There is a lot of circus around these days, both in Melbourne and beyond. It’s a competitive industry like any other. High skill level isn’t enough to make somebody a great circus artist. The reality is that there a lot of world class jugglers, trapeze artists and handstand masters doing the circus rounds. To quote an old phrase, “You gotta have a gimmick.” In circus that is the ability to turn your trick into a theatrical experience, to tell a story or convey a character, be political perhaps, or maybe confrontational, all through your chosen circus medium. To be an artiste as well as a technician is the goal.
NICA (National Institute of Circus Arts) recognizes this and is more and more encouraging of the students to be such artists. Last year’s DiVino, a Fellini inspired show directed by Commedia dell’Arte expert Valeria Campo was the most successful step in that direction so far. The recent 2007 Circus Showcase featured graduating students who have been training and developing along this line for the past three years.
The 19 strong class has many future stars and the showcase succeeded in portraying them as individuals. Like most student shows, it was a long night and in some cases, the acts still need to find their dramatic pacing, but overall there was fabulous material and each and every student had much to offer.
The acts that worked the best were thematically clear and well timed. They were long enough to get a sense of the range of the student’s skill level without being overworked and conveyed a readable aesthetic or idea. Nami Hall, in wispy white shift and flowing dark hair, used the ethereal and air bound nature of trapeze to explore ideas of heaven, life and death. It was a simple concept beautifully executed. “Manz” James Loughron used the aerial hoop in Lullaby to similar ends and managed some very clever choreography as well, using the hoop at his feet and entwining himself within the rope. Lisa Bickerton’s dance background melded seamlessly with her act on the German Wheel – no small feat, as it is hard to meld dance and a circus apparatus with any fluidity.
Double acts provided some visual variety and were able to explore simultaneous themes and tricks. Dannick Chollet used an ensemble of blank faced suits to represent the grey world he was breaking out of on his teetherboard. Amy Nightingale-Olsen and Christopher Zaluski combined aerial, handstand, foot juggling in one supersized act while Joshua Hoare and Phillip Thompson brought together cello, acrobalance and a bit of physical theatre for their act Crash.
A sense of humour goes down well in contemporary circus. Jannah Parington not only climbed and somersaulted on a hanging rope; she used it as a person - a love interest, playing off the words of pop songs to convey her emotions. Jessica Davis appeared intermittently through the show as a clown, blowing feathers, eating cupcakes and, like Parington, having some rope issues of her own. Her segments were sharp. She connected well to the audience and brought cohesion to the show.
NICA has come a long way in a short time. Their newest development is a purpose built theatre with good sight lines, plenty of seating and most importantly the extensive rigging which makes each of these dare devil students able to achieve their special talents.
The National Institute of Circus Arts presents
2007 Circus Showcase
Solo performances by graduating students
Venue: NICA National Circus Centre | Green Street, Prahran
Dates: Wed 12 - Sat 15 September
Preview: Tues 11 September
Times: Tues – Sat @7.30pm, plus matinees, 2pm, Fri and Sat
Tickets: Adults $25, concession/child $18, preview and matinees $15