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Jessica Lucia Andrade and The Brownie Club swoop into your stream

Photo credit: Alex Brenner

The Brownie Club is an autobiographical aerial theatre show on the themes of race, identity and fitting in. Based on the lived experiences of three artists of colour, it explores assumptions made about women of colour as they choose when, where and how to respond to racism. The all-female company combines vivid, technically dazzling aerial circus with physical theatre and spoken word to create an impactful, resonant show. Ranging from frankness to joyfulness, The Brownie Club raises questions that start honest and sometimes uncomfortable conversations.

A specially adapted version of The Brownie Club will be live streamed on Saturday 15th August at 6pm as part of Surveillance: Dance Like No-one is Watching part of Newham Unlocked, programmed by Certain Blacks, 14-16 August.

Here, Jessica Lucia Andrade, writer and performer with The Brownie Club shares her runway story before she takes off to you this Saturday.

The Brownie Club originates from when I was in primary school and would put on little shows with my brown skinned friends. We called ourselves The Brownie Club as we were the only brown skinned girls in our class. Our ethnicities and cultures were different but we bonded over the fact that our skin tone was similar. In this group we felt safe to be ourselves and not feel tokenistic amongst each other in a school of mainly white children.

Aerial was first introduced to me when I was studying physical theatre at East 15. I found it incredibly tough and challenging but extremely rewarding when I finally had the strength to do certain moves.

We started with static trapeze, then rope and silks. I found Silks the hardest as I couldn’t get the grip and my hands would just burn from gripping so hard! I preferred the static trapeze bar as at least I could hold onto it and do some basic moves which felt similar in my body to when I was a gymnast and would train on the asymmetrical bars.

After graduating, I did an intense aerial course with Upswing and was introduced to aerial hoop. Vicki from Upswing was my mentor and trained me. I then went on to be an associate of Upswing and began teaching for them. I also performed with different theatre companies that would incorporate circus in their work. That same year I joined Roundhouses’ young people circus programme and performed various shows with them.

I started devising ‘The Brownie Club’ in 2016 when I first had the idea to create an aerial theatre show centring around being a South Asian woman in circus. The momentum came from constantly going to circus shows and even theatre shows with elements of aerial in them but not seeing many women of colour being the centre of focus.

When I tell people I am a circus performer and that I fly up in the air, they are usually shocked and surprised. I get asked a lot if my family support my career choices and I am grateful that they do and have always just wanted me to be happy and successful. I want this show to inspire the next generation of women especially from diverse ethnic backgrounds. They can do anything they want and just because they don’t see themselves represented in their chosen careers, that shouldn’t stop them. Sometimes you need to be the first among your peers to do something that might feel out of the ordinary, but if you can think it, you can achieve it!

Surveillance: Dance Like No-one is Watching part of Newham Unlocked, programmed by Certain Blacks, 14-16 August
 

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