2017 was a busy year for our circus classes. We reviewed and renewed our class structure, introducing new names for our progression; Fundamental, Continuing and Advanced. This better reflects the way participants first encounter, and then develop their interests and skills.
Fundamental introduces participants to the language and safety expectations of Westside Circus, as well as the fun that can be had within the structure of our workshops. Continuing is for participants who reach a level of familiarity of Westside Circus practices and a certain accomplishment across the core skills (handstands, tumbling, strength and flexibility). In practice, a participant who enjoys circus predominantly for social and recreational reasons, could stay in at this level for as long as they wish. Advanced classes are intended for participants, who through their dedication and training, are achieving a high level of skill but who still want circus to be a fun and social event.
In addition to this, we developed and introduced new discipline and skill bench marking. In partnership with NICA, we constructed a curriculum of well-articulated skill progressions in a range of disciplines, in order to highlight the developmental pathways from ‘first encounter’ to ‘audition ready’ for entering into ongoing study of circus arts.
This led to the introduction of our Accelerate class. Accelerate is designed for participants who want to get serious about their circus practice, and enjoy being physically challenged. By the end of 2017, we had 12 enrolments in this class.
Another development was the integration of MY Circus as a non-subsidised class within the Circus program. This enterprise overcame a series of challenges, to produce some fantastic outcomes, including performances at the Turning 21 Showcase event. Westside Circus also became an NDIS registered organisation under the Exercise Physiology and Personal Well-being Activities category, which led to the development of a low-sensory class, specifically suited to young people living with ASD.
Our trainers were, again, the cornerstone of our success. They balance a love of circus and a respect for each and every participant. They are talented people who enjoy what they do – which is to watch and wait for each participant to thrive.
Our work with Schools and Community groups last year was, in a word, EXCITING. We had more long term programs than previous years (10 series of 6 workshops or more) and had some truly wonderful partnerships. For instance, the partnership group of Concord School, Headspace Greensborough and Schools Focused Youth Service approaching Westside Circus to be the key deliverer of activities to highlight learning areas of personal development the students were exploring. This included two different groups over a 20 week period and culminated in a fabulous video put together by JETS at Banyule Youth Services.
Another highly innovative partnership was with Dee Wardrop Speech Pathology and Occupational Therapy Services. We lent Dee our expertise in circus and building physical literacy and she lent us expertise in Occupational Therapies, which we were able to apply to our MY Circus (mixed ability circus) to broaden the usefulness of our activities to young people who are living with a disability.
In total, we worked with nearly 50 different partners and reached over 2000 young people. We activated in Brimbank, Campaspe, Kingston, Whittlesea, Boroondara, Hobsons Bay, Moreland, Casey, Shepparton, Moonee Valley and, of course, Darebin.
Two key aspects to highlight from our Incubator program are the continuing success of our Youth Troupe and the number of emerging circus artists we assisted in 2017.
The Youth Troupe made some great shows to take into community events, such as Darebin Kite Festival, Preston Islamic College, the Wales St Primary School fete, Arnold Classic Multi-sport Festival and Fitness Expo, Banyule’s Youthfest, Hoyts Cinema Northland Family Fun Day, and many more. They were also the centre piece of our Turning 21 Showcase and Mini-Fest FUNdraiser at the end of the year.
The troupe continues to be a jewel in our crown of whom we are proud of and thankful for. Their fun and exuberance beautifully demonstrate the things Westside Circus stands for; play, creativity, adventurous circus and performance. WELL DONE TEAM!
The other highlight is the support we are able to offer to emerging artists. Westside Circus provided about 1000 personal training hours to artists developing skills, acts and even whole shows. Jugglife utilised the circus studio to develop their award winning show, and numerous other companies were made to feel at home in our well-equipped space.
We are always looking for new ways to support the Victorian circus industry, and making our space available to young performers and companies at affordable prices is just one role we can play.
Westside Circus provided about 1000 low cost personal training hours to artists developing skills, acts and even whole shows.
04 Company Shows
In June, Westside Circus turned 21!!! To celebrate, we developed our Turning 21 Showcase, performed at the Darebin Arts and Entertainment Centre. Massive thanks goes to Darebin Council for their wonderful support!
The show was a fantastic success. We played to an almost full house (320 audience members), and many praised the artistry of the staging, soundtrack and performance. All the young performers outdid themselves – as did the workshop leaders and Westside circus professionals who helped put the performance together.
Just about all our workshop groups were represented. The performance included some of our youngest participants, our community groups (of particular note were the crew from Shepparton who drove down for the performance and helped bump-out). We had great performances from our mixed ability class, as well as all the primary, pre-teen and teen+ classes, and last, but not least the comedic stylings of the Melbourne Community Clowns, who we auspiced through the year.
At the end of the year, we successfully trialled a new Open Market day. Our newest staff member, Jafar, pull together an incredible event that included market stalls, bbq, drinks and performance. It was a great day, fitting to celebrate the energy and effort everyone had put in throughout the year.
November saw Westside Circus host 26 young people and 10 youth workers from four countries for a week long youth exchange. Participants came from Brazil, Sweden, UK and Australia and took part in a range of activities. Each group brought their own specialty to train (Circus, Drama, Drumming and Sport), and there was a smorgasbord of other activities, including an Aboriginal experience at Darebin Parklands, a Cirque du Soliel show, a cultural heritage tour through the city and an AFL training session. At the end of the week, all these experiences were distilled into a small performance for an appreciative audience.
The participants shared their experiences, language and culture with each other, making friendships that will no doubt last for years. The goodbyes at the end of the week demonstrated how deeply everyone was affected.
Also as part of the National Treasures project, we offered two funded volunteer positions for circus artists to go to Sweden for eight months teaching circus. Two new faces to Westside Circus were the lucky recipients and Madhavi Hunt and Sebastian Edwards made their way to Orkelljunga, to work with our Swedish partners (IFALL – Intergration for All) in November. We wish them all the best and hope they get as much out of the program as they are putting in.