Posted by Meredith Benke Bell
Well hello friends,
I’m writing this on a blustery night in Melbourne, a bit cooler than the one you may be experiencing back home in Broome. I’m here with 5 delightful Sandfly kids, and yes, even though the mean age is 13, and even though their use of a few favored slang expressions couldn’t be more redundant or predictable, I do mean that. They are keen and considerate, a great bunch of kids. This crew are important teen leaders in our program, and due to their commitment to their circus practice and to our program, we have brought them here to complete the flip side of our exchange program with NICA. NICA, the National Institute of Circus Arts, which operates through Swinburne University, has sent several teaching teams to Broome in the last two years, and we thought it was time to send Broome to NICA.
So here we are for the week, and while we’re at it, we’re value adding wherever we go. A conversation with the Artistic Director at the Flying Fruit Fly Circus (4 hours away by train in Albury, NSW) resulted in us extending our trip to see some performances there and offer a show of our own. While we’re there, we will catch up with the Murphy family. Many of you would know Pam, who used to work for TK and was also a Midiges parent helper, and her three “Fruities” – Kai, Taj, and Soma. They auditioned at Fruities last year, and now have been there for nearly a year.
Although we often get a bit sad when our kids leave the Broome fold, it’s a great pay off to travel as we are and have the chance to see what some of them are up to. Reuben Pedlar, who just completed his Cert IV at NICA, recently found out that he’s been accepted to NICA’s Bachelor of Circus Arts program, which is fantastic news and a great achievement. Madhavi Hunt, who came to NICA with Reuben this year has completed her Certificate IV and is going on to pursue a Diploma in Dance (and hats off to her – she cooked us all a feed tonight, too). Georgia Deguara has completed her first year of NICA’s Circus Arts Bachelor, and at yesterday’s graduation assembly received the award for top academic achievement for her year. (I had the honor of sending a sneaky text to her mum within seconds of the announcement. Mums have to do these things.)
Meanwhile, some of our other circus ‘kids’ are busy at work in the city. We took tram after tram to find Rowan out at the Wonderland Spiegeltent at Docklands. He is doing a Christmas show by day with other gigs by night. It was worth the trip just to see Rowan dressed as an elf called Rudolph and to watch his signature bum bouncing trick (yeah sure, Rowan – we know it’s not your day job). On Thursday we’ll trek up to the Melbourne Arts Centre to see Crystal Stacey and her crew in “Hot Brown Honey”, a show that’s been making waves around Australia and in Europe.
And in between the catch up hugs and the delivery of Broome mangos, we are learning about the circus arts education and work opportunities on offer here via our exposure to the institutions and professionals who make up some amazing learning networks. We saw the NICA third year students’ final ensemble performance (the last of a two week season) on Saturday. In addition to watching skills performed at the highest level, we enjoyed the innovative way in which skills were knit together in interesting ways – like the combination of acrobalance with flying trapeze movements.
We had our first day of intensive training at NICA today, studying several skill areas with instructors from Russia, China, the UK and Australia. All were excellent tutors, but what diverse backgrounds they have come from! Our students were drilled on technique and invited to try old tricks in new ways.
A quote from one of the founding fathers of Swinburne University was delivered during yesterday’s presentation assembly:
“Contentment with things achieved is the first sign of decay.” I see this as a reminder to the graduating students to continue to challenge themselves and those around them, to never stop the practice of learning new things. I think these are good words for our crew to take home as well.
In addition to Theatre Kimberley’s regular program sponsors, I would like to thank the following sponsors for helping us get to Melbourne: Country Arts WA for support via the RAF Quick Response Grant, the Broome International Airport, the Lionesses of Broome, the Broome Community Stallholders Association, and all of those who supported us so generously at our November markets shows and with our recent 100’s Club and merchandise sales. I think this is a trip which will stay in the minds – and the bodies – of all these keen participants for a very long time.