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Christchurch again staging NZ's only circus school

Christchurch again staging New Zealand’s only circus school

Christchurch Polytech is to run New Zealand’s only circus school again this year.

The CircoArts course was started by the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT) seven years ago.

Progamme director Chris Carrow said New Zealand had no circus tradition. Travelling circuses tour the country but they all come from overseas. ``We at CircoArts are starting our own tradition by training New Zealanders and other interested people.

``We are developing our own performers and shows in a New Zealand style so we can show the world what we can do here,’’ Mr Carrow said. The programme started in 1996 in an old heritage building and they installed a flying trapeze rig, tightwire, tumbling floor and dance studio.

They bought unicycles, juggling gear, a German wheel, aerial hoop, webs, cloud swing and stilts and started training students.

The course has grown into a two year diploma. It teaches acrobatics, aerials, juggling and manipulation, balance arts, clown and character work, physical theatre, slapstick, theatre skills, mime and mask, history, theory and business and first aid.

This year’s CircoArts course starts February 24 with up to 25 students from Switzerland, Australia, Canada, USA, Holland and New Zealand.

The students’ showcase will be the annual Circus Under the Stars' an outside performance, part of Showtime Canterbury in November.

Students take on all skills in the first year and specialise in one or two areas in their final year.

They develop a complete show or set pieces with techniques needed to sell their show in the real world, Mr Carrow said.

``Our students come from everywhere. Over the years we have had students from Japan, Malaysia, Sweden, Canada, USA, England, Germany, Australia and New Zealand.

``Our graduates have stepped up to traditional circuses such as the Circus Royal in Australia, Webber Bros in New Zealand and the Rock and Roll Circus in Australia.

``We have had people work at Club Med teaching trapeze and performing, touring South Africa in a circus.’’

Some of the performers in the 10th World Buskers Festival starting in Christchurch tomorrow are CircoArts graduates. The festival ends on January 26 and 180,000 people are expected to attend. A post festival education expo featuring tutors and performers from the CPIT CircoArts course and the festival will be held at the Christchurch Town Hall on January 28.

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