Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Circus Comes to Town!

- Linda Jaquet -

For a week in July the VGK hall (almost) became the Big Top as thirty enthusiastic Prince Albert youngsters learned, practised and worked very hard at an array of circus skills. Thanks to the patience and firm guidance of Marlin, Jason, Andiswa and Yonela of the South African National Circus School, by the week’s end, they dazzled a packed hall. They performed juggling, acrobatics on the ground and in the air, contortions under flaming bars and diving through hoops of fire. The three clowns stole the show and had the mainly young audience in stitches and shouting for more.

The Circus School enjoyed performing in Prince Albert during this year’s Olive Festival and were determined to return as part of their outreach programme to underprivileged youth. The co-founder of the school, Dimitri Slaverse, hails from Hanover on the Cape Flats and spent 17 years travelling the world as a highly-acclaimed trapeze artist. He nursed the dream of one day returning home to Cape Town and passing on circus skills to young people from similar backgrounds to his own. He and his wife, Nicky, who is also a trapeze artist, realised their dream when they set up the school thirteen years ago. While it has largely has been a battle to keep the Circus School afloat, recent funding from the Lotto has meant that Dimitri and Nicky can expand the Circus’s training projects and do more shows in underprivileged areas.

Nicky told the Friend that their Prince Albert experience had been positive and rewarding. “The children were eager, lovely and well-behaved, which is essential if you’re going to master difficult moves and not get hurt,” she said. She pointed out that circus training was not just about a life in the circus: “It teaches dedication and discipline, boosts self-confidence and encourages a work ethic and team building.”

Jason Tarentaal, one of the three popular clowns, enjoyed making the audience laugh, while Marné Jaftha told the Friend that causing oohs and aahs while dancing with hula-hoops and under flaming bars had been the most fun she had had for ages. Jason Jonkers had imagined he was in a movie while building a human pyramid with his friends; and Heizaan Jacobs appreciated learning about self-discipline, teamwork and stamina.

The week-long training programme was funded by the Children’s Welfare Stamps of the Netherlands. Dimitri and Nicky thanked the Prince Albert Municipality for sponsoring the children’s meals everyday and Di and Jeremy Freemantle of African Relish for making the week possible.

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