As a kid at the circus with my dad and my brother, I remember the feeling of being a little person in a big world of all things magical. This Easter weekend I found myself asking whether it would be possible to rekindle that feeling of magic as I headed back to the circus, this time as a grown up.
The Zip Zap Circus School behind the Artscape Theatre is quite an eyeful with a huge white dome replacing the conventional tent. The Cape Doctor was blowing away outside as I took my seat amongst children wide-eyed with anticipation for the performance of Just Kidding to begin.
The excitement was tangible and contagious. From aerobatics that had me gasping and muttering, “How the hell…?” to the joy emanating from youngest gumboot dancers I’ve ever seen, not one performance was lacking in wit, style and panache. There were unicyclists skipping over ropes, trapeze artists hanging from the roof, fearless bodies flying through the air and juggling that made my head spin. And all performed by kids aged from just 5 to youths of 21 years old. The professionalism throughout was outstanding. Their comedic timing, their choreography and their sheer physical ability was breathtaking. And then the MC began to tell the story of this particular show and its performers.
The slogan of the Zip Zap Circus School is “Not just an act”. Behind each of those youngsters on stage is a team dedicated to keeping kids of all cultures, races, genders and ages off the street. By teaching circus acts, the school is not just occupying their time, but teaching these kids the values of teamwork and discipline and giving them the sheer joy of doing some outrageous acts in outlandish costumes.
This show in particular has Zip Zap’s core performers joined on stage by members of the school’s two outreach programmes, with some highlights of the programmes shown in short video clips during the show. The outreach perspective of this initiative impresses the heart in the same way that the performances impress the eye. The members of the audience are nudged into thinking what they could be doing for their local community that would result in giving so much pleasure to so many people.
So there was my answer. Yes, the circus was still magical. And, yes, it still made me feel like a little person. When I grow up, I hope that I can achieve half of that achieved by the Zip Zap Circus team. An inspiring night out in every way. Miss it, and miss out.
The Zip Zap Circus is currently running Just Kidding from 21 to 27 April 2011 at its dedicated tent behind the Artscape Theatre between Jan Smuts and DF Malan Sts on the Foreshore.