Home' The Wellingtonian : July 21st 2011 Contents 12 THE WELLINGTONIAN, JULY 21, 2011
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The appeal of the circus
talks to Wellington
Circus Trust chief
executive Alice Capper-
Starr about New
industry and the start of
the Fringe Festival.
Alice Capper-Starr: ''I'm so proud of Fringe, that it's still around.''
Photo: REBECCA THOMSON
You grew up in Te Aroha in
the Waikato. Why did you
come to Wellington?
To go to the School of Dance.
Dance was all I wanted to do
when I was growing up. We lived
in the middle of nowhere and my
parents used to drive me to the
nearest town for classes.
Didn't your parents make
you take commercial courses,
Dad made me learn shorthand,
typing and accounting. He told me
I had to have a back-up plan. I
was terribly aggrieved at not
being able to take arts at school.
But good old dad was right. I use
a lot of those skills now.
You set up the Wellington
Circus Trust six years ago.
There needs to be an organis-
ation that gets people involved in
circus, as performers and as
audiences. We have a tiny popu-
lation supporting a tiny circus
industry, but we believe we can
have a really good industry. At the
moment we're looking for a per-
Isn't the trust based in Mira-
We sub-let space from Fuse Cir-
cus. They are very good to us, but
we both store equipment and run
classes in the same building, so
you can imagine how tight the
Are the classes the trust
runs for children popular?
We have had parents asking us
for more classes. It's really great
for those children who have excess
energy and drive their parents
nuts. And it's good for those kids
who feel different. It's great to be
different at a circus.
What other administrative
experience do you have?
I've worked as the director of
public affairs for Victoria Univer-
sity, for the community arts and
central regional arts councils,
before they were swallowed up by
Creative New Zealand, and for the
Wellington Fringe Festival.
Weren't you were instru-
mental in setting up the
I'm so proud of Fringe, that it's
still around. I remember going to
all these meetings while pregnant
18 years ago with my first child. I
was passionately involved with
Fringe and was on its board for
How important do you think
the Fringe Festival is to Wel-
It's what makes Wellington
Wellington. When the Fringe
started is when Wellington really
started to identify itself as a cre-
ative hub. Now there are a whole
lot of fantastic festivals and
events in Wellington.
Including a circus festival?
Yes, there is a circus festival.
That's supposed to be every couple
of years, but there was a mini-
festival this year that ran for a
couple of days. Next year there
will be an eight-day festival. The
last big festival a couple of years
ago was hard yakka, but a lot has
changed. We have more
performers, so there's going to be
some really interesting stuff on
Where did the interest in
circus come from?
I was really interested in doing
something more extreme than
dance. When I came to Wellington
I went to all the circus shows in
the International Festival of the
Arts. I soaked up everything I
could. I saw Cirque de Soleil for
the first time. Also, I participated
in a circus workshop. It was only
You stopped performing five
years ago. Do you miss it?
I did initially. I was pretty
battered after an emergency
C-section and knew I had to let go
of performing. It was hard, but it
has been good, because now I'm in
a position where I can make a dif-
ference, especially to people who
want to transition from ballet to
something else. Circus can give
them something do to.
How does your dance back-
ground help with circus train-
I have a background in choreo-
graphy and that helps particu-
larly with the staging of a show.
It's all very well to have the skills
-- and that is important -- but cre-
ating a performance an audience
will enjoy is quite different.
What is your favourite cir-
My favourite used to be aerial
silks [performing acrobatics while
material]. It's magical and it looks
fluid and beautiful. I've fallen in
love with adagio -- partnering
acrobatics, where people perform
Are there some good circus
performers coming through
Oh yes. Emily Gare, who's 14, is
exceptional. She has trained very
where she is, and now she's with
an overseas circus company. She
was barely a teenager when she
started and she will go on to
become one of the best in the
Do people take up circus
training as a hobby?
Absolutely. We love it if the
average Joe Bloggs wants to par-
ticipate in circus recreationally.
Does traditional circus still
There are still traditional
American and Russian circuses
with clowns, circus rigs, the big
top. They tend to be family
circuses that go back generations.
We don't have that in New Zea-
land because we don't have those
families. We have much more con-
temporary circus, like Cirque de
Soleil, and the trust promotes
that. There is still a view that cir-
cus is very traditional.
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