NICA: Circus Showcase 2010

NICA: The yearly ‘Circus Showcase’ at the National Institute of Circus Arts in Prahran, features performances by graduating artists, who are surely to explode onto the world stage!

Since my first introduction to the National Institute of Circus Arts in Prahran two years ago (and having my mind blown by the talent the school churns out each semester), I have eagerly awaited all shows at the NIC; to absorb all that which the students have to offer as an example of their hard work and passion for the Circus art form. They share this with great zeal and sincerity from their hearts, with audiences at the NICA and eventually they will hopefully reach the world, beyond the school’s doors.

This year, nineteen young artists graduated with a Bachelor of Circus Arts from the world renowned school of Circus Arts – NICA, the national not-for-profit arts training institution part of the Swinburne University of Technology, which accredits NICA’s training and academic programs. NICA was started in 1999, and in 2001 the first group of performers graduated. Diploma in hand, they have gone on to work for Circus Oz, Cirque du Soleil, Tokyo Disney, Cavalia, Circa, Spiegeltent, La Clique and Silvers Circus, and they have even formed new innovative circus companies on their own.

The eagerly anticipated annual Circus Showcase season at the NICA is an over the top, exceptional event, which quite literally buzzes with energy; as it is a rare opportunity for the local community to witness its first foretaste of future circus superstars, surely to be seen in all the great circuses throughout the world.

From their opening act, to the last tumble, the theatre permeated with an astonishing sense grace, beauty, strength and pride. The ladder radiated from the performers and bounced back from the audience, back at them. Sighs of joy and amasement, could be heard all through the venue (which was starkly adorned, but perfectly featured the artist).

What we were witnessing – on stage and in the air – had transgressed the conventional and become pure art. Dance (a Pat Benatar tribute of Love is a Battlefield), acrobatics (cloudswing performance), strength (pole climb), theatre (a Dick Tracy-like detective duo; Red Ridinghood), comedy (the hat trick guy; the witch; gender bender ballet dancer), gymnastics (everything else)… all warped into one fabulous and unique body of art.

A great ‘hats off’ and due recognition to the Director, Megan Jones (Ariel’s Dream, 2009 Circus Showcase) and the Co-Director / Choreographer, Meredith Kitchen, for the beautiful and heart-stopping show they presented for this year’s showcase. Their goal was to bring forth a ‘circus on the edge’ which would prove to be unforgettable… that it is. Simply sublime.

For more information visit the ArtsHub Events page. Special Champagne Showcase information.

Circus Showcase 2010 bios of cast

Bonnie Blewitt
(Albany, WA)
Age: 23

A trip to South Africa in 2001 to train with ‘Zip Zap circus school’ led to a life-changing experience and the desire to pursue a career in circus. Starting out in youth performing arts company Southern Edge Arts, Bonnie later travelled across the country to train at NICA. She now specialises in cradle, a dynamic duo aerial act, which Bonnie performs with Stevee Mills. After graduating, Bonnie plans to travel internationally, creating and performing alongside Stevee.
– Trainers: Julian Wisdom, Ruby Rowat

Nathan Boyle
(Sydney, NSW)
Age: 21

Nathan began as a humble acrobat, having won numerous national Sports Acrobatics titles for NSW. Since accepting a place in first year at NICA Nathan discovered his passion for Cloudswing and has harnessed strength and courage to excel at the aerial apparatus. Nathan’s skills led him to be selected to perform at the Circa Festival in Auch, France in 2009 as part of a group of four NICA students. Nathan’s goal is to pursue his passion for circus; a passion that will lead to working with numerous European circus companies.

Daniel Crisp
(Brisbane, Qld)
Age: 22

Raised in the sunny pineapple fields of Queensland, Daniel has trained in dance and acrobatics, and after standing on the medal podium at both State and National levels in Taekwondo, circus was a natural career choice. He was awarded a scholarship to enter his final year of the Bachelor of Circus Arts, specializing in Chinese straps. Daniel also trains in hoop diving acrobatics, traditional and Korean Teeterboard, Chinese Poles and flying trapeze. Daniel entertained international audiences at the FEDEC Circa Festival in France, flying trapeze performances in New York and Australian Fringe Festivals and most recently, Australia’s got talent.
– Trainers: Lu Guang Rong

Sage Cushman
(Portland, Oregon USA)
Age: 29

With a background in the Visual Arts including multi-media, painting, sculpting and tattooing, Sage became interested in circus as a career after trading a tattoo for tickets to see a Cirque du Soleil show. Sage specialises in dance trapeze, ephemeral movement and balancing. She is planning to take the stage in Europe after graduation, travel the world, and later start her own company.
– Trainers: Helene Embling, Vasily Ivanov

Tom Davis
(Canberra, ACT)
Age: 26

Tom has lived and breathed circus since he was 12. After performing with ARENA Street Theatre and Warehouse Circus, Tom formed his own company Schmick As, with fellow Warehousers. In 2006 the company received public and critical acclaim for the ACTArts funded Schmick As Presents. Tom specialises in hats, hoop diving and pass juggling. After NICA, Tom would love to tour.
– Trainers: Lu Rong, Stephen Burton

Jarred Dewey
(Adelaide, SA)
Age: 20

At 21 Jarred is already an accomplished performer, having been a member of the Cirkidz Performing Troupe in Adelaide throughout his school years and a founding member of The Rambutan Circus Collective, which received ‘Best Circus /Theatre Show by an Emerging Ensemble’ at the 2007 Adelaide Fringe. Jarred specialises in contortion, handstands and swinging trapeze and is drawn to projects that push the boundaries of circus.
– Trainers: Helene Embling and Liudmila Druzhina

Ty Fitzsimons
(Kalbarri, WA)
Age: 23

With a variety of skills that defy categorisation, Ty cannot be contained. His explosive energy that stems from a background in Parkour and free running is complemented by perfectly expressed dramatic nuance. After completing a two-year intensive theatre course at Total Theatre in Perth, Ty began pursuing his circus career at NICA, where he has been specialising in comedic trampoline, hoop diving and vertical rope. After graduating, Ty would like to complete stage three of his plans for World Domination. This involves travelling both within Australia and internationally.
– Trainers: Helene Embling, Konstantin Ibraguimov

Ted Hully
(Brisbane, Qld)
Age: 21

Ted’s passion for circus began at the age of 12 when he joined ‘Flipside Circus’ in Brisbane. After performing in several shows and festivals, Ted chose circus over mainstream sports such as shot put, rugby and basketball. Although his heart lies in performing adagio with partner Isla Tregerthan, Ted also specialises in teeterboard, group bike, juggling and chainsaw manipulation. After graduating Ted hopes to continue his training overseas before joining an established circus company.
– Trainer; Liudmila Druzhina

Todd Kilby
(Newcastle, NSW)
Age: 21

Todd’s fearlessness and love of adventure led him to circus and he trained and performed with Circus Avalon for most of his young life. While at Handsfree Physical Theatre Todd won a City of Newcastle Drama Award for stunt choreography. Todd specialises in Chinese pole, hoop diving, teeter board, adagio, tumbling and knockabout. While at NICA Todd travelled to Alice Springs to circus workshops for the local indigenous youth. Todd was one of four students chosen by NICA to perform at the Circa Festival in Auch, France in 2009. He continues to pursue his dream of working with exciting contemporary circus companies both in Australia and around the world.
– Trainers: Lu Guang Rong, Lu Rong, Stephen Burton, Mat Daniels

Renee Koehler
(Canberra, ACT)
Age: 26

Renee’s background in gymnastics, rugby union, dance and cheerleading led to a love of circus. Softly spoken with a larger-than-life stage presence, Renee specialises in adagio, teeterboard and straps, where she is one of the few female circus performers who excel at this challenging apparatus. Renee received a scholarship from NICA to enter her 2nd year of studies and was one of the four students selected by NICA to perform at the Circa Festival in Auch, France, in 2009. After graduating Renee would like to work in a troupe or company.
– Trainers: Lu Guang Rong, Vasily Ivanov, Leon Radchenko, Helene Embling, Mathew Daniels,

Stephanie Lewis
(East Ivanhoe)
Age: 21

Since enrolling in the Bachelor of Circus Arts, Stephanie has developed her skills in tight wire and also specializes in Risley. This human foot juggling duo act requires split-second precision as Stephanie flips and somersaults with poise on performance partner Oliver Versteegen’s feet. She has performed at Red Bennies, and the Catch Penny Club on Channel 31. After graduating Stephanie aims to tour internationally with a professional circus company.
– Trainers; Arturo Gomez, Liudmila Druzhina, Mathew Daniels

Stevee Mills
(Belgrave, Vic)
Age: 25

Stevee perceives her career in circus as being inevitable after spending her childhood and teenage years bouncing on trampolines, diving off springboards and competing in high level gymnastic competitions. After working internationally as an exotic animal handler, Stevee enrolled at NICA to specialise in tight wire, aerial cradle (with partner Bonnie Blewitt) and teeterboard. She also enjoys being thrown around in adagio and pitching. After graduating, Stevee plans to travel internationally, creating and performing her own work.
– Trainers: Julian Wisdom, Ruby Rowat

Brittannie Portelli
(Melbourne, Vic)
Age: 20

Britt has over 10 years of experience in Elite sport. Retiring from Synchronized Swimming after her performance in the 2006 Commonwealth Games she went on to represent Australia on the National Aerobic Gymnastics Team where she travelled to China, Japan and the United States of America. At NICA she has specialised Cloud Swing, Teeterboard, Bungee Trapeze in her unique Aerial Cube Apparatus. Britt aspires to work professionally with a Contemporary Circus Company both in Australia and World Wide.
– Trainer: Tegan Carmichael

Tomoko Saka
(Sapporo, Japan)
Age: 29

Before coming to Australia to undertake the Bachelor of Circus Arts at NICA, Tomoko delighted audiences as a roving performer, mime artist and cartoon dancer in Japan. Another of her many skills is playing traditional Japanese drums. At NICA Tomoko has specialised in swinging trapeze, foot juggling and contortion. After graduating, Tomoko aims to perform within Australia and internationally as an aerial artist.
– Trainers: Kathryn Niesche, Jing Jing Xue, Jens Altheimer

Stephen Thompson
(Melbourne, Vic)
Age: 26

After completing his degree in Finance at Monash University an opportunity to study at the University of California led Stephen to join the gymnastics team and reignited his interest in the sport. Since finishing his Law degree during his second year of the Bachelor of Circus Arts at NICA, Stephen founded a charity (CWIC) that seeks to build bridges between remote indigenous communities and universities. In 2009 Stephen spent two months in Aputula, NT and ran circus workshops at the Docker River Sports Carnival in WA.
– Trainers: Liudmila Druzhina, Guang Rong Lu, Ben Lewis

Isla Tregerthan
(Byron Bay, NSW)
Age: 23

Isla was drawn to circus as dance, drama and music have always been part of her life. Before enrolling at NICA Isla was a children’s circus coach and choreographer in New York. Isla specializes in aerial loop, a unique aerial apparatus she has created that combines elements of dance trapeze, tissu and cloud swing, as well as adagio with partner Ted Hully. Her graceful movements make the most strenuous routine look elegant and effortless. After graduating from NICA, Isla would like to join an international circus company or establish one of her own.
– Trainers: Liudmila Druzhina, Tegan Carmichael

Oliver Versteegen
(Carlton, Vic)
Age: 22

Starting his circus career at the relatively late age of 16, Oliver trained and performed with Westside Circus for many years. Standing at six and a half feet tall, Ollie’s sheer size puts him a head above the rest. At NICA he has chosen to focus on two rarely seen circus skills, Risley, the art of foot juggling a human being, and meteors, the ancient Chinese skill of spinning bowls. Ollie hopes to use his skills to create his own work with the intention of touring Australia and then the world.
– Trainers; Arturo Gomez, Qi Jin Cui, Lu Rong

Brady Wills
(Melbourne, Victoria)
Age: 21

From a young age Brady trained and competed in gymnastics at a national level and won awards. Brady has pursued a career in circus since being inspired by the artform in 2006 when he performed in the closing ceremony for the Asian Games in Doha, Qatar. At NICA he has been specialising in straps with a gymnastic twist and adagio with his sister Stephanie Wills with whom he plans to establish an innovative circus company.
– Trainers: Lu Guang Rong, Jing Jing Xue

Stephanie Wills
(Melbourne, Victoria)
Age: 19

With a background in classical dance and acrobatics Stephanie was drawn to circus and the opportunity to choreograph and perform unique dynamic acts. Making NICA her personal playground, Stephanie flies, twists and spins in the air specialising in aerial hoop and adagio with her brother Brady Wills. After graduating she would like to establish an innovative contemporary circus company with Brady and tour internationally.
– Trainers: Jing Jing Xue, Kathryn Niesche

Gordana Andjelic-Davila
About the Author
Gordana Andjelic-Davila is an Arts Hub contributor based in Melbourne. Find her on Twitter @flyinggondola