Zirka Cir­cus comes to town for nine days

The Tribune (NZ) - - ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT -

‘‘Good­bye cruel world, I’m off to join the cir­cus’’ was an early rock ‘n roll song. Par­ents be warned. From re­ports about the Zirka Cir­cus that has rolled into town and opens a nine-day sea­son on the Rail­way Land on Thurs­day, the cap­ti­vat­ing per­form­ers will make your kids want to run away and be cir­cus per­form­ers too.

The an­i­mal free cir­cus en­thrals with its in­ter­na­tional troupe of tum­blers, grav­ity de­fy­ing ac­ro­bats and the uni­ver­sal slap­stick of clowns.

Tour man­ager Ben­jamin Hemi likens the Cross the Ocean themed tour­ing show to a sur­real dream ex­pe­ri­ence.

‘‘It’s a mix­ture of ac­ro­bat­ics, tum­bling, jug­gling and com­edy. There’s al­ways a sense of ‘I can’t be­lieve they did that’, but there’s a lot of skill that goes into it.’’

While mem­bers of the 18-strong per­form­ing troupe hail from all over, a num­ber of the per­form­ers are from an in­ter­na­tional cir­cus school in China’s He­bei prov­ince.

The school trains chil­dren as young as 5 years old, and stand­out per­form­ers from 9 years can join in­ter­na­tional tours.

‘‘Many fam­i­lies bring their chil­dren to the cir­cus school to give them a life that they oth­er­wise couldn’t give them.’’

The av­er­age age of the cur­rent New Zealand troupe is 15 or 16, Ben­jamin says.

They tour for a year be­fore a new show is re­designed and re­cast.

‘‘Th­ese kids love to put it on. It’s a lot of work, but it is also a lot of fun – an ex­pe­ri­ence like noth­ing else.’’

The chil­dren con­tinue their cir­cus train­ing on tour, and do their school­ing by cor­re­spon­dence.

‘‘They train ev­ery morn­ing. They stretch and then do a hand­stand ev­ery morn­ing for 10 min­utes on top of a stool, and re­view their bal­ance.’’

The train­ing pays off, draw­ing in­cred­u­lous gasps from the au­di­ence which then be­come claps and cheers when­ever a par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult or dan­ger­ous look­ing stunt is com­pleted.

On its fourth tour of New Zealand, Zirka is the first con­tem­po­rary cir­cus to be owned and op­er­ated in New Zealand by a woman.

Owner Jeni Hou’s fam­ily has been in en­ter­tain­ment for three gen­er­a­tions.

Tick­ets start from $19 and are avail­able by phon­ing 0800 2 ZIRKA, book­ings@ zirkacir­cus.com. The show runs un­til March 20.

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