Circus artist and choreographer Avan Whaite, is bringing his unique circus style to the Melbourne Fringe Festival this year with Undertone. This award-winning show reinvents the idea of what circus can be, with its use of live triggering creating soundscapes from the performance itself. This interactive process allows for Undertone - and its performers - to create a unique performance for every show.
"I came by the idea through some conversations I had with a couple of
people who were making music using a program called Ableton Live, which is a software music sequencer and digital audio workstation. After thinking about it, I realised that the real-time
functions of this program were perfect for integrating with physical
performance, which always has an element of unpredictability," Whaite
explains. "When I spoke to Zoltan Fesco, our musical director, he
immediately resonated with the concept and had a number of suggestions of how
to realise it. His prior experience with experimental electronic instruments
was invaluable and the process of putting it all together is ongoing, so it is a constant
learning experience between the artists and Zoltan."
Whaite's work is based strongly around collaborative environments, which means surrounding
himself with people who inspire him. "I chose to work with people whose
work and creativity I respect and then I usually do some creative developments
with the whole team where I have some broad strokes ideas, as well as some
choreographic or musical concepts and we build the material together," he
says. "I think its fairly common but it means that everybody contributes
ideas in the creation of the work and I feel that's important to
And he's clearly on a winning formula with his work practice, with Whaite's 2013 circus
show "we should quit" winning Best Circus at Melbourne Fringe and
recently nabbed Best Circus at the 2016 Perth Fringe for Undertone. "It's a pretty
amazing feeling I have to say. And I would like to mention as well, that in both these shows I was
collaborating with Thomas McDonald, and that perhaps there is something in this
combination that creates the high calibre work we put on for audiences."
Whaite has been performing in circus for many years; in fact, the members of
Undertone have a combined performance experience of over 60 years. So how is
someone able to do the remain their drive and be
invigorated by the art after all these years? "I think maintaining a unique style simply comes
from truly understanding what you like and why you like it, because it is never
exactly the same as anyone else. It's also important to then having the courage to create it,
because there is always the risk that is won’t be any good," Whaite says.
"In terms of inspiration I don’t think everyone remains inspired all of
the time, but personally I don’t feel good unless I have some creative outlet. This trait has kept me fairly creatively productive. I was
drawn to Chinese pole partially because I had a natural aptitude to it, but also
because I felt it had a lot of untapped choreographic potential. When I first
started learning pole it was almost always performed with a limited, if very
physically demanding, number of skills. I was interested in introducing a
lot more movement experimentation and fluidity to the apparatus but I also really
like its simplicity. It’s just a pole, but the variety of movement possible on
it is really surprising and without giving too much away, the pole act in Undertone
contains a lot of unique group work that I think people will find really
"But I really hope that people will be excited and inspired by the entire
show," Whaite explains. "That, for a little while they will have been completely in the moment,
and free from the distraction and ‘quick fix’ stimulation that is so common
If you had to name your child after a vegetable what would it be?
Aubergine for a girl, Kale for a boy. not sure why I think I just like the
reality TV show would you most like to appear/compete on?
Probably So You Think You Can Dance… as it's the only type of reality TV I like.
The most irritating habit I have is no idea. You'll have to ask the cast...
What's a song that sums up your life?
I Need A Dollar by Aloe Blacc maybe?
During the Melbourne Fringe Festival, I really really really want to see
as many of the amazing shows on offer as I can, and bring something
innovative and exciting of my own to show... Gah! so cheesy but it's the
Venue: The Melba Spiegelent, 35 Johnston St, Collingwood, 3066
Season: 21 - 25 September | Wed - Sun 8.30pm, Sun 3:00pm
Length: 60 minutes
Tickets: $29 Full | $24 Conc | $22 Group 6+
Bookings: Melbourne Fringe Festival