Circus artists take leap by creating their own school

 

A new company of professional circus artists plans to establish Victoria’s first circus school.

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Island Circus Space will perform its inaugural show, Catalyst, at Metro Studio today and Sunday.

Intended to introduce the company to the city, the performances are a first step toward starting a circus school, company member Lisa Eckhert said.

The Victoria-raised acrobat, who has performed in 15 countries, recently finished a six-month stint at Berlin’s Chameleon Theatre.

“This show [in Victoria] is just for us to say: ‘This is who we are, this is what we do.’ And to build awareness of what circus is,” Eckhert said.

Another company member, Kaelyn Schmitt, said Island Circus Space has been in discussion with École nationale de cirque (Montreal’s National Circus School) about the possibility of an exchange program for teacher-training between Victoria and Montreal.

However, the immediate challenge in establishing the school is securing a suitable space, she said.

“Currently, there’s nothing in Victoria. There’s no circus school. There’s really no place to perform on a regular basis,” said Schmitt, a Colwood-raised acrobat who has performed in France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Britain.

The circus school will offer recreational programs for children and adults, training for professional artists and a “social circus program” designed for people with developmental disabilities.

Both Schmitt and Eckhert are graduates of École nationale de cirque.

Founded by Jake West, Island Circus Space also includes Dave Morris, artistic director of Victoria’s Paper Street Theatre Company. Other troupe members (most of whom are based in Victoria) have worked with such companies as Cirque du Soleil, Les 7 Doigts de la Main, Cirque Eloize and Circa Contemporary Circus, and have appeared on Late Night With David Letterman and Good Morning America.

The Catalyst shows take place at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m today and 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets cost $30 and $20. The performances include acrobatics, dancing, music, comedy and Cyr wheel routines.

Schmitt and Eckhert say Island Circus Space hopes to show audiences there’s more to circus than extravagant Cirque du Soleil spectacles or the old-fashioned notion of the three-ring circus.

“I think in Victoria when you say ‘circus,’ people think of lions and tigers. We’re trying to make it be perceived as a more elegant art form,” Eckhert said.

“We’re trying to keep it as simple and human and authentic as we can.”

achamberlain@timescolonist.com

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