SummerWorks review: LEGacy Circus

Fascinating virtual discussion shows how aerialists Vanessa Furlong and Erin Ball collaborate during a pandemic


If you think your office Zoom meetings are inefficient, imagine being Vanessa Furlong and Erin Ball.

The two aerial artists are used to working together on the same trapeze. But because of the pandemic, and because they’re in separate provinces, they haven’t been able to rehearse in person. Their new SummerWorks show, LEGacy Circus, illustrates the challenges they face in trying to create a collaborative performance while being apart. 

In a live virtual discussion moderated by SummerWorks’ artistic and managing director Laura Nanni, Furlong and Ball share their findings from their week-long residency. One of their explorations includes working with videographers to record their movements to share with one another since they cannot be together.

Usually, the pair’s work is viewed from a distance, but the video recordings reveal an intimacy between the camera and artists that shifts their approach. Both artists notice different things about their performances – Furlong’s facial expressions when entering into tricks and the sound of Ball’s prosthetic legs coming off, for example. 

During the discussion, we see video clips of their process and how they navigate this new world, improvising in the moment with the inability to use each other’s body.

In one shot, Furlong balances herself by wearing a guitar case on her back. In another short clip, Ball uses her prosthetic legs to pull herself up onto the ropes in Furlong’s absence. The artists and videographers explore technology and in one clip, we see Furlong’s video overlapping onto Ball’s, giving the perception that they are together. Confetti appears to burst from Ball’s legs onto her partner. Clearly, the possibilities are endless with the introduction of technology to this performance.

Will there be a future hybrid performance? Projections? Ball will be making her way to Furlong in Halifax to continue exploring and developing this work. Both artists have learned to not put so many expectations on themselves during this process of working from a distance, and this is advice we definitely all can use.  

This review is part of a critical writing mentorship program developed by SummerWorks with NOW Magazine. SummerWorks runs until August 31.

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