Grounded with Tilly Lee-Kronick
Learning to let go
My name is Tilly Lee-Kronick (she/her)
Right now I’m sitting between two caravans in a warehouse, there is a giant papier maché polar bear at 101 arts centre and I’m cooking chips. Normally I live on a boat in London. I am a trapeze artist, physical performer, singer and dancer, and make multidisciplinary work, interweaving my singing and speaking into my trapeze vocabulary) . I create and perform my own solo work, I’ve co-founded an aerial company with my best friend and fellow aerialist Coral Dawson and perform duo trapeze with the incredible Jonny Leitch. I also perform for companies such as Stumble Dance Circus , ExtraOrdinary Bodies and Cirque Bijou. I am also a play-worker at an adventure playground for children with disabilities.
As a child and teenager, I loved to perform, dancing in a youth dance company and singing in a choir but I didn’t discover aerial until the age of 19. When I was deciding what to do with my life after completing my A levels, my namesake, close friend and former aerialist Matilda Leyser suggested I audition for Circomedia in Bristol. Despite having never done any circus I decided to audition and immediately knew this was where I wanted to be. After being offered a place, I went to the European Aerial Dance Festival , where I first met Lindsey and consolidated my love of dancing in the air. At Circomedia , I specialised in static trapeze and physical theatre and graduated in 2017. It was there that I met my teacher, and now close friend and colleague/director Mish Weaver, who nurtured me to not only push my technique in the air, but to not be afraid to experiment, to be silly and to let go my fear of needing to look “perfect” in the air. My search for letting go started in my third year of my degree, though I was unaware of it then.
I still feel new to the professional world of aerial and one of my four years out in the real world has been during a global pandemic. Things I would advise to my younger self are to be adaptable, kind and open, always keep learning, and don’t be afraid to let go. At the moment I am doing a rural tour of my solo show Ripe, directed by Mish Weaver, and supported by Crying Out Loud and Take Art. The show is a surreal exploration of the expectations I feel are placed on me as an aerialist and as a woman. I’ve learnt a great deal already though only half way through my tour. Performing outdoors is teaching me to be less precious about my shows, it is impossible to have the control you feel in a theatre, and I’m learning to embrace the ever-changing conditions that once would have terrified me! Rural touring is exposing me to new audiences, no longer singing into the echo-chamber of the artsy theatre scene. I am trying to let go of my need to be liked, and instead trying to embrace that some people may find my work odd, challenging or may be even offensive, and if I am touching even one person in the audience then I am doing my job.
Click on this link to watch Ripe trailer
This last year has been tough. At the best of times I find it hard to rest and relax, so a global pandemic, a whole lot of uncertainty and immediate loss of all future work was a recipe for obsessiveness and overtraining for me. The first lock down was particularly hard; I was completely controlled by my obsession to stay in ‘circus shape’. But gradually throughout the year I found my own ways of letting go. A turning point for me was returning to work at the playground, where I had worked before doing my circus degree.
The children I work with inspire me to be uninhibited, inquisitive and find joy or play in even the simplest thing, much like how I aim to be when making circus work. They took me out of my head, and really reminded me to be less self absorbed.
Pre-pandemic, I had it in my head that taking time off circus would mean I wasn’t a circus performer anymore. All the things I wanted to do that would require time off training; travelling, studying or volunteering, would have to wait until I was finished with my circus career.
Over the last year I discovered that having time off training, didn’t mean I was no longer a circus performer. Re-emerging into the world of training and performing has been difficult and I’ve felt rusty but my sense of self-identity as a trapeze artist is starting to return.
I feel luckier than ever to be part of a supportive community of circus friends and colleagues, as we are able to share this feeling and re-emerge together. I hope that I can carry this sense of letting go into the future as work continues, finding inspiration in all aspects of life, and as silly as it sounds remembering that circus is not the be all and end all. This is not to say that the last year has made me doubt my love of aerial, but more that I hope learning to let go can help me find a more healthy relationship to training and hopefully help me make more interesting work.
When I am struggling, I tell myself to “Hold on to your equipment, hold your nerve, hold in your core but let go of your pride, let go of your self-judgment and let go of your need to impress”.
To follow Tilly and find out more about her work:
Image description:Framed against a Summer night sky, silhouetted trees and festoon lights, Tilly is caught mid roll with the trapeze bar placed in the front of her hips and her knees tucked tight towards her chest. She wears black knee high trapeze boots, a white satin top with blue trimmed ruffles across her chest and hips and chats nonchalantly with her clearly delighted audience through a head mike.