PaperDolls Performance was a pioneering aerial dance and contemporary circus company from Dublin, that lived fast and died young between 2010 - 2013. PaperDolls combined expertise and influence from the former creative lives of the founding members, with an experimental and resourceful approach to aerial. We burst onto the scene to immediate success in the year 2011 with our show Paperdolls, going on to win the Spirit of the Fringe Award for Constellations in 2012, the first for a circus company in the 21 years of the Irish festival. This achievement lead to our final production BUNK in 2013. Other PaperDolls projects include the Eccentric Ladies of the Woods, A Letter to Mina and various other performances and appearances. Elaine McCague subsequently founded Loosysmokes; Emily Aoibheann went on to produce artistic work independently and started her school Creation Aerial (2014 - 2020). Below is a little herstory of the PaperDolls.
The founding members were Emily Aoibheann, Elaine McCague, Karen Anderson and Niamh Creely. Niamh Creely left the company when Emily, Elaine and Karen pursued full-time circus training in Belfast, 2011 (the dates are blurry tbh).
PaperDolls had a significant influence on the very early aerial movement in Dublin and Ireland. We were the original flying ladies of Dublin 😊
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In 2010, a group of friendly strangers - Emily, Niamh, Elaine and Karen - got together to find ways to train aerial in Dublin because there was none. Drawing on our individual resources and with help from the tiny network of existing aerialists and circus people from Ireland and N.Ireland, and many non-aerial creative people and places alike, we fast became the exciting pioneers of aerial in Dublin city.
Although I credit aerial dance company Fidget Feet as my primary aerial genealogy, aerial at that time was entirely new in Ireland. Having attended 1 x 5 day workshop per year over 2 years that FF hosted at Dance House in Dublin (yes, one week of aerial per year in the first two years), I was beyond eager to take it and make it happen for myself, as all good punks do - to DIY! I was head over heels in aerial love and was ready to grasp the silks, trapeze and hoop and mix it up with all the things I had already been doing - music, performance, visual art, writing. I was heavily involved in underground music and performance in Dublin and dreamt of the day I could integrate aerial into my performance adventures
Once the yet-to-be-named four found each other and got together, it wasn't long before we started creating things and coming up with big ideas. We decided to submit a proposal to Dublin Fringe Festival, so we needed a name! Niamh really wanted to use the name PaperDolls and although we had heard of another aerial group with a similar name (guess who?!), we didn't really expect anything serious to come of it so we went with the name that one of us was the most passionate about: PaperDolls and we became the Dolls, collectively. We had a number of different places and people support us in those earlier days - some venues that I had already a relationship with through Burlesque including The Complex (Thanks Vanessa!) which was in Smithfield at the time and the Sugar Club (Thanks Oisín) which had agreed to make their venue suitable for aerial - yes you can thank me for organising and Oisín for paying for that!
Little did we know then that our initiation into aerial would in fact become our entire lives!