Hi! I’m Kat. Imagined Bodies – the circus film we are currently working on – is not just about me, but in a world where it really matters which direction you’re approaching things from, I want to tell you who I am before we get into the complicated world of body image and circus over these blogs.
I’m a white British woman in my mid 30s, originally from Stockton-on-Tees but raised in Oxford. I’ve now lived half my life in Scotland and if I had to choose between a Scottish and an English passport one day, I’d choose Scottish without a moment’s hesitation. I’ve been a professional circus performer for 12 years but since 2015 I’ve been concentrating on using social circus to improve self-esteem and physical confidence through teaching.
Before I discovered circus in 2008, I didn’t have any kind of movement practice and my physical literacy was really poor. I had been repeatedly told I was bad at sport and dance, so I stopped. I had accepted I would be academic but not active (and thought that was a choice). I hated how I looked and didn’t know how to change that feeling, or appreciate my body.
Starting circus was transformational. I don’t entirely mean that in a good way.
Circus helped me find a love for my body based on what it can do, rather than what it looks like, but when it became my job, working in this industry became the source of some of my worst insecurities over the last decade.
When I started circus, learning basic acro-balance, spinning fire and hula hooping, I loved the experience of being totally in my body, purely being in the moment, and seeing myself progress. But as I crossed from amateur to professional, that changed. I noticed who got offered work and who didn’t. I felt pressure to diet, to make more commercial acts, and to be training constantly to be good enough. If I didn’t get performance work I would focus on my appearance rather than on my skills, and I got comments on my appearance (your arms are so big, we’d like you to wear more revealing outfits) that suggested I didn’t fit. After a few years like this, it got so bad I had panic attacks before doing shows, and when I reached out to people to explain what was happening, no one believed me because I seemed so confident. But my self-confidence was getting picked apart from the inside. It took a lot of work, the shock of a knee injury, and some time away from performance to rebuild my sense of self and find a new relationship to exercise and circus training. It’s a long story! But this process led to me starting Think Circus in 2017, and wanting to share the best things that circus can be – incredible human achievements, growth mindset in action, and a community that celebrates difference and creativity.
Imagined Bodies is the show I have wanted to make since early 2019. In conversations with Think Circus’ young coaches, we realised that we had all experienced the effects of body image struggles and comparison, and had found circus built up our self-esteem and resilience. Coming back to the idea in 2021, it feels even more important, especially coming out of a year where many people have panicked about their weight & fitness during lockdown.
In these blogs, I’m going to be sharing research about body image, including my reading, interviews with some incredible humans (and, let’s be honest, large amounts of Youtube watching) have focused on:
Diets, self-discipline & diet culture
Comparison and social media
Negative self-talk and self-trust
How to build body confidence
Building a positive relationship with movement
How lockdowns have affected people and their relationship with their bodies
How body image relates to identity, self-worth and earning potential, especially for performers/athletes/movement professionals
We’ll be using these topics as a starting point to explore in the show. Many are hard to talk about, which is why we want to use our bodies to both start a conversation about the difficult experiences, and show all the things there is to love about them.
Photography by Rod Penn of PennMann UK