Time changes everything. It makes bones more brittle, reshapes the world and changes what was once modern into something old-fashioned. In circus, time is crucial, it is the difference between falling or being caught, it represents attrition and progress. Contemporary circus and dance collective TeaTime Company has dedicated its time to contemporary circus, serving up tasty performances like a slowly drawn cup of tea and giving audiences a taste of new flavors of acrobatics, object manipulation and dance.
TeaTime Company is a young collective, but that absolutely does not show in their track record. In five years, the trio has received applause more than 600 times in 15 countries. Insane numbers. "When we just started in 2018, Hannah, Bavo and I toured festival after festival. This is Pieter, juggler of TeaTime Company. 'The motto was: travel, travel, travel, home for a while, clothes in the suitcase and back on the plane or car. As circus artists, we no longer travel around with a caravan, but contemporary circus certainly still has that nomadic spirit in it.'
That term ... contemporary circus, we may have to define that. Pieter? 'Contemporary circus, brings together multiple disciplines in the service of a story or concept. Dance, visual art, poetry, acrobatics, everything can be mixed to convey a feeling to the audience. That's different from old-fashioned circus, where it's mostly about the trick.' Yet little has changed in the basics of circus; it is still about extraordinary people who can do extraordinary things with their bodies. 'The power of circus is still in the physical. If someone is practicing circus right in front of you, it grabs you immediately. You see the twitching of the muscles, the drops of sweat. There's something wonderful about seeing a normal body do something incredible.
'We balance on the line between progressive and accessible.'
TeaTime has found its own unique blend of circus and dance, bringing three disciplines together in quirky performances. 'All three of us have different backgrounds. Bavo works with the Chinese Pole, a meter-long pole he can climb. He always asks the question: how can this object keep me off the ground? I juggle and think in patterns and object manipulation. Hannah, as a dancer, is always concerned with movement quality and what the movements tell us. We all relate differently to the world around us and that is also the strength of TeaTime. In our performances, we bring those differences together, we develop a new object or material and start looking at how it works for all three disciplines. The object becomes a co-player.'
Co-players so far have been found in the form of long sticks, large balls and, in the upcoming performance, a giant metal spiral. Thus TeaTime is always pushing the boundaries of the familiar toward the exciting. 'We balance on the line between progressive and accessible. We make the complicated accessible. We're always looking for things that are complex or very tightly choreographed or almost impossible, but still look very easy through a lot of practice. This is also something we often get back from audiences: I felt like I could jump on stage and join in right away. We want to encourage that playfulness.'
Tilburg is a super creative city where a lot is happening. If I want, I can do something with arts or culture every day.
TeaTime transcends the boundaries of their disciplines as well as national borders. They have performed at leading dance and circus festivals in New York, India, Taiwan, Portugal, France and at one of the largest festivals for contemporary circus in Europe. In Tilburg of all places. 'It is very special that we have Festival Circolo in Tilburg. Such a leading festival, so close by, that's very cool.' In addition to being a nice place to play, Festival Circolo is also an important supporter of TeaTime. 'Circolo has supported us from the beginning. They saw something in us very clearly, which was hard to see at the beginning. Because they believed in it, it also gave us faith. Circolo is a constant influence on us and a continuous support.' In addition, Tilburg as a city has an important influence on the collective. 'Tilburg is a super creative city where a lot is happening. If I want I can do something with arts or culture every day. You have great places here like the Nieuwe Vorst, but also a large group of creatives from different educations from different places in the world that expand my thinking. Tilburg is a good place to settle for TeaTime. We are supporters of Tilburg and Tilburg has often supported us.'
We look ahead to TeaTime's future. Where can we find this threesome in one year, and where in thirty? 'We are now working on a new performance Ripple in which we move around on a 5-meter spiral. We are also in the middle of a multi-year development project with one of my favorite dance and circus collectives Panama Pictures. My dream for the future is that the philosophy of TeaTime transcends us three performers. So that people see a performance and think: ah, that's a TeaTime show. Even if we're not in it ourselves.' And so time ticks by, every second we get closer to a new performance of TeaTime. A nice thought.