Rachel Quilligan discovers the underbelly of Brisbane’s performing arts scene.

You might be surprised what is going on ‘out there’. Away from the main stage of the theatre or concert hall, in the underbelly of Brisbane, the performing arts world is thriving with performances from theatre to dance to feats of athleticism, and it is all yours for the experiencing. One of the major drivers is collaboration, with crossover helping the alternative performing arts scene to thrive.

Collaborative creations

Shannon Phillips, studio manager for Julie Sisco Photography, says collaborative relationships are fostering the individually driven alternative culture in Brisbane.

“I have a lot of friends in similar but different industries and we always had these grand plans for projects that weren’t exactly mainstream, so we took the initiative and put it together ourselves,” she says. “Brisbane isn’t the conservative place it once was – there are the alternative parts of town like West End and the Valley and it is spreading, we’re definitely getting edgier.

“There are more street parties, festivals and concerts going on now than there ever used to be.”

RAW:artists for local emerging talent

RAW:artists is one such showcase event that provides a platform for 40 different artists every two months. RAW:Brisbane director Tash Dombrow says RAW gives local and emerging talent a chance to promote their work they might not normally have.

“We have so many people apply that it might be several showcases before we can have them with us, there’s that much interest,” she says.

“Performers in particular – we’ve got quite a big range, from Bollywood and belly dancing to burlesque, circus, hula hoops … there are quite a few!”

Circus credibility

Ever wanted to run away and join the circus? Grace Law from Vulcana Women’s Circus says it’s an option more people are taking every day, with demand for classes and performer presence growing significantly in the last five years.

“Back in the day there was almost no circus in our festivals but now it’s practically guaranteed there will be a circus performance at every festival,” she says. “Everyone’s looking for that new thing and a level of spectacle, and circus can provide that wow factor.

“We’ve also seen a lot of people who are looking for alternative ways to exercise, and there’s a lot of crossover between the pole and dance communities.”

Hoops of fun

Ginger Spin Ninja is a hula hoop artist that has performed at RAW events, dazzling audiences with her signature double LED hoops routine. She says bars and clubs struggling with the economic downturn have turned to live entertainment to lure patrons in.

“This increase in demand has really allowed Brisbane’s alternative artists to showcase an amazing range of talent with high calibre, original performances,” she says. “I perform at a huge variety of events but mainly at cabaret style shows nestled in between burlesque, aerial and circus artists.

“Then there are fundraisers, corporate events, festivals, Mardi Gras parades and even music film clips.”

Burlesque bombshells

Lila Luxx, burlesque artist and director of the Bombshell Burlesque Academy, says demand is also high for performers at Christmas parties.

“We just add a little bit of extra flair and sparkle to the night,” she says, agreeing that economic doom and gloom is definitely driving demand. “People are looking for an escape, a fantasy – I think we all need a bit of that.”

She adds that the highly self-expressive nature of burlesque is drawing people out of audiences and onto stages.

“You’re really putting a bigger, more exaggerated, more fabulous version of yourself on stage,” she says.

Bollywood down under

Laura Baker from SARI Bollywood dance troupe agrees that people are more willing to get up and give new things a try.

“It’s a real buzz to get up in front of a crowd and strut your stuff, once you get over that initial fear,” she says. “Australia is a very multicultural society so there are lots of different styles out there and people are definitely trying new things.”