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St Helens aerialist who helped Pink, Lady Gaga and Diversity brings breathtaking spectacular to hometown

8 months ago

St Helens aerialist who helped Pink, Lady Gaga and Diversity brings breathtaking spectacular to hometown
Wendy with Ashley Banjo

With husband Jamie, she’s helped some of the world’s top performers create amazing aerial routines to surprise and amaze their audiences.

Now renowned aerial performer Wendy Hesketh-Ogilvie is bringing her own spectacular show to her hometown of St Helens as part of its Borough of Culture celebrations.

And she says: “I would love to think people from St Helens – and Rainford where I grew up – will come and say, ‘hasn’t she done well’.

“This is me saying, follow your dreams.”

Wendy adds: “We have travelled the world with this show but when something becomes personal there’s nothing better. This is showing the journey from where I started to where I am now, and it’s epic.”

Wendy and Jamie working Bregenz Opera. Rigoletto
Wendy and Jamie working Bregenz Opera. Rigoletto

Wendy, 50, and Jamie, set up Wired Aerial Theatre in 1999, to create and present the bungee-assisted dance techniques for which they have become famous.

They have taken productions – including As The World Tipped which they’ll perform in St Helens on October 21 – around the globe, and passed on their skills to hundreds, including students and some of the most famous dancers, musicians and theatre performers.

“We designed bungees for Pink for her Funhouse Tour because she wanted a specific effect and we worked with her to get the right dynamic, and the same for Lady Gaga who wanted a bungee scene for an award ceremony she was doing. Diversity were doing a tour and they discovered bungee assisted dance and asked us to teach it to them, so we taught Ashley Banjo how to do it, and Perry to fly in.

“There’s a great need for aerial art.”

And Wendy says: “It’s psychologically proven that if you raise your eyes something happens in your heart, it affects your emotions, so there’s great strength in aerial work, and watching it and raising your eyeline. It improves your mental health, it helps you to feel things are better and I like to play with that.”

Mum-of-two Wendy – she and Jamie have two children, Sawyer, 13, and Walter, five – has always loved to dance, from being a young child at Rainford CE Primary, and as a teenager who attended Rainford High School. 

And, although she went on to study dance at Cowley 6th Form College and St Helens College, she didn’t have the confidence then to pursue a career as a performer: “That’s why I say now, if you really want to do something, do it, don’t be afraid…”

Instead, Wendy went to university to study a PE and Maths in Teaching degree: “It was somewhere I could major in dance, so I did dance with gymnastics and trampolining – and my dance lecturer said ‘you have to dance’.”

She got into the London Contemporary Dance School, and after that her dream career began. 

ATWT -Wired Aerial Theatre - credit Prudence Upton
ATWT -Wired Aerial Theatre – credit Prudence Upton

Wendy discovered a love of ‘flying’ and its limitless moves when one of her first dance roles involved an outdoor performance where she had to scale a two-storey building in Stoke Newington and was taught how to climb using industrial rope access methods. From there she became obsessed with ‘dancing at 90-degrees’!

She auditioned for De LA Guarda, an Argentinian circus and theatre company, succeeding as one of three auditionees out of 1,800, and travelled the world performing with them.

“That’s where I met Jamie. He was head of rigging, making sure we were all safe in our harnesses as we flew through the air.”

But Wendy eventually wanted to try to combine what she had learned and perfected with De LA Guarda with dance, so she and technical director Jamie left to pioneer the bungee-assisted dance that they have performed to acclaim throughout the world and passed on to others.

ATWT - NOW - Credit Kevin Ryan
ATWT – NOW – Credit Kevin Ryan

They now offer artistic and technical services, and aerial artistry services to the theatre and performance industry, and they have designed and previously implemented three degree-level Aerial Performance Modules at Edge Hill University, and from 2014 created and delivered two Aerial Performance Modules for LIPA in Liverpool.

After a break following the birth of her second son, Wendy is returning to performance herself for As The World Tipped when it will be one of the highlights of St Helens’ Borough of Culture events. 

Combining dramatic film and visuals with a stunning aerial performance, the large-scale show will be performed at Birchley Street Car Park in the town centre. It is written and directed by Nigel Jamieson, one of the world’s leading creators of outdoor spectacle having overseen the Sydney Olympics and Liverpool Capital of Culture, and tells the powerful tale of an ecological crisis through an extraordinary piece of aerial theatre with spectacle, humour, and emotion.  

ATWT - Wendy in action - Credit Mark McNulty
ATWT – Wendy in action – Credit Mark McNulty

“We have performed this 70 times, in Sydney, Adelaide, Las Palmas in Spain… all over, but to bring it to St Helens, my home town, is phenomenal. 

“What’s also special is that when I started to perform this my dad was alive, and now he isn’t. But my mum will be there with all her friends, and she will be as proud as anything.

“So I’m quite expecting to start crying about half way through.”

As The World Tipped will be performed on Birchley Street Car Park, St Helens, on Saturday, October 21 at 6:30pm, with the site open to the public from 4:30pm. 

For more news in St Helens click HERE.

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