Thursday 22 February 2018

Lisa Lottie: If I'm performing in the Middle East, I'll have my shoulders covered, and I won't make any jokes with sexual innuendo

Lisa Lottie (30) is a hula hoopist and street performer. Born in Amsterdam, she shares a home in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband, Reuben, who is an acrobat. They live together when they are not touring the world with their separate shows

Lisa Lottie will perform at Laya Healthcare's City Spectacular in Dublin and Cork.
Lisa Lottie will perform at Laya Healthcare's City Spectacular in Dublin and Cork.

Ciara Dwyer

On a typical day, I wake up around 9am. I live in Melbourne, but I could be anywhere in 45 countries around the world. Most likely it's Australia, but it could be Dubai, India, Holland, Spain or Canada. If I'm lucky, my husband will be with me. That only happens if he's at the same festival as I am. He'll be performing with me in Dublin and Cork next month, at Laya's Healthcare City Spectacular. I am a hula hoopist, and my husband, Reuben, is an acrobat. I met him in London when we were both doing street shows.

Some days I work with him, but it's not always that way. It's like any two people having careers where they travel a lot. With messaging, Skype, phone calls and text messages, it's very easy nowadays to be super-connected. It's not like it was 10 years ago. I can have a very regular, constantly sustained conversation with my husband throughout the whole day.

The minute the alarm goes off, the first thing I do is reach for the closest source of caffeine. Then I open my computer and do some emails. I like getting them out of the way. Then I'll have some breakfast. What I eat often depends on where I am in the world - I might have some fruit or yoghurt. I have to watch what I eat. I have a dietician who tells me what I have to eat, depending on where I am and the work I am doing. Generally, I eat a lot of protein and the least processed food possible. I eat little and often. I try not to have large amounts of food in one sitting, because if I'm really full, it's hard for me to train or do shows.

I have been a professional hula-hoop artist and street performer for the past 10 years. It all began when I was living in Brighton, and I had several boring jobs - working in retail, and stuff like that. I didn't hate what I was doing, but, at 20, I was more interested in the social aspect of life than the career-driven side of it. I was quite content with what I had, but what came to me was way better. I think it's a great idea for everybody to work in a job that they don't like very much, or go travelling. If young people do things that they don't enjoy, then they can actually work out what they do like. That's how it happened for me. It was a bit of an accident, but a happy accident.

Within the space of two months, I was given a hula hoop and really enjoyed it. The girl who gave me the hula hoop offered me a job to work in the circus. So I ran away with the circus. I had visited circuses as a kid, but I never thought that I'd be part of one. I used to be an animal activist, because I didn't like seeing animals in the circus, but, having worked there, I now have a different opinion. I understand why animals are there. They have a place in the circus, and the most important thing is that they are looked after properly. Working in the circus was super hard work - shows, travelling, and more shows. In the end, I actually ran away from the circus. I didn't want to work with them any more, but I never wanted to stop performing.

Being a street performer is scary, because you're standing up in front of a crowd and they don't expect you to do anything, but you're giving them a show. That's part of the fun. It's unexpected, and it's outside the box.

When a girl busks, it can be frowned upon, but I'm really happy doing it. I work for myself and not for anyone else. At the end of the day, my money comes from everybody who watches me, not from one person. I enjoy that I'm not making anyone rich, apart from myself. I love that I don't have a boss, and I get as much out of it as I put into it. I find that really rewarding.

On the day of a performance, I'll train in a gym. I work on my strength and flexibility. I'll spend an hour doing push-ups, handstands and pull-ups, and then I do a lot of stretching. I'll have something to eat and then rest for an hour or two. Later in the afternoon, I'll gather my equipment and walk to wherever the festival is on. After the sound check, I get ready, and then I do my show, which takes about 40 minutes.

I don't get nervous. I really care about doing a good show. I'm always putting in new tricks and sequences. If I'm doing shows in the Middle East, I'll have my shoulders covered, and I won't make jokes that can be perceived as having any kind of sexual innuendo, and I will be very picky with the volunteers I choose. My show changes drastically so that it is culturally sensitive, but I am still able to do it.

When you're doing a street show, it's very easy to gauge if an audience is enjoying it. If they don't like it, they leave. I also perform in theatres and on cruise ships, but street theatre is the thing that I enjoy the most. You never know if you're going to get paid. I love the freedom of that.

But with great freedom comes responsibility. It's just part of being an adult. When it's over, I take pictures with everyone and give autographs. Then I might meet up with some of my co-workers and go for dinner.

It can be hard being away from my husband, but it's part of our life, and it'd be way harder if both of us weren't working. I think being able to pursue your passion is the most important thing in life, above any kind of relationship that I might have, and it's the same for him, thankfully.

I don't want to have children. I've lots of performing friends who have children and manage to do keep working, but I'm not interested in that. It's still possible for them, but it's a bit harder.

At night, I stretch, have a little snack and then go to bed. I want to be a hula hoopist for a long time. Some of my skills might wither, but my performance skills won't. I do what I do because it makes people happy. It puts smiles on people's faces, and, at the same time, it makes me happy. It's a win-win situation.

Lisa Lottie will perform at Laya Healthcare's City Spectacular from July 8-10 in Merrion Square, D2, and on July 16 and 17 in Fitzgerald Park, Cork. Entry is free. See

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