21st April 2021

Performer Or Artist? Which One Are You?

Performer Or Artist

In many shows that are centred around physical performance such as dance, circus and concerts, the people performing will be referred to as “Performers”. I hadn’t really heard the cast being referred to as “Artists” until I worked for Cirque du Soleil.

And perhaps rightly so. Cirque, when they started out, probably had many people in their shows that could be considered artists. These people were developing and expressing their craft onstage. This term “artist” has been carried on in many other productions I have been involved with and this could do with some clarification. The performer versus artist debate should be explored.

The definition of a performer will contain phrases like: to carry out, to execute, to act, to render, to accomplish, to complete, to fulfill, to perform, to go through, to yield, etc.

This means they will do what is expected and agreed upon with a producer, usually by means of a contract. A performer may want to be on stage, but generally, will bring no more (or less) to the stage than what has been deemed acceptable.

The definition of an artist will contain phrases like: to create, to produce or to practice aesthetic works, to require knowledge of design, to exhibit exceptional skill, to be an expert at trickery or deceit.

The last one was a surprise to me when I researched the definition on dictionary.com but is easily classified – magician, illusion, etc.

I would love to consider myself as an artist and do consider myself fortunate enough to be given small windows and opportunities to represent creatively in that world but as a retired performer with a career spanning around 18 years, my resume reads more like a performer. When you go into this business you want continued employment and the constant “when are you going to get a proper job” statements only make you more determined to take jobs that sit in the industry. It’s a matter of survival over choice.

I have seen many self-proclaimed “artists” that perform “work” like a 10-minute act of slapping large, raw pieces of meat across their almost fully naked body and calling it “the way the corporation treats us – like a piece of meat!”

A performer works for the love of being on stage and the desire to entertain. The artist works out of a need to share their creative expression with the world without care or compromise.

Me, I’d like to bring another title; entertainer – a bit of both. One can sit in both camps.

Ultimately the industry needs both. In this business, we need the artists to create the product and the performers to carry out the roles within that creation.

Which one are you?


Also by Rob Winch:

Performer, Look Towards The Future

The Great Barani Debate

Join TheatreArtLife to access unlimited articles, our global career center, discussion forums, and professional development resource guide. Your investment will help us continue to ignite connections across the globe in live entertainment and build this community for industry professionals. Learn more about our subscription plans.

Love to write or have something to say? Become a contributor with TheatreArtLife. Join our community of industry leaders working in artistic, creative, and technical roles across the globe. Visit our CONTRIBUTE page to learn more or submit an article.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on tumblr
Share on twitter


Born in London and former National Artistic Gymnastics Champion, Rob Winch started his entertainment career as an acrobat and aerialist, performing in "OVO" at the Millennium Dome. Over a 12-year performance career, Rob has experienced many different types of entertainment including, cruise ships, stunt shows, musical theatre, live events, television and film, including "Tarzan La Rencontre" at Disneyland Paris. In 2005 he joined Cirque du Soleil for their new creation "The Beatles LOVE" which included other special events such as "The Tonight Show", "The 50th Annual Grammy Awards", "America’s Got Talent Finale" and Cirque’s "Worlds Away" 3D Movie. During this time, Rob co-founded his company Production Lab, which is also the parent company to BNTA, A British themed production company. In 2011 he retired from the stage and was asked to return to Disneyland Paris as Head Coach for "Tarzan". In 2014, he was also recruited as an acrobatic and stunt specialist to re-choreograph the acrobatic act in "The Festival of the Lion King" at Disney World, Florida. Rob was invited to Macau in 2015 as Head of Coaching for Franco Dragone’s The House of Dancing Water and most recently, La Perle in Dubai.

Read Full Profile