York circus skills performer and yoga teacher looks forward to being back on stage

A new production of a Jules Verne classic needed actors with circus skills – perfect for Dora Rubinstein. Catherine Scott reports.

Dora Rubinstein balancing on her acrobatic partner Jade Clapham.             Pictures: Harry Hamburg
Dora Rubinstein balancing on her acrobatic partner Jade Clapham.  Pictures: Harry Hamburg

Dora Rubinstein seems as happy standing on her hands as her feet.

The actor, yoga teacher and circus skills performer from York is appearing in a new high-energy adaptation of Jules Verne’s Around the World In 80 Days in her home city, in a role that appears made for her as it features circus and acrobatic skills.

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Dora grew up in the North East and always wanted to be an actor and performer.

Dora from York juggles her time between teacher yoga and acroyoga and performing

“My mum was a yoga teacher and while I was away at the Art Educational School in London she was learning circus skills,” recalls Dora.

“I wasn’t an athletic child – I was never on the winning team for sports day. But what I loved was climbing trees, adventure playgrounds and handstanding in fields with my friends.”

She said while at theatre school she was different from a lot of the other children many of whom had been dancing since they could walk.

“They were all really flexible because they had been dancing from such a young age, I wasn’t naturally flexible and so at the age of 16 I started doing yoga, primarily to improve my flexibility.”

Dora Rubinstein took up yoga while at drama school

Her mum’s love of circus performing inspired Dora and she fell in love with it too.

She attended the Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts, London, and was determined upon graduating to make sure she had a career as well as acting.

“So many actors do jobs on a side while they are waiting for work, but I didn’t want that. I wanted to have control over my own destiny and do something that was fulfilling. So I trained to be a yoga teacher, it was something I really enjoyed.”

She was living in London at the time where competition for yoga teachers was fierce.

Dora says she has had to work on her flexibity all her life as she wasn't born bendy Picture: Harry Hamburg

“There a lot of people doing it but coming from a theatre background I knew I had to go out there and I wasn’t afraid of getting knocked back.”

Dora built up a strong client base for her yoga teaching as well as acro yoga, handstand and body conditioning. She managed to split her time 50:50 between performing and teaching.

Then she and her boyfriend moved to York.

“I’d been in London for 10 years and really wanted a chance. A lot of my acting roles were in cities in the north,” explains Dora.

Dora Rubinstein Picture: Harry Hamburg

“I grew up in Newcastle and my boyfriend Harry grew up in Leeds and we both wanted to live in a city in the north but not where we grew up.

“We also wanted somewhere that was an easy commute from other places as a lot of the workshops I attend are in Leeds and Newcastle. It also needed to be a really beautiful city and so York was just perfect.”

She started teaching yoga sessions at variety of venues around the city and also had some private clients.

But then the pandemic hit. “I didn’t stop teaching,” says Dora. “Like so many people we took to Zoom and in some ways it was almost better as I have clients still in London and even abroad so all though its not the same as face to face it meant that I could keep going.” Dora is a believer in being in tune with your body and training it to reach its full capacity without pushing too hard.

“It’s about muscle memory, especially when you are doing contortion you need to train your body to feel safe in those positions rather than tensing,” she says,

“My aim when teaching is to inspire that same sense of play in my students. To treat our bodies not as something to be manipulated, changed or punished, but as our tools to try things we never knew we could do – be it handstanding or meditating.”

Dora Rubinstein balancing on her acrobatic partner Jade Clapham.  Pictures: Harry Hamburg

Dora also gets irritated when people suggested she may have a condition called hypermobility – the ability to move joints beyond the normal range of movement.

“I am not naturally flexible and I only started stretching and training my body when I was 17. It takes a lot of hard work to become this flexible and it does annoy when people say ‘you must be hypermobile’. Hypermobilty is a condition that can cause people a lot of problems.” Dora is looking forward to performing to a real live audience again after landing a job that could have been written for her in Around the World In 80 Days.

“When I heard about the auditions and that they were looking for people with circus and aerial skills I didn’t want to jinx it by telling people because it is always the jobs that you think you should get that you don’t end up getting.”

Dora did end up getting the job which is currently in rehearsals and involves a lot of acrobatic skills.

Although she is really glad to be back in rehearsal, thing are still very different to how they were before the pandemic hit.

“We have to do Covid tests every day and socially distance when we are not actually performing, But obviously the type of work we do does involve a lot of interaction so it is impossible to socially distance there.”

And as well as being excited herself to be back on stage, especially with this family production which is touring around four schools in York before ending up at the Theatre Royal, Dora just want to bring joy to others.

“Lockdown has been so hard on everyone that we are really looking forward to bringing the joy of live performance back to people.”

The show will be staged outdoors on school playing fields at :

Carr Junior School - 6 August, 7pm; 7 August, 3 & 7pm; 8 Aug, 2 & 6pm.

Copmanthorpe Primary School – 10 August, 7pm; 11 & 12 August, 3 & 7pm.

Archbishop Holgate’s School – 14 August, 7pm; 15 Aug, 2 & 6pm; 16 August, 3 & 7pm

Joseph Rowntree School – 18 August, 7pm; 19 Aug, 3 & 7pm; 20 August, 7pm; 21 Aug, 2 & 6pm.

York Theatre Royal – 25-28 August, 2pm & 7pm. Signed performance 26 August, 2pm.

Ticket prices are £20 for adults and £15 for under 16s with a family ticket discount of 10 per cent.

Contact the box office 01904 623568 or York Theatre 
Royal website yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

For more information on Dora’s yoga teaching visit https://dora.yoga/

Dora Rubinstein  Pictures: Harry Hamburg