Can you still run away to join the circus? Yes, if you run to Circus Arts at Byron Bay.
Imagine a woman in a sparkling outfit flying high above your head. She lets go of the trapeze bar and somersaults through the air. For a few moments she is flying, arms stretched out, defying gravity. Will she fall? With split-second timing she is caught mid-air by her muscular partner and together they swing back to land lightly on the tiny platform, smiling to the applause of the crowd below.
They stand high above the crowd, but you can still see the flush of excitement on their faces, the thrill of the high-flyer who has used their skill and artistry to challenge physical boundaries.
It is this excitement, this rush, that prompted Belinda Hultgren to start Circus Arts at Byron Bay in 2006 and in doing so, introduced the first indoor flying trapeze rig to Australia. Belinda wanted to share this energising combination of freedom and physical mastery. She has performed on the flying trapeze all over the world, with the traditional circuses of Lennon Brothers and Burtons, as well as Circus Chimera in the USA and the Moscow Circus.
In 1999, Belinda opened the first public flying rig in Sydney. It was a huge success and led to her vision of a proper circus school.
At Circus School, learning to overcome obstacles with grace is a central philosophy. To execute the routines, the performer needs agility, accuracy and a good dash of courage. This pushes each participant to challenge themselves individually, exploring their physical boundaries in a non-competitive, supportive atmosphere. The coaches at Circus Arts believe that this physical bravery affects every area of the performer’s life, encouraging each student to strive for their full potential in life: they make a literal leap of faith.
These days, video game players send their avatars into cyberspace to accomplish amazing feats of athleticism – at Circus School you do it for yourself, and no-one gets blown up or shot in the process!
A recent addition to the school is training in the skill of Parkour. The athletes aim to travel across the urban landscape ‘as the crow flies’, overcoming obstacles by leaping over and around them, with breathtaking twists and somersaults, like stunt actors on the run. The blokes on Top Gear once raced two parkour athletes across Liverpool – the jumpers won.
Circus Arts offers school holiday packages for every level of student, from kinder to adult, and their fitness classes are certainly more interesting than an hour on the treadmill!
It is nail-biting, watching your timid twelve-year-old climb up that long ladder to the trapeze platform, although you know she is safe in a harness. She stops and looks down at you a few times, unsure. You smile and wave her on, looking more confident than you feel. Then hands help her onto the platform, as expert technicians double-check the fastenings.
She is standing at the edge; a tiny figure and you want to shout: No! Come back! But her coach puts a hand on her shoulder and whispers something in her ear that makes her smile. She looks down, waves and leaps!
Is that really your youngest, flying high, swinging from the bar and grinning like she’s just won a prize? She twists her body and suddenly she is hanging by her legs – then, again she twists and she’s holding on by her hands. She reaches the pinnacle of the arc and lets go, dropping to the net below with a woooh of excitement.
Back on the ground she hugs you and says, ‘That was awesome, Mum! Can I go again?’
Then, ‘Come with me?’
Adult classes start in fifteen minutes…
Circus Arts Byron Bay Headquarters is at: 17 Centennial Circuit, Arts and Industry Park, Byron Bay
Phone: (02) 6685 6566 / 0412 402 742
Visit https://www.circusarts.com.au for information on classes and the national Circus Arts locations.