New-generation circus artists dazzle

By Leeor Adar

Circosis is the coming together of the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) final-year students. It is a solo performance showcase for the students to perform their skills after three intense years of studying their art.


Director Kate Fryer assisted students in crafting their solo works and created a hospital/warehouse theme as a backdrop, where students donned doctors’ uniforms and shuttled pieces and props offstage. Interspersed amongst solo performances, the group would create vignettes that were telling of their own skills and stories, some humorous and others downright disturbing.

Due to the large number of graduating students now coming through NICA, Circosis was split into two separate groups labelled the Left Brain/Right Brain. I attended the opening night of the Left Brain, and had an absolutely fantastic night.

The solos opened with Nelson Smyles – a last name befitting the Port Macquarie native whose clowning with hoops suspended in air was charming and breathtaking. Watching Smyles effortlessly leap through the hoops before him as they playfully bounced and wiggled out of his way was a delightful start to the night. Following Smyles were two very differing acts; Phillip Island’s Harley Timmermans performed a powerful and fluid piece with aerial straps and Maya Tregonning hailing from Perth treated us to a rambunctious day in the life of a wild-animal circus trainer in some clowning that sent the audience into fits of laughter.

A more nostalgic work followed with New Zealand’s Emily Gore who took us on a sentimental ride in using the rotating ring apparatus. Isaac Lawry’s energy was palpable, but almost at odds with the haunting blue lantern that swung from the ceiling, sending him diving perilously away from it. One thing was clear from some of these works, there were definite energies and experiences they were calling upon – loneliness, desperation to grasp joy, or escaping from some force. The final piece before interval was therefore the shock factor brought by Brisbane’s Ela Bartilomo, whose anti-fur campaign began as a fashion-model photo shoot suspended in air before a contortionist act with a grotesque twist.

Post-interval revealed acts that only continued to raise the bar. Canberra’s Elizabeth Jackson balanced herself with breathtaking strength upon the Chinese pole, recalling an almost proletkult theatre-style. Jack Wilde also hailing from Canberra delivered a glitzy number whilst flirting with the crowd balanced on a ladder. Ulladulla’s Luke Thomas followed in what was one of the standout performances of the night: an ethereal piece that saw him suspended in the air in circus tissue. Thomas’ work captured the concept of rising above circumstances beyond our control as he fluidly ascended the tissue and plastic bags fell from above him. Sutton’s Sandra Lee took us to an even darker space as she hand-balanced and contorted her body to a recording of performance artist Marina Abramović discussing her experience of the piece Rhythm O, where she allowed the audience to inflict pleasure and pain upon her body. Listening to Abramović’s recording was harrowing and distracted a little from Lee’s movements – but overall Lee’s performance was a marvelous show of elegance and physical strength.

The last two performances of the night were very much about showmanship. Ulladulla’s Riley McDonald’s performance on the swinging trapeze as he embodied a deranged seducer/madman was very tongue-in-cheek and risqué, while Melbourne’s Jessie McKibbin’s performance on the roue Cyr (Cyr wheel) was a beautiful finish for the evening, and one of the most memorable performances of the night. McKibbin managed a multitude of costume changes in the few minutes whilst controlling her Cyr with effortless grace.

To wind up the night the performers came together in their doctors’ uniforms for an exciting finale – capping off an incredible evening from the up-and-coming circus talent in Australia.

You can catch either Left Brain or Right Brain (why not both!) until the 24 June. Please follow the link for performance dates/times and bookings:

Image by Aaron Walker Photography