The Rising by Circus Corridor. Image credit Scott Belzner

Circus Corridor

Kate Veling | September 2018

Our local circus sector is an experience not to be missed!

The Gold Coast might not have a big top, but it’s got something even better – Circus Corridor. This innovative collective is creating opportunities, pushing frontiers and fostering a dynamic new approach to circus arts.

If you associate circus with clowns, juggling and unicycles then you’re not going to get what you expect, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be disappointed. There’s a good chance you’ll be surprised, delighted, challenged and changed by what you see when you attend a Circus Corridor showing.

Based on the Gold Coast, Circus Corridor is a collective of contemporary circus creatives that unites the corridor of circus activity between Northern Rivers, NSW, the Gold Coast and Brisbane. It’s the only collective of its kind in Australia and consists of performance makers, directors, musicians, social and community artists, choreographers, movement directors and workshop facilitators who all share a passion for circus arts.

The four creative directors Kristy Seymour, Tammy Zarb, Celia White and Simone O’Brien have a wealth of experience and knowledge between them, and formed Circus Corridor with the intention to celebrate local expertise and encourage development for Gold Coast artists and stories. By creating new and innovative circus performances in unexpected spaces in our city, Circus Corridor set out to change perceptions of what circus can be.

As recipients of funding through the City of Gold Coast’s Accelerate Triennial Program, Circus Corridor and the women who run it, have been able to share their knowledge and cultivate new experimental circus and physical theatre in local circus arts. The financial support has enabled them to mentor emerging artists in a series of workshops, master classes, creative developments and showings over the last three years. It’s also meant that the artists they support have had the chance to perform more often in front of Gold Coast audiences.

When the collective was commissioned to produce an original work to debut at Festival 2018 (the incredible cultural program that ran alongside the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games) it was a chance to push themselves and the concept of new circus, and to show international and local audiences just what they were capable of.

Set between land and sea, heaven and earth, The Rising used reimagined circus apparatus and a thrilling aerial spectacle to examine a world on the brink. The work was developed over 12 months and explored our nation’s paradoxical love affair with water on the world’s driest continent in the age of climate change. Circus Corridor co-founder and creative director, Tammy Zarb, was movement director for the project and shares some of the inspiration behind it.

“As directors we all agreed that climate change was  topic we’re all concerned about and so over many brainstorming sessions we began thinking about how we could create a piece of performance art that also connected with our audience,” she explains. “We began to imagine bodies floating, rising and falling as the water line rose and receded and how to effectively achieve this visually for the audience on a round stage. That led us to thinking about the designs of reimagined aerial equipment.”

The Rising was a multidisciplinary performance featuring some of the Gold Coast’s most talented performers from circus, dance, acrobatics, gymnastics, aerial and physical theatre. Set on a circular outdoor stage in the middle of Broadbeach, the piece involved swinging ladders, lots of vertical harness work and presented considerable challenges in the many rigging components required. It took three directors, 10 ensemble performers, one composer, one head rigger, three additional riggers, an engineer and set designer and a lighting designer to bring it all together.

“As directors it was very exciting to experiment with new aerial equipment, to work closely with the engineers, designer and rigging team,” says Tammy. “It was also a wonderful opportunity for our emerging artists to work and create in the air as some of them had never performed vertical work before.”

The Rising had its world premiere at Festival 2018. Thousands of people saw it and response was unanimously positive. The work received rave reviews from the general public, industry peers and the local arts sector alike. Festival 2018 director, Yaron Lifschitz described it as, “Bold and ambitious – a work of scale featuring a large cast of young artists. It’s physically and musically inventive and features striking images with a powerful and driving energy.”

Mindy Davies was one of the young artists involved and for her the experience was a major milestone in her artistic career. Originally from Northern NSW, Mindy moved to the Gold Coast in 2010 to study law but has been involved in circus arts since a young age. She joined Circus Corridor four years ago and has embraced the opportunities it has provided.

Performing in The Rising was definitely a highlight and she says collaborating with such a wide range of people was one of the best aspects for her, as well as the chance to expand her repertoire and gain new skills and experience. “The Rising wasn’t just about aerial stunts,” she explains. “There was a narrative – it relied heavily on elements of theatre as well and we had to act but it was an authentic performance because we gave it our all and were physically exhausted by the end of it.”

Mindy also says that working under female leadership was also something she thoroughly enjoyed. “The three main directors and core creative team were all women,” she reflects. “I’m starting to make my own work and as someone who wants to become a director it was very inspiring to have that connection.”

“As a young artist, the Gold Coast is a very supportive place to be in at the moment. I’ve lived here for nine years now and there’s been a big shift. I’m heavily invested in the arts and I go and see shows all the time but there didn’t used to be as much on offer locally. I’d have to go to Brisbane or travel further afield.”

Mindy Davies

“The last few years, there’s been a big injection of funding which was meant a rise in new companies and collectives – people like The Farm who I’m working and training with at the moment. It’s really great to see. Almost everyone has got behind it and seen that it’s important. It’s been two years since I finished studying and previously it would have been very tempting to leave. I might still travel but there’s much more reason to come back.”

Over the last nine months, Mindy has been part of the Navigate program – an initiative by Gold Coast City to support the next wave of young and emerging artists who will contribute to the ongoing development of our vibrant cultural sector. She feels it’s rare for young artists to be so well supported and the backing has given her the resources and courage to take the leap in her creative career. Mindy and her sister Lowana Davies have started up their own experimental art collective called UMWELT.

“There’s been huge support for the work we’re creating,” she says excitedly. “I don’t think I would have had the confidence to do that a few years ago. Not as in confidence in  my creative ideas, but just on whether there would be people who’d want to see the kind of work we’re making because it’s a little bit more cutting edge. It’s performance art based so up until recently there hasn’t been much of that. Our work is different but seeing other people making works that are in that vein has meant that it was really well received when we did our first showing. That’s really exciting and encouraging.”

For Circus Corridor, these are all positive indicators that they work they’re doing is paying off has gone a long way in creating a sustainable and thriving local circus culture. Thanks to this passionate collective, no-one of the Gold Coast will need to run away to join the circus any more. They can stay right here in their home town and enjoy the benefits of Circus Corridor who plan to continue cultivating new contemporary circus performance art, mentoring local artists, building audiences and future proofing the city’s growing circus sector.

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