G   /   April 12, 2019   /   1 Comment

Katharine Arnold is a renowned international aerialist who has performed all over the world on hoops, silks, cage and rope whether as a solo act, as part of a duo or as member of a circus troupe. We recently caught up with Katharine to talk about her career, her work on Dumbo and training Eva Green.
You have a very impressive and diverse CV. You’ve done theatre, film, print, cabarets, events and the London Olympics. What are your favourite career highlights?

Well, as you might guess, working on Dumbo is one of them! It was an amazing and magical experience. I also tour regularly with a company called La Soirée which is a cabaret show in a spiegeltent with a tiny red stage, and it’s one of the most intimate, charming and funny shows out there. The Olympics was pretty epic to work on, and I’m currently performing a solo aerial act at Le Lido in Paris which is a beautiful and historic venue on the Champs Elysées with 50 showgirls and boys, a gazillion feathers and an ice rink!! Plus too many more to count! Can you tell I love what I do….
You’re mostly known as an aerialist and trapeze artist but you’re also a choreographer, creative director, consultant, stunt performer, DJ, body double and instructor, which of these different hats do you enjoy wearing the most?

My first love is still performing, and I’ll hopefully do it until I can’t any more! But I really enjoy the creative process and I love to choreograph and consult on artistic projects as well. I am also a fan of variety in my work (low boredom threshold!) so I like being able to move from one thing to another, and I genuinely enjoy all of it.

You’re trained in various disciplines. Is there a particular discipline or specific trick that you love performing the most?

I love to spin, so aerial hoop and aerial cage which I perform with a partner are among my faves. I started out ten million years ago with flying trapeze, working with a unique company called The Flying Dudes, who took me under their wing and taught me to fly, and I still think that’s one of the most exhilarating disciplines in circus. But at the risk of sounding like a broken record…I do really love all of it.

Watching circus performers, you guys make it look both otherworldly and easy but is there a specific discipline, trick or performance that was hard to do or a situation that made you feel scared to perform?

The aim is always to make it look effortless! But sadly, it’s not. Training and stretching to maintain strength and flexibility are vital. And it’s very important in our industry to have a healthy respect for heights – I wouldn’t say a fear, but you have to be aware of the risks when you’re performing high up without safety. I would also say that if something makes you feel genuinely scared or you have any safety concerns, you shouldn’t do it.
You worked with Eva on Dumbo. Tell us how that came about.

A bunch of circus performers were pulled together to do a ten day workshop/R&D project at the beginning of 2017. Tim Burton came to watch the final showing and I was cast as Eva’s double for the movie. I then met her and we also started to do a regular morning training session so that she could learn some aerial skills and develop an understanding of what it’s like to be a circus performer. So I ended up training her as well as performing some of the aerial choreography. And she did some herself as well, because she worked so hard and learnt fast!

Eva has always been open with her fear of heights so it must have been a challenge to convince her to go up there. As her aerial instructor, how did you motivate and mentally prepare her for her role as Colette Marchant?

Eva has an incredible work ethic and determination, so even though she was afraid of heights and swinging at first, she forced herself to overcome it. We trained sensibly and bit by bit, so she had time to adjust. Eva is also an actress who can completely embody her character so I think that once she was Colette, she became a brilliant trapeze artist, and not Eva the actress who doesn’t like heights much.
For beginners like Eva, how is training like and what are the biggest challenges that you two faced during training? What advice would you give those who got inspired by Colette and want to follow your path in being an aerialist?

Aerial training at the beginning is sadly not particularly exciting, as it is basically just strengthening and conditioning before you can think about being in the air or learning any tricks. I worked with Eva alongside a personal trainer called David Kingsbury, and we did a combination of general fitness and strength building alongside more specific work such as pull ups, core conditioning and stability, leg lifts, and flexibility training. Once we started using the equipment we kept it very low until she was more used to it. Aerial training is hard, it hurts – your hands, the backs of your knees, anything you’re suspending off a hard bar – and you usually get bruises and scrapes and sore muscles while they’re getting used to being used in a different way. But once you achieve new things it’s exhilarating and it’s an incredible discipline for making your body feel strong and powerful.

Katharine Arnold's DUMBO Chandelier Choreography Trials

What’s the most rewarding aspect about your job and the most satisfying aspect about training Eva and working on Dumbo?

Aside from Dumbo, the most rewarding thing for me is probably to perform live and feel that an audience is really enjoying the show – bringing entertainment to other people is a satisfying thing! With Eva and Dumbo, it all felt very positive because she managed to achieve so much, and so there was huge satisfaction in being able to surpass expectation.
Lastly, what’s next for you after Dumbo? How can fans see more of your performances?

I’m currently in Paris working at Le Lido, performing a solo aerial hoop act. I’ll be back in London also, doing my usual cabaret slots in various venues, and I teach on the degree course at the National Centre for Circus Arts so I will be whipping my students into shape before the summer holidays!

For more information on Katharine and her body of work, visit her official website. You can follow Katharine’s adventures on Twitter and Instagram!

All photos and video courtesy of Katharine Arnold. Please do not take without permission.

One Response to “EGW EXCLUSIVE: Katharine Arnold Talks About Her Illustrious Circus Career, Working on Dumbo and Training Eva Green”
  1. Christopher Thomas Says:

    Thank you for improving Eva’s life by enhancing her self-perception and by helping overcome her fears.