All that hoopla

Hoop Holligans Jeff Robinson (top) and Rewi Bracey show off some of their skills in Dunedin's...
Hoop Holligans Jeff Robinson (top) and Rewi Bracey show off some of their skills in Dunedin's Octagon. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Circus performers Jeff Robinson and Rewi Bracey are back in Dunedin to develop a new work. Rebecca Fox talks to them about the challenges of making a living from their craft.

All Jeff Robinson and Rewi Bracey will tell you about their latest work is that it involves a ''magical form of illusion and light''.

Given they are well known for their amazing feats with hoops and fire, the mind boggles.

However, they do promise Dunedin audiences will be the first to see the piece, which has been in development during the past couple of months in the city.

The pair returned from their overseas travels to Dunedin because of its creative atmosphere, cheap living costs and support for artists, having experienced it in their early days of performing.

''It's the place to be right now.''

It was also where the pair met and their creative relationship began.

The original inspiration for their work came from early days performing at the Circulation Festival at Whare Flat.

''That was the first point we picked up. We went to that for years and years.''

They enjoyed working together at Circulation and ended up living together in Wellington and taking classes at the Wellington Circus Trust.

They toured with Circus New Zealand ''learning the ropes'' and how to perform on stage.

''We took a big leap in 2013 when we got offered a place in a fire and circus arts festival in Italy, on an island called Stromboli, which has the most active volcano in Europe,'' Mr Bracey said.

''It's a pretty crazy place to have a fire-based circus. It was a huge break for us in our career.''

From there they both decided to take a step into the unknown and Mr Bracey gave up his day job as a town planner with Wellington City Council.

''Became a hoop hooligan,'' Mr Robinson said.

Making the decision to give up his day job for the Hoop Hooligans was not a difficult decision and he recommended people follow their passions.

''Rewi's always had a travel bug, he was always saying you could come travel the world with me. But I was like `we have to have a show to take with us'.''

''It just turned into our career.''

To get to Italy the pair used crowd funding. As well as their own money 100 or more supporters joined their Pledge Me campaign, raising $4000.

''We got our show over to Europe for the first time.

''Since we left we have been on a non-stop tour, travelling around the world with our show.''

They had performed in 10 countries and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

''We're living the dream that we always wanted to live.''

Highlights included having performed in New York and worked in the ''full-on hustle'' of Los Angeles. They had also done a lot of events in Australia.

They also performed at a juggling convention in the United Kingdom, the largest event of its kind in Europe, they said.

''We got a standing ovation at the end of the piece. It's a total highlight, as jugglers are difficult to impress, as they've seen it all,'' Mr Robinson said.

''We do a lot of things not been seen before using 30 hoops, massive moving mandalas and geometric shapes that move.

''It's quite an innovative new style but it's based on the theory of American Native hoop dancing. It's a very old form of dance,'' Mr Bracey said.

The pair learnt some of those skills and then applied a very contemporary style to it.

''We put a lot of physical theatre and comedy into our shows. Lots of pop culture references. and really try to engage the audience in the spirit of play.

''It's a lot of fun,'' Mr Bracey said.

They were happy to be back in Dunedin and were working really hard now on developing a new show.

''Really excited because we'll do a short premiere of it in Dunedin before we go on our next trip around the world.''

A lot of what they were working on now involved using interactive kinetic wind sculptures on a much larger scale than their previous work, using new technology available.

''We're trying to integrate and use a really magical form of illusion and light,'' Mr Robinson said.

''Things have come so far in world of projection and wind sculpture. It's going to be totally mesmerising to witness,'' Mr Bracey said.

''Our goal is to create visual feats and eye-bending experience,'' Mr Robinson said.

''Definitely been a lot of work to get to the point where we can sustain ourselves.

''Our success has been to work out where to be at the right time to get the necessary sustenance for it.''

They had been ''really lucky'' to be picked up by a lot of festivals in New Zealand such as Womad, where they had performed the past two years, ''helping to create that atmosphere for the festival''.

They also performed in the Cricket World Cup opening ceremony, standing atop towers 8m tall with fire dancers.

''We were in charge of the choreography and making sure all the fire dancers were there. That was one of our biggest gigs this summer. He [Jeff] got a proper camera cut for about 10 seconds.''

The pair manage themselves so all along it had been a huge learning curve and a lot of work to do all of their own bookings.

Mr Bracey's background as a town planner helped.

''I have a sort of natural tendency towards paperwork. I have that background, which helped a lot.''

''The great thing is our show can be done as a street performance, so we feel like we have a passport to go and perform anywhere.

''We've never had any trouble finding accommodation. We've had amazing hospitality.''

They would be heading back overseas in a few months to attend one of the biggest street theatre festivals in Europe, Pflasterspektakel Linz in Austria. Their hoop act was one of 50 chosen from 600 applicants.

''We were absolutely stoked,'' Mr Bracey said.

Their new wind show will launch next year at arts festivals around New Zealand and probably Australia, as well.

''The logistics of it are huge but we are really excited.''

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