National Centre for Circus Arts Aerial Instructor Interview

National Centre for Circus Arts are a top Circus acts school based in London. They not only run classes for all ages, but cater to full BA Hons Degree courses across a range of aerial and circus acts. We interviewed one of their top instructors to delve into what it takes to succeed in this spectacular art.


Bertil Nilsson for the National Centre for Circus Arts

What act do you teach? 

I teach aerial, specialising in static trapeze, but I also teach some rope and silks (tissu) and sometimes even hoop (cerceaux) as there is crossover between these disciplines.

Did you have an interest in gymnastic and circus acts from a young age?

Yes absolutely. I trained myself in gymnastics, I wanted to go to lessons but we lived in the middle of nowhere and my mum couldn’t take me so I spent hours and hours and days and days of my childhood trying to teach myself to cartwheels and handsprings on any bit of green space and holding handstands against any bit of wall I was close to.

Bertil Nilsson for the National Centre for Circus Arts

How much training went in to you getting to the level of professionalism you are at?

Auto didactically throughout my childhood and then I went to the National Centre for Circus Arts, formerly known as Circus Space, as an adult after graduating drama school at 22 years old. I spent 3 years on the adult programme and doing 1:1 training, followed by training 3 / 4 times a week during my professional performing career which spanned 12 years to develop and sustain my skills.

Why did you decide to teach it?

I was asked to teach on the youth programme after training for 3 years and was very excited by this as it felt like I had reached a level where I had completed my training and could pass on my knowledge. Teaching soon became a very important part of my working life and income, providing stable finance while I worked as a freelance performer and providing the opportunity to practise, affirm and develop my knowledge.  Now I am retired it is my main work and I feel very lucky to have such an interesting and exciting job.

Bertil Nilsson for the National Centre for Circus Arts

What skills do people need to really succeed in this act?

First and foremost, a passion for the art form and a desire to perform it that needs to be backed up by a strong commitment to training and a decent level of physical aptitude and the detail of strength. Technique and flexibility can be developed through hard work if these basics are there.

Is there a certain aspect of your job you enjoy the most?

Seeing my students gain the skill and confidence to perform and play with the equipment, to feel in control of it and create something they are enjoying and that can inspire others. I love to watch them and help them discover their artistic voice and to witness time and time again the incredibly powerful forms of expression that can be found in the air. Most of all I love to watch them dance in the air.


For more on Muddy Circus Month see here.