Zaki is a multidisciplinary circus artist and creative practitioner who draws from a broad movement background both on the ground and in the air, creating performances that balance both grace and creative energy on stage.
Originally from Singapore, he now lives in London where he performs and coaches internationally. His aim is to explore key themes around the representation of masculinity, identity and ethnicity in his performances.
His interdisciplinary approach, drawn from his broad background in design and art, helps him develop his practice. He is a graduate of Central St Martins' MA Material Futures course, a transdisciplinary design course that develops critical design scenarios.
He is established coach and instructor, with over 8 years experience across various studios, both London & Internationally. Specialist in act creation and conducting workshops tailored to developing transitions, techniques & flow for all levels of aerialists.
As a mentor, he coaches both pre-professional and professional aerialists to bring out and develop their creative voice.
He was selected artist for Raze's Collective's let Us Raze You commission, current and founding cast member for [On Air] with Bassline Circus, member and regular performer for OUTHAUS, the recurring cast member at Boy Toy Events and founding cast member for Le Cirque Des Reves
GET TO KNOW ZAKI
What do you say to strangers when they ask you what you do?
I tell them I am an Aerialist and Pole Dancer, performing and teaching for the past 8 years now! I think it really depends as my performing style is very different to who I am in real life. I just finished my Masters in Speculative Design last year during the start of the pandemic, and I have tried to keep my design and pole sides separate, but I am now realising that it is my strength in being able to offer many things as a creative person.
What is pole dancing, sport, art, lifestyle, hobby ... to you?
Pole Dancing to me is a way in which I get to use all my design senses to articulate a narrative or a story. This may be controversial but for me, the athleticism of Pole comes second. I know a lot of Pole Dancers who spend a lot of their time training for competitions and trying to push their body to their limits and the routines they come up with are incredibly impressive! But it is definitely not for me, pole is really a tool for me to tell a bigger narrative or sell a fantasy to the viewer. What really draws me in even when watching people Pole Dance on Instagram is when they are trying to connect to the audience to help us get to know them. From the small movements in the way they breathe to their facial expressions, that is what makes them different even though the pole vocabulary is universal.
Where do you see yourself in one year, five years, ten years?
Wow, what a tough question. Honestly, I don’t know. The pandemic has made it really difficult for me to make a living as an artist and a creative freelancer, since I cannot teach or perform, and this break has definitely given me, like a lot of other people in similar situations, more time to think on what I can do to contribute to society and to find the balance between creativity and financial stability.
1 year, 5 years, 10 years are all uncertain, but I definitely want to keep growing and explore different avenues in my abilities as a Pole dancer, performer, creator and story teller. Maybe in 10 years I’d like to own a house with a dedicated pole room! And also I guess I would like to see myself have more stability for myself in terms of work, finances and creative outputs.
What have you changed or are in the process of changing?
I think I am in the process of changing my perception of myself. I spent a lot of years being uncertain about my abilities, as a Designer (my first degree was in Menswear), Pole Dancer, Aerialist. Immigrating all the way from Singapore to London, I’ve always felt like I wasn’t good enough, wasn’t strong enough, wasn’t flexible enough, and the list goes on.. but I am recognising that not only I am good enough, my experiences of who I am, where I am from, and what I offer as a Pole Dancer and human being is unique to me. My narrative is important because it is mine, and I try to carry that forward into my performances as well. Remember that there is no one like you!
Who has impressed you the most in your life? And why?
As a POC performer, I look up to other non-white Aerial and Pole performers that I see thriving and making a name for themselves in the industry. I love seeing the space they exist in and how they’ve managed to fight for their space to be seen. We still need to do so much work with regard to diversity and representation in all aspects of society.
What are your values?
I think that giving your best and trying to live your authentic self is all we can ask for as human beings on this earth.
Do you cry?
Yes, but not enough. Sometimes good, sometimes bad.
Do you sometimes feel powerless?
Honestly, all the time. Again, going back to the pandemic and as a Creative Freelancer, not being able to work, make a living or pay rent has taken a huge toll on my self-worth. As we begin to come out of the restrictions here in London, I am hopeful for the future but the industry has suffered a lot during the lockdown and we as performers have to accept lower fees or choose not to work at all.
Besides that on a personal level, yes definitely but I have recently learnt that not being in control and not being able to predict the future is different from having power within yourself. Trusting your abilities, your values and your experiences is the first step towards owning your own power no matter what the situation is.
Do you prefer the comfort zone or tilting at windmills?
This is a fun one. I would firstly say that I am an introvert, and I think my friends would say that I love the comfort zone. However, I constantly put myself in situations where I end up in a tornado of things and opportunities. I am very grateful to be recognised for the work and effort I have put in over the years despite the pandemic (such as this amazing one to collaborate with Lupit Pole!) and look forward to seeing what is in store for me as things reopen now.
What would you say to the little you at this moment?
I would say, “I can’t believe it either.” I am a geeky kid at heart. I love computer games, I grew up playing the piano and the trombone in the brass band was in the chess and computer club, and would always hate P.E. Now, people see me as an “athlete.” Pole is growing in popularity and acceptance, and more and more people are understanding the strength and stamina requires to do pole!
Do you nurture the little you inside you?
I haven’t in the past years but I have recently started! I was recommended this infamous book for creatives, which apply to artists and performers of any kind called “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. It’s about rekindling and rediscovering your creative self. The 2 main exercises I am doing right now a part of the book is something called Morning Pages, and the “Artist Date.” I won’t give away too much but definitely give it a read if you feel like you’re lacking motivation right now.
If you had a magic wand, what would you change about the world?
Right now, definitely, it has to be about #StopAsianHate. We live in 2021, where being apolitical towards really serious issues in society is no longer ok. Silence is complicit. As an Asian person who is sometimes “unidentifiably brown,” I face discrimination and now this discrimination has turned violent. We have so much still to progress as a society and we need to do better. If a magic wand can help, let’s make that happen.
Are you happy living in the here and now?
I think it’s a struggle and I’m something I’m working on. Feeling my feet, grounding myself to the present is the only way I can be my best, but sometimes the anxieties of the possibilities of what may or may not happen definitely gets the best of me at times.
Follow us and Zaki's journey through next weeks, where Zaki is going to share with us tips for act creation and his ways to start a new routine.
His inspiring heart and creativity will blow your mind. We promise J