Petra Najman & Elliot Minogue-Stone

Croatian circus artist Petra Najman and UK dancer Elliot Minogue-Stone worked together for two weeks in August 2021 in Copenhagen (Denmark). Petra made a video logbook, Elliot wrote his thoughts and doubts down. Enjoy.

Petra’s logbook

Elliot’s logbook

Thursday 12th August

On the bridge. No trapeze. What am I doing? What is my art?

Maybe music will help my block – listening to RnB throwback hit ‘Leave the Door Open’ by Bruno Mars and Anderson.Paak, it feels a little incongerous in this space and this location.

Petra is swimming. She says the water is dirty, it looks very clear from the bridge but I take her word for.

Stuck, therefore; shopping. We’ve made friends with the woman running the flea market beneath the bridge. Isn’t that what art’s about, engaging with the community.

Afternoon plan
Trapeze installation
Elliot goes swimming
Sound system
Several videos of something (dance / theatre / trapeze)
40 minutes of something
Shared playlist

The afternoon comes clarity. Sun appears, our new game is diving off the bridge into the water below.

Not me though – I’m a little scared, the bridge is quite high. Instead I take pleasure from watching others. First a group of lads, then Petra, then a woman waiting for the ferry, then a couple.

I watch the fear and anticipation of the jumpers. We’re not allowed to jump from the bridge, a sign tells us such, but we do anyway.

My rushed notes on the bridge
-> It’s about the build up (as well as the jump)

The process
Anticipation / climbing the (forbidden) structure
Sense of collectivity / we’re all in this together
The dive itself is impressive / no one here is an olympic diver, but it doesn’t matter
We’re started a trend by climbing on the structure of the bridge
Why do we jump?

Questions for Boaz (our mentor)
The place of virtuosity and tricks
How do I (Elliot) find my own way of being virtuous?
The place of risk? What is interesting about risk? How do we manage it?

Friday 13th August

Notes from Boaz
Research of the structure is already a lot – walking on the beams / explore the underneath etc.
The first meeting of something is magical but changes after time. We adjust to it. It then becomes about negotiating.
‘How do you choose to do it for someone who’s not.’ (Don’t know what this means but it was obviosly important to me).
Watching a specialist gives us permission to be with you.
It’s Exciting to watch. Experiencing vs communicating (presenting vs representing)?
Is it only about the anticipation
Who’s feelings are worth exploring (performer (trapeze / dance) / audience)?

To play with
instructions and scores – who are instructions for? – to play director
how do you describe actions for humans
what does this action do – to me as a watch or to them as performers?
how to get yourself involved in each others material
how do we share our knowledge

Find a way to connect us… with rope. No need to externalise the danger

Music installation… Could we get it to vibrate?
Take charge of our environment – sound and visuals etc… 

Place of physical mastery
Feeling to total concentration
Going between sitting and standing.
Lying and watching
Placing focus on physical perception.

Saturday 14th August

Tough weather. Danish summer-style. Wind / rain.
I’m dressed in blue and turqoise. Baggy things. It’s amazing what clothes can bring.

The bridge is still there. I should name the bridge really, will discuss with Petra, if I am to abuse it the way I’m doing I should at least know its name.

The great rusty structre is waiting for us. I will miss it when I’m gone, I’m growing increasingly attached to its powerful triangles and excessive width.

Break through comes as Ariellah sets up the speaker and the trapeze. She is just lovely, cooler then I will ever be and careingly practical. She comes with encouragement and documents our improvisations on the camera. I feel quite free in the wind and rain and sound on this bridge. I really dance, for the first time since I’ve arrived in Copenhagen. I’m with my own pleasure, unknown if what I’m doing is interesting. It probably isn’t very. Back come old habits, the need to be impressive etc. I feel quite inspired by working with a circus performer but totally lack the skill and technique to execute the incredible movements she does. Am I just a shit circus performer? No. The power of dance is real, I remind myself. I’m not convinced though. Oh well. Irrespective I’m enjoying myself. There is a wonderful drama to this and I’m here for it. The drama becomes too intense when it really starts raining. We are forced inside.

Out again and in the water, which is warmer then I expect, it’s choppy though. Petra does amazing dives from the bridge, I flail about. I’m an adequate swimmer.

Later while discussing archiving Petra arrives at this conclusion:
‘I thought that I’m someone, but I’m no one’

This kind of bleak self-deprecation is truely beautiful.

Sunday 15th August

Molchat Doma is our soundtrack today. Belarusian industrial techno. Feels nice and bleak.

Elliot. Lost, exploring, enjoying exploration, falling. Soft body in hard structure.

Must develop falling scores… Different ways to fall / falling from beams / bridge / trapeze

Rolling along the bridge, down the stairs. Slowly, gradually, no time. ‘Are you okay or is it art?’ a passer by asks. The sentence of the day.

End of the day, exhaustion hits. A day of frustration.

Monday 16th August

I desire a radical choice today. How do I stay true to my artistic practice while not denying the practice of others.

I wish to take power away from the sharing we are working too much towards it.

Maybe we need a series of physical ideas – something to bind all of our mess together

Molchat Doma
Slave to the rhythm
Boat ?? Green grass
We’re lost
Practicing contact
Hanging off beams and facing each other
No inspiration

The Great Curve – Talking Heads – wall of sound – losing yourself in it

Tuesday 17th August

What is embodiment?

So intangible, yet so so real. You really perceive it when it’s not there. Like something is missing. Embodied practice is so central to what I look for in art. If it’s embodied – I’m interested. And how do you / I find this?

Today was the most frustrated I’ve been
Overwhelmed by frustration. 

Wednesday 18th August

I’m returning to the phrase ‘Are you okay or is it art?’ I’m fascinated by this notion, that for us to spend our days unintentionally caged to this structure implied we either had issues… or were artists.

You see I’m spending less time writing this with each day. My logs are getting shorter and shorter. Each day is a bit of a blur to be honest. I’m in need of a freshness. I’m spending time understanding my own art form and what I need from performance, maybe more time then I spend understanding circus art. 

I look back at my log over the last week. I’ve been building to this point, it reads as a bit inevitable.

Thursday 19th August / Friday 20th August

A mad dash for spectacle. I feel a bit pointless here, I just wanna watch trapeze with everyone else. It’s really quite incredible, the location and the weather and the skill. A great combination.

Maybe props will come to my aid – cue a manic cycle into the city in search of something silly. I’ve been too nuanced so far, everything has been lost on the vastness of this bridge. Now I must go big. I’m looking for a costume or something. A dinosaur? I don’t want something too costume-y, I’m looking at some morph suits.

Later on I chat to a close friend, her name is Orley Quick and she’s done some dramaturgy for me in the past. I subconsiously phone her out of panic but am equally pleased to hear about her holidays in Sicily. Orley was straightforward and practical tonight, the general gist of the conversation was that ‘this is a research, it’s your research, you should be able to do whatever the fuck you want!’ She also lends me the phrase ‘artistic quarantine’ which I plan to use and abuse.

Elliot – stop adding, stop looking, stop trying hard. Everything you need you already have. You already have the answers. You experienced everything you need – just share that!

Saturday 21st August / Sunday 22nd August

— Speech on the public presentation —

Welcome to my research. I hope you’re comfortable, I’ve taken you to the underbelly of this bridge as it feels somehow symbolic of my process. Most people don’t go here, obviously. I didn’t spend much time here either but I wanted somewhere a bit more intimate.

If I had to define my role here the closest description might be imaginator – it’s not a real word, but my definition in this context is someone who facilitates imagination. And I think that’s my job here as I worked out early on that I could never meet the physical spectacle of trapeze off a bridge.

So here we are, after 10 days still in / on / around this fucking bridge, through the sun, wind and rain. We’ve been here almost every day since we started on Wednesday 11th August.

I feel slightly cheated by this sunshine today as this is not an accurate representation of Danish weather but we can enjoy it today. This bridge has pushed me to my emotional, physical and social limits. It is a harsh, uncompromising landscape to work in.

Before I continue, I should share that this my selective representation of this process. I deliberately omit many good moments for artistic effect. Petra had little voice in writing this and it’s less of a documentation, more of an unexpected product.

This process was a total failure. It brought a great deal of frustration and irritation. I will miss this bridge, but will also be pleased not to return tomorrow. I don’t use this word ‘failure’ negatively though, in fact I love the word. I have loved the liberation it has brought me to label my experience as such. I love the drama of it. Our society is full of heavily produced content, people ‘spinning’ information. We only share our successes. Instead, I want to relish in this personal public failure, this disaster of a process which gave me little in the way of satisfaction. No, I must celebrate the disappointment it brought. After all we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes.

My process feels like a story of different expectations and relationships to work, art and performance. Our mentor highlighted the lack of unity we had as makers. They were totally right, besides working in physical mediums we don’t share many visions. But why must we? This presentation is the product of our disunity. It’s not very cohesive, it’s a bit messy. A fashionable artistic word would be ‘raw’ but I prefer ‘chaotic’. Having said this, I do hope you enjoy the honesty of our desires, because why should collaboration equal compromise?

I too worked on ideas and scenes here, none of which amounted to much. They all lacked necessity and purpose, to share them would be to find reason and context where there isn’t any. The soundtrack of my time here included Edge of Seventeen (Stevie Nicks), Waterfalls (TLC), Slave to the Rhythm (Grace Jones). For a while I worked with the Belarusian dystopian techno band Molchat Doma. There was, even, at one point, a brief choreography on the stairs. All ended, for me at least, in micro-failures. Scores too generated most movement material, long pointless improvisations filled my afternoon, desperately seeking some artistic clarity I’d utter to Petra – ‘do you have any inspiration?’ Mostly I did not. Momentary creativity came early on in the process with a frenzied game of jumping off the bridge. Not me though, I was too scared, yet another failure. But I could take pleasure in watching and encouraging. Thoroughly excited by the illegality and the sunshine the bridge seemed full of performative possibility.

Other days were more difficult. As the week progressed and the weather became more autumnal, my desperation grew hysterical. Another hopeless 15 mins score of slow motion rolling across the bridge and down the stairs, one passer by asked me ‘are you okay or is it art?’ My response was ‘it is art and no I’m not okay!’ I was resisting the failure, hoping to salvage something, anything. I returned to old research ideas, could familiarity give me inspiration? Jump to yesterday afternoon, writing this text, fully at peace with my beautiful big fat failure. You’ve seen some trapeze, I’m here talking. My process it seems, was more about an exchange of personalities and of collaborative working. I’m calling it an artistic quarantine, trapped together on the bridge. You’ve seen the ‘circus’, now enjoy the ‘without circus’. My secret weapon in all this is my choice of art form. I am ‘in theory’ a contemporary dancer / choreographer. And because I choose to sit in the terrifyingly, impossibly open nature of this art form, I can define parameters that allow for almost any form of expression to be included.

Exploiting that freedom today I just share this text, and invite you to embrace and imagine the chaos of my process. Thank you very much for listening.

Finally, despite my drama there have been great moments here and one of my favourite activities on this bridge was just spending time here. In it, on it, under it, over it. So I invite you to spend some time on this bridge sitting, standing, laying, climbing, swinging, touching, holding, caressing, falling, jumping, rolling etc. because especially on a day like today it’s a really magic space.


Reading this back I laughed a lot. What I’ve learnt is I’m very dramatic and I have a lot of feelings and frustrations. These aren’t new things in my life but it’s confronting/entertaining to reflect. To anyone who is confused about my use of the word ‘failure’ I don’t really believe this was failure. I’ve come away much wiser and more precise about what I want and how I provide the best possible setting for my work. I had some sense before but this residency has crystallised it for me. Wasn’t that the point of this research actually? A cross pollination, an opportunity to throw caution to the wind and just try stuff. And boy did we try. This little speech is not a very accurate reflection in that regard. But while it might deceive and highlight certain angles it isn’t wrong either. In short I tried, and that’s what the speech is about. Process, and desperation.

Some pictures

The pictures below are taken during their public presentation on August 22nd in Copenhagen. (c) Maarten Verhelst