February 07, 2011
Tassie Circus Fest


I honestly don’t know where to begin with this life-changing experience. If I start at the beginning, last October when Jewelz suggested I attend, the tale will take ages to get through. If I start at the beginning of the training week, I think you might not understand how big a leap of faith attending this professional circus event was for me. So I guess I’ll just skip the beginning entirely and merely jot a few of the lasting impressions.

I was overwhelmingly inspired by individual performers, teachers at the workshops I attended, and my fellow trainees. My goodness, the energy flowed and multiplied every day. I swam in the current of it with lots of happy splashes. Nearly drowned a few times. Came home drenched.

“It’s not how far you go, it’s how uncomfortable you feel.” — Jeff Turpin

Tassie Circus Fest is actually called the Australian National Circus Festival. It is five days of training workshops, then a day off, followed by three days of performances for the public. So including arrival and departure, I was there for 11 days. There were about 200 trainees and 2,000 members of the public. This is a big festival!

The youth circuses were incredible; Slipstream, Spaghetti Circus, and Circus Arts Byron Bay

Lone Star, Golconda is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been and Tony Rooke, who organises the festival on his private property, is a kind and generous man.

Tasmanian summer is damned cold. I wished I’d had mittens.


The training workshop schedule is tantalizingly complicated. You simply cannot do everything you want to do because there are 16 venues holding 60 workshops every day. The sign-up sessions allow you to book into only 11 total for the five days and some workshops fill to capacity. The ones that aren’t full, though, you can usually drop into as you like.

Creativity flows in groups and duos. We came up with new acts every time we talked.

Circus folks are not scary or intimidating, as I’d feared. They are welcoming, crazy creative, committed to their craft, open to new ideas, all over the map in shape, size and age, intense in every aspect of their existence and yet relaxed and fun-loving at the same time. There are professional bonds, friendships and love affairs among performers - and it is difficult to guess which is which at first glance. No doubt feuds, too, though I didn’t notice any of those. Everything they do is 150% bigger than life size. Circus people have some of the most fully-lived lives I’ve seen.

The riggers are possibly the coolest people on site.

During the training, I shared everything I could - from hoop dance flow and tricks, to ideas for costumes and music and staging. It was a relief to realise little beginner me did have knowledge that these amazing circus professionals could actually use.

Egg in a Sack is a pickled egg in a bag of crisps. Yum.

I learned more than I gave. Specifically in yoga with Jeff Turpin, hoop workshops with Sherrelle Dolphin and Lilikoi Kaos, Intro to Acro and Tumbling with Shannon McGurgan and Malia Walsh of Circus Trick Tease, Persona with Trent Birdmann Baumann, Performer’s Voice with Tessa Leon, Viewpoints with Laura Sheedy, Zen Thai Shiatsu with Monique DeGoey, Got Game with Rachel Kramer, and a Performance and Choreography Intensive with Sarah, Diana, Molly and Lollo of LAVA from NYC.

“Has anyone lost a sock?” — Daryl

I was cowed by the aerial and other physical workshops. Even though I’d have liked to try them, I decided the risk of a major physical injury wasn’t worth it. Plus, trapeze, tightrope, and teeterboard aren’t accessible to me in Tokyo. I had good rationalizations, but I feel like I wimped out. Maybe next time I’ll be stronger, more capable and fearless.

A good MC makes a show 10 times better.


I performed on stage in front of the full public festival crowd. This was the culmination of the workshop with LAVA and it was great fun. Eleven of us trainees threw ourselves at the floor like ocean waves, ran, and balanced in synch. In between the group work, Sarah, Di, Molly and Lollo did gorgeous trapeze, acrobatics, and hoop diving combined with contemporary dance. I did double duty as stage manager, calling cues and making sure props and people were in place.


I saw a platypus in the Lake.

During the public festival, I taught two renegade hoop workshops alongside Amelia Cadwallader’s scheduled one. With her permission, since her class was overflowing with a range of skill levels. I did an intermediate off-body hooping session and a workshops of special requests/intermediate trick help.

Australia is home to innumerable circuses and circus schools.

I made a list of acts I loved at the festival. Without being able to share them with you properly, here they are: Olivia Porters’s “bottle of pills” juggling routine; Ruby Rowat and Sharon Gruenert’s “John Henry” duo trapeze act; Intrika’s contact juggling duo; Lords of Strut ladder and manspray routine. MC slots by Eloise Green, The Birdmann, and Astrid Rot. Honestly, there were so many that it’s silly to try to list them all.

I can hardly wait to return in 2013.

Posted by kuri at February 07, 2011 09:17 AM

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