Their athleticism is plain to see, yet you won’t find them running around a sporting oval or kicking a ball. Their toned, lithe bodies attest to the thousands of hours spent training rigorously honing and perfecting their skills, yet they seem no different to you or me. Their dedication to the pursuit of excellence is comparable with any sportspersons or sports team, but they’re not sports stars in the traditional sense. Their talent combines inordinate amounts of physical skill with equal amounts of drama. But in a sporting mad nation like Australia, where sports stars are revered, even hero-worshipped, their efforts and their talent go largely unnoticed by comparison. So who exactly are they then?
They are the 17 supremely talented, young men and women who are the National Institute of Circus Arts [NICA] graduating class of 2011 and their sporting arena is the purpose built, award winning new home for circus arts in Australia. Located in the inner Melbourne suburb of Prahran, the new home of NICA is “the only centre of its kind in the southern hemisphere” according to NICA spokesperson and Marketing and Communications Manager Maria Rizzo. The transition from an un-renovated warehouse in Melbourne’s Docklands precinct, where they ran their first pilot national training project in 1999, to their new state-of-the-art premises has been made possible with funding from both the Federal and State governments, major sponsors and private individuals with the philosophy, “build it and they will come.”
And they have. In partnership with major sponsor Swinburne University, NICA offers a fully accredited Bachelor Degree course in Circus Arts. It used to be that running away to join the circus was an idle fairytale reserved for dreamers.
Well, haven’t times changed? Completed full-time over three years like most degrees, the course attracts students from every corner of the globe. For every 25 students hand-picked for entry, 100 more will miss out; but the show goes on – in spectacular fashion.
Every year, NICA opens its doors to the public for a rare glimpse inside the world of its circus arts programme. For anyone living in Melbourne or travelling to Melbourne between November 23 and 3 December, the 2011 graduating artists Circus Showcase directed by Megan Jones is well worth a look. It’s the culmination of three years worth of work, packed into a two-hour long, sound and visual spectacular by some of the freshest talent you will see here or abroad.
So what can you expect? Expect all the traditional elements of circus including juggling, displays of strength, high-flying trapeze stunts and add to that beautifully choreographed individual and ensemble performances to music as divergent as Phillip Glass, Jose Gonzales, Elvis and Michael Jackson. But above all, you can expect to see a close-knit group of performers, each with their own specialties, emerge from three years worth of rigorous training to entertain their audience with the same enthusiasm you would expect from seasoned professionals on an international stage [and not an elephant in sight]. Without giving too much away, one of the most memorable performances of the evening came from corde lisse/vertical rope specialist Zoe Newitt. I couldn’t help but wonder what one thinks about when they’re suspended, by rope, 50 feet above the heads of total strangers, so I asked. “I try to imagine I’m telling a story. I can’t be blank during a performance, because then my performance would appear blank to the audience.” I’m sure if you asked anyone in the audience on the night, they would unanimously agree that they told their story with poise.
[NICA also has a recruitment arm that specialises in the professional placement of its students within the industry. Known simply as CircaNICA, circus performers can also be booked for corporate events, promotions and parties. For more information contact CircaNICA on 03 9214 6408 or email [email protected]]
For more information about NICA in general or to enquire about tickets to the show or about one of their short courses, contact NICA directly on 03 9214 6975.