Backbone A Testament To Strength And Resilience

Backbone A Testament To Strength And Resilience

Australian circus group brings their acrobatic skills to cam rose stage for a thrilling evening of breath-stopping circus acts.

By Amielle Christopherson

Backbone is all about strength. The show is the third one created and performed by Australian circus company Gravity & Other Myths and explores what it means to be strong.

Company co-founder and director Lachlan Binns explained that “strength is obviously something to be found in a lot of places and it can be shown in a number of different ways. That was our feed word, strength, and how people are strong.”

The group tapped into the obvious: acrobatics requires a lot of physical and mental strength. But they wanted to expand on that, too, and explore what other kinds of strengths people have, and look at how groups can also provide strength.

“We wanted to look at vulnerability and insecurity. The opposite of strength is weakness, so we had to look at weakness as well,” said Binns. “We used a lot of those ideas for the scenes and the movement and the skills within the show. Then we all sat down in a room for a few months and created Backbone.”

Gravity & Other Myths was established in Adelaide, Australia in 2009 by a group of seven high school friends who wanted to explore their passion for acro­batics and circus while also being able to stick together, which is something they’ve managed to do for a decade.

Backbone was created two years ago with funding from the Australian government, the first time the group had received such support. The funding they received allowed the group to hire 10 more acrobats, two musicians, a director and a designer for their show.

“The funding was designed to make a work of scale, for something bigger than we’d ever made before;’ explained Binns. The group hired the extra manpower to “try and increase the scale of the production design and the thematic ideas behind the show:’

“We were incredibly lucky,” said Binns of the funding opportunity they received “The first thing we did was sit down and clocked how privileged we were to receive funding and to be able to do this.” The biggest thing the funding allowed the group was time.

”A lot of the time, if you don’t have enough money, you just don’t have enough time to really sink your teeth into any ideas. It allowed us time to really let these ideas and this show become its full potential,” he said “It was an incredible opportunity. We had plans to expand and grow and we were going to make this show anyways, it just gave us a little bit more security and it just let us be comfortable to explore these ideas and push everything to the limit, without worrying too much about budgets and deadlines and whatnot. It really loosened the reins, which was a really valuable experience.”

As to what Backbone is about, other than just strength, Binns said that the group purposefully leaves that open to interpretation to each audience member. The group has functioned that way since they first created their company and Backbone is no exception.

“We never try to create a specific story,” he said. “We have our own interpretations of the things we’re doing on stage, but it’s deliberately open to interpretation.”

The show is a stripped-down performance, no fancy costumes, “just doing skills and tricks and sequences for the audience at that time;’ he explained. ‘We’re performing in the moment and engaging with the audience in that space, is something that we really do well”

Binns said that, should they need to, the group could go out “into a grassy field and we could do 90% of the show just without any other props or items;’ and that a large part of the company’s philosophy is that their acrobats are their props.

Part of the excitement of the funding they received was the opportunity to add the 10 extra acrobats, which allowed them to “unlock new skills, bigger acrobatic sequences, bigger tricks, high stacks, all that exciting stuff;’ without adding more set or props or external pieces. That flexibility is important because it allows them to move around more easily and share their production with as many people as possible.

“That’s a testament to our flexibility and we can go to places that normally wouldn’t be able to
fit shows of this scale,” explained Binns. “We’ve made a point to be different from all those other circus shows, so even if people have experienced circus before, they haven’t experienced what we do as a company.”

Backbone will be performing at the Jeanne & Peter Lougheed Performing Arts Centre Nov. 16 at 7: 30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at or in person or over the phone at the Box Office at 780-608-2922.