It started in 2008 with a hula hoop exercise class, for the first time ever I was at fitness class that kept me entertained. Once the routines became too easy I started to look further afield…
It wasn’t long before I discovered Gems Goddard, who can only be described as one of the founding foremothers of the Hula Hooping revival and modernisation in the UK. It was at one of her workshops in London that my mind was opened to the ridiculous amount of possibilities laying in the wake of a child’s toy. I took a hula hooping training course with the idea that it would be a great way to get paid to stay fit and make a few extra bob on top of that. Learning to drive for the soul purpose of ferrying the hoops for my classes kind of killed the buzz. One year later I passed my test, and with it the desire to teach hooping, in it’s place a flight had been booked.
In 2012 I bowled off on my own at the age of 24 to the jungle in Venezuela without any plans apart from that I wanted to go, my Spanish skills amounted to a piece of paper that said ‘I need a taxi, I need help, where is the toilet’. After 2 months in Venezuela, 6 in Colombia, one missed flight home and a border crossing to Ecuador with about two weeks money left in my pocket, I rocked up at a place called Peguche, Otovalo, with the words ‘Casa De Matilde’ scrawled on a very small piece of paper. It was here, that I met all the Latino travellers who were busking their way across the continent. I went to a hardware store and managed to cobble together in Spanish what tube I was after to make a hula hoop and that was it, I started busking in the traffic lights. For those of you not familiar with this style of busking; you wait at the crossing until the lights go on red then run into the middle of the road, do a show for the cars on standby, and then just before the lights turn green people suitably impressed will pass change out of their windows to you.
It became my means for survival, communication and movement. I crossed over into the Latino way to travel the continent. Three months in Ecuador, nine in Peru, 100 hours of busses across the continent back to Colombia so I could fly to California for two months for work, one week in Colorado….
After nearly two years I finally made it home and tried to settle back into my hometown of Chester, there was an emerging creative scene that I quickly became a part of and started performing tales of my travels at The Harvest Moon open mic that I later went on to run. It was here that I developed my talents as a storyteller through performing, in a nurturing environment amongst poets and musicians and other creative souls. As I recovered from my experiences and drew the tales to a close, I began to dig into my imagination and began to perform fictitious stories. Becoming part of local writing groups and making a new circle of artistic friends, I started to feel the itch and need to push my creativity and myself, to move again. Not quite ready to travel far I started looking at universities, I was also taking classes in Spanish for the first time and actually learning some of the grammar behind it after the foundation of my second language was learnt on the streets of South America. I was writing a lot at the time and felt that was the direction I was headed. After searching all the appropriate universities in the UK, I found a course that had my name scribbled all over it in Brighton. However, the more I thought about spending what I had saved on committing to stay in one place for two maybe three years the hotter I got under the collar. As I continued to see my little savings grow bit by bit a voice started to tug at me ‘But Dani, if you spend that money when will you be able to go back to South America?’. I ignored it for a bit but felt myself getting frustrated as the thought of going back out there seemed too big. After a big cry I decided to just relax, let the course in Brighton go and carry on at home in parents house with my existing creative pursuits and saving.
The more I started to really think about what I wanted to do said voice started getting louder and louder until it became a pinball rattling round my head and pinging of every thought I had. I disclosed my itches to a friend from Chile who I travelled very closely with out in Ecuador, she asked me why not scratch them out there with her? I felt so calm when presented with this option, I knew all I had to do was take it. Revelling in this previously un-experienced calm sensation, I made myself wait week and then booked the flight.
Things then just sort of started closing themselves down around me. The Harvest Moon Cafe unexpectedly closed it’s doors, all my projects wound themselves up to a close one by one, I took on nothing new and groups I was a part of started splitting off or going in different directions. My path was there to be made.
I left in September 2015, in my usual style of not doing any research into where I was going, I didn’t even know that Chile was an earthquake zone, that sorted itself right out as I arrived on the 16th, and was greeted with one. Within my first week I found a place to train, had been offered a chance to perform in a variety show and caught wind that there was a circus convention soon on the horizon. It was at this convention in Hijuelas, where I began to discover the wider world of circus around my hula hoop. Going to variety shows and circus events became my kicks, the National Convention of Circus Chile changed my life and I was back busking in the traffic lights once more. It was obvious, that this was where I was meant to be.
This past 12 months, has been spent between me backing and toing between Chile and England. I’ve attended workshops of clown, mime, acro-dance, acrobatics. I’ve moved away from the traffic lights and started doing more complete shows in the street and done my first performance in a real big top. I’ve moved and lived all over Santiago, travelled specifically for Circus events and conventions and most of my friends are clowns. I’ve struggled and fought as always with the language and then had breakthroughs as I literally have no-one who I speak my mother tongue with here. The commute however, has taken its toll and now I have decided to juggle with all the eggs in my basket and commit to living in Chile permanently. This summer has been spent loving my family and friends, laughing, crying, recuperating, reducing my possessions down to a rucksack and a suitcase and working every odd job I can to make money ready for the off.
Do I make it sound easy? Sometimes I think I do, and in some ways I think it is, or at least it has become so much my norm that I don’t know any other way be. I’ve been carving this path for myself for years now, digging without looking, moving by trusting, years of going against the voices in my head that tells me what I am doing is wrong, or mad. Now I decide to publish what it is I’m doing on the internet and that is something the voices definitely don’t like. In many ways it’s scarier than bowling off on my own onto a continent as vast as South America. On a meet up that comes round every few years with a creative soul sister, whilst poking fun at our fears and the mind boggling entrapment of the artists self loathing, she pointed out ‘Everyone else’s egos has them taking 4000 selfies a day, and ours has us eat a whole packet of biscuits on the toilet’. With that comment acting as my rocket fuel, her blog Stranger than Fiction has been my map and my inspiration to have the gall to write my own.
So now… I’m back in Chile, living in a place called Valparaíso. Armed with my creativity, my second language and of course my hula hoops, I have decided to commit, to making my life seeking circus.
Photography: Rossi Dee. Dress: Danielle De La Wonk