Premiering in Melbourne last year, Circus Oz sizzles back into the Circus Oz Big Top at Birrarung Marr with their reconstructed 2013 show – cranked up from touring regional Australia, a New York City run of standing ovations and hot from an extended season across America.
Circus Oz began its life in 1978 and prides itself as being a rock ‘n’ roll, animal free circus. The allure is strong for both passive observers and those who are, well, looking to go beyond the passive.
Stevee Mills started as a gymnast when she was younger but is now a performer with Circus Oz where those skills have translated over into her circus career – and Stevee is loving every minute of it." I love using all the skills I’ve learnt over the years, and presenting them to audiences in new and interesting ways," she says. "I also love travelling Australia and internationally, and meeting new people. Circus Oz tours extensively, so it’s pretty perfect for me. I love performing with Circus Oz, because the work is collaborative and interesting and I don’t have to wear a tutu."
This is only Stevee's 3rd year with the troupe.. After graduating from the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA), she was invited to audition for Circus Oz and, she says, was lucky enough to get the job. "At NICA I specialized in cradle, double trapeze, and tight wire. Since being with Circus Oz, I’ve learnt heaps of new skills, including flying trapeze, group bike, toss the girl, and pitching."
"Ever since I started my Bachelor of Circus Arts at NICA, I knew this was what I wanted to do with my career. When I was little I wanted to be a volcanologist or a fighter pilot, but then I found out that you had to be good at science and maths. I was a gymnast when I was younger, and these skills helped me develop my circus skills while at NICA."
For all of those folks out there like me who used to dream about running away to the circus bear in mind that the life may not be as easy as we thought. Stevee explains that during the rehearsal period, the day is split up into general training where everyone works on their specific skills and specialties. They then rehearse the acts in the show. When on the road and touring, the troupe is either doing shows, bumping in and out of venues, or travelling to the next town. My old bones are fatigued just listening to this but Stevee's enthusiasm and love for her craft is strong. " Circus Oz is all about a good time for all. I think this is appealing because not only do the audience love it, they can see that the performers are having a great time as well."
Circus Oz is extremely proud of its heritage, values and sense of fair play. Says Stevee: "Gender equality is very important at Circus Oz, and there are equal numbers of men and women on stage. The great thing about Circus Oz is that diversity is celebrated, and men and women are never stereotyped into specific roles. We have strong women and dainty men. There are no ‘perks’ as such, because everyone is treated equally – just because you’re a girl, doesn’t mean you don’t have to lift heavy things."
So how is Circus Oz different to what may be our traditional notion of Circus? "The biggest difference is that there are no animals in Circus Oz," Stevee tells me. " Our performers are 100% human. Instead of performing one or two acts (like traditional circus performers), we are all onstage most of the time – doing acrobatics, playing music, or helping with cues. The performers have a lot of input into their acts, and the show is devised through group collaboration with all performers and directors. You won’t see any red-nosed clowns at Circus Oz, or sparkly g-strings."
Season 19 June – 14 July 2013
Venue Circus Oz Big Top
Location Birrarung Marr, between Federation Square and Batman Avenue, Melbourne
Bookings 136 100 and ticketmaster.com.au