How to join the circus

Auditions have been announced for Australia’s only Bachelor of Circus Arts degree at NICA, Australia’s Centre of Excellence in contemporary circus arts training.

Image: Aaron Walker Photography

As the only circus training institute of its kind in Australia, NICA produces highly skilled and professional artists to meet the demand of a growing local and international circus industry. If you are a young person with a background in sport, circus, gymnastics, dance, martial arts or theatre, this is your chance to extend your skills and gain a professional degree in an innovative and creative field.

James Brown is the Head of Circus Studies at the National Institute of Circus Arts Australia (NICA), and an assessor for the 2017 auditions. He was part of the inaugural intake into the course in 2001 and toured Europe for six years with his own entertainment company before returning to Australia to head the NICA circus program. He is looking for a combination of physical and psychological qualities.

‘As well as physical talent, we are looking for people with a good training attitude and communication skills. We want people with a passion, who have done their research on NICA and on the circus industry both here and overseas,’ said Brown.

Auditions are held across the country, although many candidates choose to come to Melbourne to audition in NICA’s purpose-built circus training centre.

‘From Canberra to Darwin and Brisbane down to Hobart, we are scouting Australia-wide for the best physical talent we can find,’ said Brown.

The core program offered at NICA is the three year Bachelor of Circus Arts, an elite course taught by professional staff from a range of diverse nationalities, backgrounds and circus genres. The curriculum reflects the world’s major traditional and contemporary circus styles, drawing on expertise from Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, England and Russia. The list of subjects reads like a wish list for wannabe circus performers: tumbling, group juggling and ballet through to history of circus, physical conditioning and sports psychology. NICA also offers a Certificate III and IV in Circus Arts, providing basic training in contemporary circus arts. The programs are based at NICA in Melbourne, at the Swinburne University of Technology Prahran campus’ custom-built circus training facility. Entry into NICA is through audition, interview and medical assessment.

Join the circus

‘While some universities will have lectures in engineering or medicine, we have subjects on handstands or tumbling. Our students’ classroom sees them working with professionals to learn the basic foundation circus skills, which are a launch pad into the specialty area of their choosing. That could be the trapeze, the tight wire, juggling or unicycles.

‘We have spent many years developing our contemporary team, which sets new goals and innovative ways of looking at traditional circus. We have a lot of focus on creative thinking, which produces weird and wonderful results.’

Find your nearest audition

2014 graduate Angelique Rose. Photo by Aaron Walker Photography

A formal qualification is circus arts opens up a range of exciting career opportunities. NICA graduates have found work in contemporary and traditional circus, stunt work, corporate entertainment, festivals, teaching and other sectors of the arts industry. A number of graduate artists are employed internationally by Cirque du Soleil, Dragone, Carnival Australia, NoFit State Circus, La Soirée and Cavalia. Many other alumni have established their own companies that tour festival circuits.

‘While we definitely have many graduates finding work in the big players in the industry – Cirque du Soleil and Circus Oz, for example – there is a great business component to the degree which encourages students to form their own small companies. We teach them how to design and develop a show and identify a place for themselves in the market. The students also gain excellent teaching knowledge, allowing them to teach their craft to the next generation of circus students.’

More information about the audition process, including fitness preparation guides and application forms, can be found here.

Emma Clark Gratton
About the Author
Emma Clark Gratton is an ArtsHub staff writer.