Grounded with Erin Ball
Grounded with Erin Ball
Content warning: intense subject matter surrounding amputation
My name is Erin Ball and my pronouns are she/her. I identify as a Mad (from the Mad Pride movement) and Disabled circus artist living on the traditional territories of the Missisaugas of the Ojibwe: Kingston/Katarokwi (Ontario).
What was your route into aerial?
In 2008 I attended a busker’s festival where I saw people doing partner acrobatics and it motivated me to start taking circus classes. I took classes and private lessons as often as I could in both Toronto and in Vermont. Eventually I found a gymnastics club in my city that let me use their space for aerial arts. People started asking me to teach and after learning how, I opened a small company that offered lessons. I began performing and teaching in 2010.
In 2014 I got stuck in the woods in the winter for six days and it resulted in severe frostbite and having both of my lower legs amputated as well as spending the next 11 months in the hospital. I thought my time with circus was over but after I wrapped my head around the fact that Disability is not inherently bad the way that stereotypes often suggest, I began re-learning how to move in my altered body. I discovered that it actually offered so many new possibilities and creative puzzles. I eventually started teaching again and focusing on access and inclusion in circus arts.
What lessons have you learnt through your career?
This is a huge question so I will choose a few lessons to highlight.
Question everything. Who is not in the room? Why am I teaching the things that I am teaching? It is something that I am passing along simply because it’s the “way it’s done” or is there a safety concern? Rethink aesthetics. Pointed toes are overrated. There is no such thing as cheating if it’s not hurting us or others. Disability is not what I thought it was. Community is everything. Large systems are at play that create power imbalances…as individuals, we can create change. Keep learning.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Dear younger self who is worried that you have nothing of value to share in terms of stories and performances:
You do. Take the time to learn how to put movement on stage first and learn from others. Make all of the mistakes. Enjoy it. Stories will come when they are ready. You will have so many stories that you won’t have time to put them all out. This is all part of the process and all of it is valuable.
You can follow Erin and find out more about her work here:
Image: A single rope hangs from the ceiling. Erin, white, is wrapped in the rope, mid-air. She wears a green skin tight bodysuit and has mid-length red hair in a side ponytail. Her lower legs end below the knees. Below her are mannequin legs with plants and vines flowing out of them from the top. She hangs, upside down, just above the mannequin legs, and touches the plants with her hands.
Photo credit: From the piece InterTwined, commissioned by NAC English Theatre for “The Green Rooms: The Earth is Watching Let’s Act” and was presented as part of the 2020 FOLDA Festival. Artistic director, Joel Baker. Artist, Erin Ball. Choreography, Michele Frances.