Sector Spotlight: Marjolein Wagter, CLOCK Sector Expert, Circus Entrepreneur, Teacher & Artist

In sector spotlight CLOCK members speak with us about their latest projects and share insights from their sector.

Marjolein Wagter is a CLOCK Sector Expert, circus entrepreneur, teacher & artist, and founder of the international street theatre company, Compagnie With Balls. Marjolein speaks with us about how her work has changed during the pandemic, going back to school, and teaching circus arts online.

Tell us about your creative practice.

So, I have two areas of creative practice. Firstly I’m a street performer. Until January of last year, I performed all over the world with my company. I was in China when COVID arrived. We had to flee back to Europe quickly, or we would have been in lockdown in Shenzhen. In October 2019, we were actually in Wuhan itself. It was stressful and also looking back a little bit exciting. We were taxied over the border to Hong Kong and flew back via Russia. I remember thinking, ‘I really don’t want to get stuck and locked down in Russia.’ I have only done seven shows in Belgium and Holland since then where usually I would expect to perform in eighty to ninety shows. Alongside performing with my company, the other aspect of my creative practice is teaching circus artists and circus teachers.

What have you been working on since your last shows?

I have been teaching online. Some circus skills I can teach online, juggling or balancing, for instance. That has been fun. I was accepted into Bristol University’s Masters in Circus Directing so I was preparing for study. Unfortunately, I would have to spend time in isolation each visit, which makes it difficult to do. Due to this, I had to turn down the offer. I started a masters programme in Arts Education last September here in Holland, so now my studies are the main focus.

I’m also putting together an online showcase for my performance work and practice. I’m planning some gigs that have been moved forward to this year from last, but I really don’t know because everything is so uncertain.

What has qualifying as a CLOCK Sector Expert offered you professionally and personally? What do you think CLOCK has to offer artists and creatives in your sector?

It offers you valuable insight into your working practices. You have to dive really deeply into your work and how you actually do it. I think in addition to the recognition of your skills, being acknowledged for the work you do, is a positive feeling. You know you have a successful career because you make a living from it, and it works, but you might not have the educational background, so CLOCK helps to validate you.

How do you take what you’ve learned from CLOCK and apply it in your professional life and practice?

It was helpful when I wrote my application to Bristol circus school and the institution I’m studying with now. CLOCK made me aware of my personal and professional goals and aims, which fed into the application. Every time I do something new, I also take the time to gather that information. For example, if I have a conversation with someone from the local government here, I’ll take some time afterwards to write about it and note down the direction we’re heading. So that whenever I have a conversation with the same organisation, I feel much more organised. I also learned that what you do now can be very valuable. The work which allowed me to achieve CLOCK accreditation is in the past. Knowing this keeps me focused on everything I’m doing now.

Tell us what lies ahead for you in 2021?

I’ll continue to focus on the masters. I’m also working on projects in Denmark to teach circus trainers circus pedagogy, social and teaching skills. I’ll adapt my knowledge and apply it to suit them, and hopefully, it can go ahead as planned in April and October this year. I also have some smaller teaching projects over the summer, including a project with a youth circus in Holland. We have two national circus academies in Holland, but we don’t have a specialised institution or programme for circus teachers and trainers like you would for music teachers. One day it would be amazing to establish this because it’s a universal problem across Europe. There’s lots of information out there, so it’s interesting to research.

While you have been at home and working online like many of us, have you learned any useful tips and strategies for work that you’d to share with us?

I think it’s been interesting to see that it’s possible to teach some circus online. Youth circus trainers are also sharing their tools to train online. You know it’s interesting to follow a class happening 200km away and then apply it to your teaching. By teaching in an online environment, we’re sharing more!

Author Liz Appleby


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