Amelie Soleil, circus performer, sideshow spectacle and modern curiosity has trod the boards from music hall to Opera Houses via nightclub and even a show-boat. With a history in theatre and dance, Amelie spent three years at professional circus school before being fully submerged in the cabaret industry. Currently on world tour with Piff The Magic Dragon, Amelie is based in London, produces for Burlexe and writes & directs whilst running Dr Sketchy Newcastle, keeping strong links to her beloved North East.
Picture Credit: Hira Jikonne
What was your first experience of Burlesque or Cabaret?
On a basic level, having seen revue shows and old photos and been in various productions of Bugsy Malone & Cabaret. At circus school, I was heavily influenced by the work coming from Australia, particularly Vulcana Circus who very much displayed a vaudeville aesthetic. When I saw the work of San Francisco based Yard Dogs and the subsequent Teatro Zinzanni shows I was just in love. The muted colours, spit and sawdust, DIY philosophy mixed with glitter and furious optimism really caught me. I knew I wanted more than traditional circus.
Picture Credit: Chris White - 2007
"What? Balloon Pops don't need to be 'normal' balloons!"
You are a trained circus performer – what convinced you to take the steps into Burlesque?
Honestly, it was injury. I'd been performing a 'Moulin Rouge' inspired spinning trapeze act in a touring show when I managed to nearly tear my own foot off in a a rope fall. I couldn't walk for a few weeks and was rather concerned. When production asked if I could still dance, especially if I would choreograph a fan dance I didn't sleep for three days with excitement. I could barely hold the fans, as a juggler I kept forgetting the point was to keep myself covered up and kept spinning and throwing the fans instead. Unique I guess...
My first show went really much better than expected, when my foot healed I discovered I wanted to continue exploring work on the floor and thought burlesque could be a new story-telling platform for this.
Picture Credit: Miss Rain Photography
How long does it take you to create a new act?
If the act is simply a dance piece then perhaps a few weeks. For example, my Louis Fuller tribute Serpentine was created quickly then developed through performance. Since the costume took so long to get 'right,' it's still being tweaked every time I perform and will even have a new illusion aspect to it from 2013.
Magic acts need to be tested in front of an audience, especially when I'm nervous. Circus acts might take months to just perfect a single move that lasts thirty seconds. Getting an extra inch lower in a position can take years to achieve.
However, I'm a great believer in 'death by fire' and throwing an act out there early so you know what works and what doesn't before investing too much.
"I'm a great believer in 'Death by Fire' "
Who are your biggest influences/inspirations?
My inspiration pool is so very deep it's difficult to pinpoint where it begins. From Judy Garland to Katy Perry, Noel Coward to Kanye West and Finnish fairytale to Pixar ponderings.
Music tends to be my biggest inspiration, if I hear a piece that conjures imagery then an act often comes from that. I adore tracks with underlying melody that can be interpreted. For example, Massive Attack's 'Paradise Circus' doesn't scream performance but is absolutely transformative on a theatre stage through a decent sound system. This was actually accidentally played from my iPod at a gig last year, I'd been announced and realised it wasn't my act music but thought 'let's go with this...' Now I've actively added it to my repertoire. I'm a huge believer in artistic accident.
However, I do fall back on the same images often, Tim Burton -esque colour palettes, early 20th Century European decayed music hall and the sometimes glam and glitz of 1950's America. I find it hard to do 'beautiful' or 'showgirl' as my inspirations tend to be less decadent.
Judy Garland ** Katy Perry
Noel Coward ** Kanye West
Finnish Fairytales ** Disney's Pixar
Tell us a little about your favourite experiences so far...
Blimey, I don't know where to start so recently... I have marvellous experiences every day.
Performing at The Sydney Opera House, tap dancing with a drag queen on the same stage as Judy Garland, Nuryev and more.
My birthday pizza parties at Edinburgh Fringe and the utter delight of the 'Craparet' event and how beautiful hearted cabaret folk really are.
Visiting a zoo in Germany with Dusty Limits, Audacity Chutzpah and The Folly Mixtures and being attacked by almost flying monkeys.
Tap dancing with Mat Ricardo (who I wrote an essay on at circus school) and a calvacade of showgirls for London Varieties.
Having a show I care so very deeply about nominated for an award and not even being upset we didn't win because I was so proud.
"I'm a huge believer in artistic accident."
Tell me something no one would suspect about you
That despite my constant travel rants, I absolutely adore travelling. I get excited about trains to new places and spend hours just staring at the countryside, writing and listening to music. I'm a huge hip hop fan and I don't drink nearly as much as people think I do...
Finally, any words of advice for newcomers to the scene?
Don't be so frightened to take risks, you can do anything and forgive most things on this scene. I'd much rather see a poorly executed concept than a choreographed to hell cliche. You'll develop your own way, make tons and tons of mistakes and waste a lot of money. You'll fight with promoters, have to pay for travel rather than food and ultimately have to decide if this is what you really want. It isn't all glitter and bubbly wine but it's absolutely worth fighting for. Cabaret is finally going somewhere and you are in for very very interesting times...
"...you are in for very interesting times!"