Circus performer and dancer Symoné is currently preparing for the preview of her first theatre show at London’s Hoxton Hall as part of performance and live art festival Certain Blacks. She tells Ruth Comerford about how the work is inspired by her experiences with a cult…
How did you get into performing?
It’s funny, I definitely never imagined myself performing. I always liked the arts but I didn’t know where I wanted to go with it. Before I started university, I used to go to underground parties, and at one in particular I saw this woman hula-hooping. She was amazing, and I knew I had to learn how to do that. I became very addicted. I started looking for a troupe and found the Roundhouse [in London]. I wasn’t really looking to perform, I wanted to learn tricks, but after the audition and joining the troupe, it skyrocketed from there. I fell in love with performing very quickly. We trained in hula-hooping, other circus skills, flexibility and juggling. I decided early on I wanted to make it my living somehow. The more I fell in love with it, the harder I worked. That got noticed and I started getting booked.
What were the biggest challenges you faced when starting out?
Networking and socialising was difficult for me to begin with, because I didn’t know many people. A large part of working in the arts industry is about having the contacts to get bookings, and I didn’t really know who was I was as a performer at the start. An understanding of the industry is something I had trouble grasping, but the harder I worked, the easier it was to figure it all out.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve been working on my first theatre show, Utopian, directed by Bryn Harris Wathen. It’s inspired by an experience I had with a cult a couple of years back. I wanted to make the work relatable for audiences because when I was speaking about my experiences with colleagues and friends, they would respond with similar stories, and so I realised actually this is an important topic to talk about, especially in terms of gaslighting, manipulation and group mentality. I don’t really see a lot of work talking about that. The show at Hoxton Hall this month is a preview of it.
What can the audience expect from the show?
I am mixing in a cocktail of different skills – skating on high heels, dancing, pole dancing, and other dancers and circus performers are involved. I am interested in having artists with multiple skills but also those who have a connection to the work, because then they can bring their own energy to that. It’s going to have a party atmosphere – a different sort of paradigm to talk about these serious issues.
What advice would you give a performer at the beginning of their career?
London has so many great hubs for people in the arts. The Roundhouse works with young people a lot, so check it out, there’s so much going on there. The internet is great – there are so many ways to get inspired. Don’t feel afraid to achieve. It takes years to train, but it’s important to let yourself fail and fall in love with performance and keep going with it. It definitely takes a lot of patience, but trust and love for yourself will help you get through those times.
Symoné performs the preview of Utopian at Hoxton Hall on November 22.
Training: BA (hons) in Social Anthropology, School of African and Oriental Studies, London (2014-16)
First professional role: Performing at the 2012 London Olympic Park