder and Artistic Director of Arc Circus, Curtis is heading to Perth for three very different shows this Fringe World, including the wholesome fun of A Bee Story, the compelling performance art of In The Arms of Morpheus and the thought-provoking charm of Assume People Like You. BRAYDEN EDWARDS caught up with Robbie Curtis to find out how his career has grown from taking leaps of faith both on and off the stage.

Your professions include acrobat, dancer, choreographer, director and teacher…you must be good at juggling too! Which of these came most naturally to you and have you found that has changed over time?

Well it’s an interesting question. I have pursued different physical avenues at different times of my career and I feel like it has felt very natural in the context of my life as my interests changed. For example, my Dad taught me how to juggle when I was seven, and that led me on a path of absolutely nerding out on juggling, unicycling and manipulation, all which came to me very naturally.

This in turn got me interested in busking and performance. One day on the street having made a lot of money (in my 12 year old eyes), I realised that I could make a career of performance stuff. This consequently drew me to acrobatics, and dance, being inspired by films like Bootmen, and anything Gene Kelly or Charlie Chaplin did. This came to me naturally, but training your body technically comes as a real challenge.

One of my most loved moments of my career was when I was a guest artist with the Australian Ballet performing at the Sydney Opera House every night, and during the days I had rehearsals with Legs on the Wall, where I was going to perform a highwire walk in Birmingham for the Cultural Games before the UK Olympics. It sounds like a challenge, but I found that time to be so natural. I absolutely love moving my body in creative and different ways, so acrobatics and dance has always been a pleasure working on.

In terms of teaching and directing, it’s been a natural progression as I found I have learnt bits and pieces over time and I love mentoring and encouraging younger people into a career of physical creative storytelling. I have found directing by far the most challenging pursuit, as I believe there is such a responsibility as a director to synthesise the world and tell important stories in my work. I’m loving this challenge and I’m realising that I have got a lot of stories in me which I want to tell.

Who are Cluster Arts and what is unique about the shows they put on?

Cluster Arts are our amazing producers. They are unique as they believe in art and community at the centre of their business. They have been amazing guides for us navigating our companies beginning. We are thankful everyday for their support, as they support truly amazing shows and artists, who are at the top of their game.

As part of three shows happening for Fringe 2022 there must be a lot of work that happens behind the scenes, but what are you most excited about in bringing these productions to WA?

I’m so excited about bringing such diverse and polished work to WA. A Bee Story opened to a sold out season at Sydney Festival in January 2021, and has been touring Queensland and NSW this year with a three month sold-out season at the Home of the Arts on the Gold Coast. It’s so exciting to bring such a crowd pleaser of a show to WA with particular focus on younger people, telling a heartwarming story focusing on sustainability, adaptability and of course top-notch circus.

I’m also very excited about bringing In the Arms of Morpheus, as it is Arc’s newest show, which premiered to a sold out season at the Underground Festival on the Gold Coast. This show has been a lifetime goal of mine to achieve, and I’ve loved making it. It’s such a snapshot and reflection of the couple of years we have recently had, but told with joy, comedy, and dreamlike physicality. I describe this show as a mix of Cirque Du Soleil, Netherlands Dans Theatre, and a good Netflix show. I hope the audience thinks so as well.

And is there anything in particular that will be a new challenge for you that you’re looking forward to seeing come to fruition?

We are always upskilling and adding to the shows. An Arc show is definitely enjoyable a second, third, fourth time. We made A Bee Story with Shrek in mind. Our shows “have layers.” So come once, come twice, come a third time – you won’t be disappointed.

And as someone who has not only been in a number of fields but also done them right across the world, what do you feel has been the biggest leap of faith in your career to date…literally AND figuratively?

I think the High Wire walk in the Voyage by Legs on the Wall was a huge leap of faith physically. Having worked with Cirque Du Soleil, Circa, Circus Oz, Australian Ballet, I’ve done a lot of physical leaps, but I truly believe the biggest leap of faith was building my own company Arc Circus. I’m so incredibly proud of the work we are making and have so much respect for all the courageous artists out there telling their stories.

Looking beyond Fringe, what have you and your team got planned for the rest of 2022 and beyond? Any more exciting shows in the pipeline, and might we get a chance to witness here in WA?

Arc has some very exciting projects in the pipeline. Making two new shows, and tours to America, Edinburgh and nationally, with lots of little nibbles as well. I have such a love of the WA, having one of my first professional shows being at the Heath Ledger Theatre. We would absolutely love to come back, so encourage your wonderful theatres to come and see our shows, and present our work.

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