Alice Allart Trick Cycling

Alice Allart is a circus artist known for her exceptionally creative use of bicycles. Mesmerised by her performance at the Bike v Design exhibition back in 2012, we caught up with Alice to ask her a few questions about creativity, the circus and cycles, and were fortunate enough to gain a photographic insight into her training process as well.

Question: In your bio it says you decided to dedicate yourself to the circus at the tender age of 13, what inspired you to do that and how did you become involved in performing

I have been practicing circus since the age of nine in a youth programme in France. I knew that I wanted to make it my job at thirteen. I have always been very interested in all sorts of arts but for a reason I couldn’t really explain, circus really grabbed me. I guess I particularly like its simplicity as an art form and its honesty, the fact that you can see the humanity behind its surrealistic dimension.

Question: The way you use bicycles is very unusual even by circus standards. How did you come to develop your routine?

When I train to improve my skills, I practice tricks that are important and very technical. But part of my practice is dedicated to creating new tricks that I have never seen before, trying them out and seeing if it is possible. When I train to create a specific act, I’ll work around a theme, a music, text, etc. And I’ll use the tricks that serve the act the best and fit with the sequence of movement.

Question: What was the hardest skill to master?

The tricks that are scary. Sometimes, when I know that I can hurt myself badly, it blocks me to do it on my own. And very often I get a trick one day which I lose because I’m too scared to train it regularly. It was the case for the handspring (which I now have back!) and the handlebar stand for instance. The hardest tricks are not always the scariest but being scared makes me lose a lot of time when I’m learning them.

Question: Much of your work is inspired by literature, do you have a favourite story and how does it become part of your act?

My act is often inspired by literature or historical facts because I think that everything, every situation or emotion, has been described in literature with much details and shades. At the moment in my work this is what I’m trying to reach, to show the audience.

Currently I’m working on a solo show in three parts and two of them are inspired by stories. The first character is a Russian historical woman Nadezhda Vassilieva who thought all her life that she was the Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia and spent most of her life in a prison hospital. In this part, I transform the audience into the doctors and the judges who she tries to convince that she actually is Anastasia.

The second part is inspired by a book by Bi Feiyu ‘The Moon Opera’ which tells the story of a traditional Chinese opera singer who plays her character Chang’E for so long that she becomes the character. I use the technique of Slack Rope for this part.

Question: Much of your training was done in France, how does their approach to the circus differ?

In France, the development of contemporary circus has started before England. There are a few more circus schools and it is starting to be considered as an art at the same level as dance or theatre. There, circus is part of the artistic environment. The circus in UK is following the same path but contemporary circus is just a bit younger. But it is exciting to be part of this development.

Question: Are there any unusual bikes you'd like to try to ride?

Well, I’ve got a project now to try the trick tandem with other trick cyclists. We’ll see how that goes.

Question: Do you have to modify your bike a lot to make it suitable for your show?

I have been training with my bike as it is now and I don’t want to have to change anything for presentation. Except when I’m doing aerial bike where I attach the bike to ropes to make it an aerial apparatus, I never change my bike.

Question: Could you say a bit more about the bike? Is it specially made and if so is there a special manufacturer, any specific detailing or requirements for your act that the bike is designed to accommodate?

It is a bike made in Germany by the brand Star Bicycle for the artistic cycling competition. These are bikes made to do acrobatics on. There are a few companies that do this sort of bike, to my knowledge only in Germany. They are slightly lighter than a normal bike, with fixed-gear and with added pegs to stand on attached to the front and back wheel.

Question: What's been your most satisfying performance?

Funnily enough, not doing bike but in character. I was injured and couldn’t do any technique. Sometimes it’s when you have constraints that the artistic challenge becomes interesting. It?s when you don’t have technique to rely on and hide behind that you find the best things.

Interview by Gemma Lacey. Imagery by Bertil Nilson.

Clare Potts

Clare Potts


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