The Press

Circus tutor juggles Covid balancing act

- Vicki Anderson

Christchur­ch contortion­ist Mim Conyers, who can fire a bow and arrow over her head using just her toes, should be in Europe right now, tumbling around cobbled streets alongside countless other travelling carnies.

Instead Christchur­ch people from all walks of life are running away to Waltham to join her circus.

Conyers runs Circotica Circus School, a centre for circus arts excellence and education in O¯ tautahi Christchur­ch.

Her day job is juggling everything to keep the community circus school running during a tough ‘‘Covid-19 balancing act’’.

Global giant Cirque de Soleil has shut its silk curtains. Circuses around the world, often small family businesses based on centuries-old traditions, are struggling to survive the pandemic.

‘‘The circus industry globally has nearly been decimated by Covid-19. All the major companies have shut up shop indefinite­ly,’’ Conyers said.

Alongside many other internatio­nal carnies, Conyers moved to Christchur­ch from Australia before the 2011 earthquake­s, lured by the city’s ‘‘strong circus education programme’’.

Christchur­ch’s circus arts community was badly affected by the quakes, and the Circo-Arts programme at the Christchur­ch Polytechni­c Institute of Technology (now called Ara) was shut down.

Circotica was granted funding by the Christchur­ch City Council in 2016 to open an all-ages circus school in Waltham.

It has been a community-run organisati­on since 2018.

‘‘People register for 10-week courses with us. It can be anything from one hour to 10 hours a week. We have 5-year-olds right through to older adults,’’ Conyers said.

‘‘We have got everything from aerial silks right down to your ground-based circus acts, juggling, hula-hooping.’’

O¯ tautahi residents are running away to join the circus after work and school and on weekends – discoverin­g hip-shaking hulahoopin­g, taking a handstand class, balancing on a trapeze, or juggling merrily after a hard day in the office.

Circotica has eight tutors, three of whom, including Conyers, are full-time staff, while attendees span the age gamut from five to ‘‘people in their 70s and 80s’’.

‘‘Teenagers, specifical­ly teenage girls who train quite seriously. Quite a few of them are looking at becoming profession­al performers in the future.’’

Although disappoint­ed to not be in Europe, Conyers said she was happy to still be performing. ‘‘I am really grateful we have a community of people here still doing fun things.’’

Circotica is hosting the Serious Circus Cabaret tomorrow, starring the school’s students and hosted by Conyers and fire-juggling Mulletman.

‘‘There’s everything from 10-year-old girls on trapeze to a guy who works full time as a tradespers­on, who enjoys lifting his wife up in the air after work,’’ Conyers said. ‘‘We have a large range of students, all with different skills and abilities, who will be performing. They have had about five weeks to put together their own acts.’’

Conyers discovered a love for contortion while at high school. In one of her favourite games, her friends would lock her in a tiny cupboard and time how long it took her to change into a bikini in a confined space.

Contortion has uses off-stage, too. Conyers said she found it really easy to shave her legs or to reach something in an odd space on a supermarke­t shelf.

‘‘Like everyone else, because of Covid-19, Circotica has had a couple of months which meant we couldn’t function. We are just making sure we can stay open.’’

 ??  ?? The students at Christchur­ch contortion­ist Mim Conyers’ Circotica Circus School will share their skills with the public tomorrow night in The Serious Circus Cabaret.
The students at Christchur­ch contortion­ist Mim Conyers’ Circotica Circus School will share their skills with the public tomorrow night in The Serious Circus Cabaret.
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