Circus training can start very young and if it were compulsory in schools, would contribute not only to good health and self-esteem but also the essential ingredients of trust and co-operation needed to be a performer. That trust was powerfully demonstrated in NICA’s Leap of Faith: Circus in Motion where 24 talented young performers brought three years of intense practice to breathtaking fruition.
While there are eight national arts training institutes in Australia, Swinburne University is the only one that offers a Bachelor of Circus Arts with the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA). Trainers from circuses all over the world give the benefit of their expertise and Matthew Jessner, former Cirque du Soleil Artistic Director, came from Belgium for this show. He must surely have been proud!
As the lights went down, two large white sacks suspended high above the floor came to life. Slowly a leg descended, then another and another until bodies coiled out of the cacoons, sheets dropped from the roof and a great show began. While reluctant to single out individual performances, I must congratulate Nick Rothlisberger for not landing in my lap from his trapeze act, which he swung so deftly.
This was by no means the only act that brought a sharp intake of breath. The Roue Cyr wheel was spun at heady speed, bodies coiled like snakes over and around ropes and women with the grace of classical ballerinas were flipped into the air like rag dolls to twist and land elegantly on an outstretched hand. No mistakes, no sign of nerves, each supporting the other to bring overall perfection. A video screen and music from Indonesian bells, jazz songs and classical sweet violin complemented each daring move, and only at one point did I find figures on the screen distracting.
Then levity took over with the entrance of Emeline, a good clown, who playfully interacted with a willing audience. Videos were replaced by performers at two levels giving an opportunity for the exacting choreography to involve the whole group.
At the same time, individual performers like Hanne Grant and Yonas Gebremedhim had an opportunity to show what the rest of us wish we could do with hula hoops and bouncing balls. Wow! Assured confidence now allowed these wonderful performers to smile and share their enjoyment.
Hopefully their diligence and skill will give them the opportunity to take a leap of faith to explore their potential in the many great circuses around the world.