Gripping the pole with both hands, he climbed up quickly, as if there were invisible footholds. At the top, he stretched his legs like a starfish suspended in mid-air, then hooked a leg around the pole, arched his back and heavy rock music began playing unexpectedly. The guy sitting in front of me automatically started throwing his head up and down, but my attention quickly returned to the tumbling – almost freefalling – from the top of pole. It was the first performance, shown on video due to an injury, but we were hooked and eager to see more!
The National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) graduate showcase for 2022 featured 12 of its top students in collaboration with drag queen Valerie Hex as MC, to deliver an awe-inspiring 90-minute acrobatics show with an hilarious ‘made to measure’ fashion-themed twist, including vogue-related rhymes and mini-performances woven into the intervals.
The showcase was held at the NICA Centre in Melbourne, where guests were greeted with a glitzy red carpet arrival and drinks from the foyer bar, setting the tone for the exciting night ahead, before being ushered into the performance space – a simple black square stage set up with the audience on three sides, offering both more seating and different perspectives of the show.
There’s something a little mysterious and otherworldly about circus arts and performers. The speed, smoothness and ease with which they can move and react, without losing their balance or focus, is quite remarkable and often unbelievable – there must be a wire or secret trick… For mere mortals, who like the safety and stability of keeping both feet on the earth, it can be a bit like watching a magic show.
From the enchanting paper doll who silently asked to spin in the roue Cyr and the mesmerising rubber-like hands of the juggler, to the hauntingly beautiful puppet shadow behind the hoop spinner and the nail-biting trapeze flips, NICA’s Made to Measure showcase was a spellbinding journey of suspenseful breath-holds and relief-filled celebrations.
Involuntary gasps, followed by elated cheers, escaped repeatedly from the audience, as the performers expertly demonstrated their incredible skills, each incorporating an element of storytelling into their performance and using different props, including the Chinese pole, roue Cyr wheel, corde lisse, aerial ring, trapeze, hula hoops and more.
Drag queen meets circus meets comedy: as the whole cast emerged onto the stage for a final group dance performance, it was hard to believe the 90-minute piece was already over. Made to Measure was an energy-filled, funny and enjoyable show, suitable for all ages and a great way to support young, up-and-coming performing artists.
Made to Measure
National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) Graduate Showcase 2022
NICA National Circus Centre
Made to Measure was performed from 23-26 November 2022
90 minutes PG