Circus Profiles - Luke Hallgarten

Circus Profiles - Luke Hallgarten

An Exclusive Interview.

Luke Hallgarten Juggler - Photolosa
Photographer credit: Photolosa

Name: Luke Hallgarten
Age: 26
Nationality: British
Where did you train: National Centre for Circus Arts (Circus Space), Le Lido Centre des Arts Du Cirque de Toulouse.
Where do you work: Currently – Performing with NoFit State Circus in LEXICON and Gandini Juggling in Smashed 2. Artistic Director of The Revel Puck Society.

How did you get into circus?

When I was 9 my mum enrolled me in a Sunday class at circus space. It all just kind of snowballed from there.

What's your best memory of training?

The first time I flashed 7 balls. I had been trying it for months and then one evening I remember being twelve or thirteen in my mums kitchen, I was using 130 gram Mister Babache bean bags and had to sit on my knees to have enough ceiling height. The 7th ball landed in my hand and there was this sense of complete disbelief and joy. 8 years later when I flashed 7 clubs for the first time it was like some sort of weird déjà vu of the same sensation.

Did you notice any major differences in your experiences at NCCA compared to Le Lido?

Yes, they are (or maybe were) completely different environments. Both schools have changed a lot since I left so I could only speak of my experience at the time. Here are some basic disparities, that I think could probably help to inform people of what the fundamental differences are.
NCCA costs £9,000 a year, which you can get a student loan for.
Le Lido is free, and if you are European you are paid by the French government to do the school. Most promos at lido will agree between themselves that the
Europeans will put all of the money into a shared pot and then evenly distribute the money between both European and non Europeans.
NCCA is a graded university course, you come out of it with a BA honours degree.
When I was a Lido it wasn’t a recognised course, you got a bit of paper at the end but there were no assessments or grades.
The average age in my year at NCCA was probably 19/20. And most people had not been to a circus school before arriving there.
I was the youngest in my year at lido (21 years old) and everyone except one
student had been to a circus school before lido.
It should be noted that Le Lido is now L’ESACTO and is recognised officially as an 'École supérieure', along with Fratellini and CNAC. I believe there is now a grading system, and that they have started to take younger students.

What advice would you give to a beginner juggler, technically and artistically? 

I guess this advice is dependent on if you are wanting to do this as your job, or if it's your hobby. Below is some advice if you’re looking to juggle professionally, if it’s your hobby then keep enjoying whatever!
Also this advice is generally for people who are at circus school…I realise that isn’t everyone but I am just speaking from my own experience.
Train hard. Really, really hard. Especially whilst you are at circus school. Of course once you are out of school you will have time, but much less of it. you should be training as much as you can without over doing it.
Do conditioning and stretching, warm up properly and look after your body. If your stamina, strength and flexibility increase then your juggling will improve.
Try to evaluate yourself and set long term goals.
Ignore the hobbyists. What other jugglers think is cool is probably going to be pretty irrelevant to your work. Think about why you are working on what you are working on and who you want to show it to.
Just because people around you say numbers juggling is boring and pointless does not mean it’s true.
Just because people around you say one ball improvisation is boring and pointless does not mean it’s true.
Utilise your teachers. Do some research on the people teaching you and then use their skill set. There is little point in asking a teacher with a traditional background to help with your movement quality. Or someone who works purely on technique to help with act dramaturgy. Make sure you are maximising your teacher’s potential. Also request teachers, if you know someone is going to be coming to your city with a show and you want lessons with them, then ask the school for it! I did this in both circus schools, and it was hugely helpful.
Set yourself goals with what kind of juggler you would like to be, for sure this can change over the course of your education and career, but I think it’s a good idea to have a sense of direction.

How has your relationship with juggling developed over the last decade? 

Its always been a passion and that will never stop. However, I guess it moved from being just for fun, to being my main area of study, To my main area of work. At the moment it sits alongside the other things that I do and is often a great way to escape from writing new shows/directing a company. However, it definitely takes up a lot less head space than it used to. My relationship to juggling has certainly informed my creative process which is now often on a broader scale of creating work with other people and not just myself.

What is your most unforgettable work? 
(that you have seen, made, or otherwise)

Seen: Jerusalem by Jez Butterworth with Mark Rylance playing the lead. Coming out of the theatre it felt like the decision to make shows had been made for me.

What's your worst experience in the circus?


Haha, I think sometimes your worst experience can also be your most informative.
My audition for Lido was pretty terrible and I did a comedy trio act to complete
silence on a VIP night in Rennes once. Both of which definitely taught me a lot.
My worst experiences in circus have been with people in positions of power
(perceived or otherwise), but I guess this is probably the same in any industry. The advantage for us is that the circus world is so small and word spreads very quickly.
I have a personal list of companies, festival programmers and directors that I know I will never work with, because of how they have treated others in the past. Racism, disability discrimination, sexism or any other form of bigotry should have no place in our world, and it is up to us to make sure of it.

What sort of circus do you like to watch and what sort do you not like?

I like to watch work that has conviction in what it is doing. if the people on stage clearly believe in the work, and you can see and feel that they understand why they are there. Then I’m in 100%.

How did you find being a director and performer at the same time in your last show? (The Big Bagaga Show)

Hard work but fun. I work with artists rather than performers, which is an important definition for me and I think vital for a director to make clear.
Both are equally valid and some of the best creations I have been a part of have
been when the director has made it clear that we are performers.
For me working with artists means trusting their creative ideas and building a team who can all have a say in the work. Ultimately I was less of a feature in the show as I was outside of the scenes for a lot of the creation.

How would you like TRPS to stand out from other circus companies?

The ethos’s that define our company are in a sense the things we feel are important to us and important for the industry. You can check them out on our website.

What do you think circus does for the world?

I think it is ultimately joy in the complete absurdity of the human condition.
I think it offers audiences a moment of freedom and possibility.
I think it offers a space for us, the artists to work in. and a community to be a part of.

What do you think the future holds for circus? 

Good question! I certainly know where I want it to go, however last year whilst I was on my soap box preaching about what circus should be a good friend of mine said ‘Luke, there is not A circus, there is circus. And it can mean whatever it wants to anyone.’ She is very right. My hope for every strand of circus is that we stop limiting ourselves by what people tell us is possible and know our worth.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?  

Who knows, I guess I hope that we are making, and touring shows that help to
develop both the public and the industries perception of what circus can be and how it could behave.

What are you looking forward to most in the future? 

Early onset Arthritis.


Check out The Revel Puck Society on Instagram and their official site.