Vertical Circus is the combined effort of Catherine Daniel, John Nyagah, volunteers from Australia and abroad and partner organisations in different countries.

Catherine first travelled to Kenya with John Nyagah in 2010 and gave a one off workshop at Sarakasi, and was impressed by the students’ respect for one another and their trainers. She saw an amazing potential within the people and also the infrastructure for a project to be hosted at the organisation. She discussed a few ideas with John with regards to returning to Kenya.

In 2010 Catherine toured to New Delhi, India as an aerial artist herself in a large scale Bollywood style musical. During this time she met Mr Vikram Mohan of Voxpop dancers and arranged to teach slum children, disadvantaged children, professional and emerging artists the aerial silk.

It was during this time in India that it became clear to Catherine that she and John would return to Kenya and run a  full scale social circus and music project. Together John and Catherine started planning, making contacts, writing emails and hosted an all important fundraiser show in Berlin, Germany where they was living at the time.

2011 saw Catherine and John back in Kenya where she hosted further aerial classes at Sarakasi and took her first Kenyan Sign Language lesson. She also delivered some much needed aerial rigging equipment from sponsor Globetrotter in preparation for the Pale Juu and Beyond Project later that year.

In 2011 Vertical Circus hosted in cooperation with Sarakasi the very successful Pale Juu and Beyond project. Catherine passed on as many aerial, movement, physical theatre and show creation skills as possible. As head of development John ensured that all participants received the individual support they needed and that there was strong group cohesion. He also busied himself to ensure a sell out crowd to our shows and on the production side did everything which was needed to make the project and shows were a success.

2012 saw Vertical Circus host workshops in India as well as for settled refugees, now permanent residents in Australia.

In 2012 we returned to Kenya and built on the strong foundations we had laid with local partners, The Sarakasi Trust and Mighty Jambo Circus Academy from the management to the trainers and individual artist. Pale Juu NeXt was a much bigger project with a wider scope and impact. We continued to develop the circus and story telling technique of the young people we had worked with as well as working with some new artists. We continued to push for more women to participate in the project. Based on feedback from Pale Juu and Beyond all participants learnt about rigging and safe working loads as well as some Kenyan Sign Language. We were fortunate to work with Mozambiquen choreographer Gabrielle Simbine. We performed to larger audiences in more venues and created work for many of the participants, which still continues today.

2014 was a huge year for Vertical Circus delivering three separate projects all based in India. The first was the “Circus with Spice” project in collaboration with the Kalakar Trust, made possible through funding from the Australian International Cultural Council and all our individual supports and artists who gave their time in our fundraiser shows. We worked with 20 young artists living in informal housing in New Delhi’s Kathputhli colony. Local choreographer Vikram Mohan and indigenous Australian choreographer and dancer Carly Sheppard along with circus director Catherine Daniel, head of development, John Nyagah, volunteers Penny Campbell and Jair Ramirez all worked together, with the cast of 20 young artists to create a spell binding political circus theatre show, which played in many venues and schools in and around New Delhi. Once again through the experiences the young people had gathered whilst working with the Vertical Circus team they were able to secure further income and connections for employment and future opportunities. 

Catherine, John and Penny returned to India to lead professional young circus artists already working in India’s most famous travelling circuses the Jumbo and Gemini Circuses through the Vertical Circus social circus program to build confidence and artistic prowess. We worked with the artist every morning from 6am to 10am on presentation, choreography, self-confidence, audience connection, surprise and suspense. The artists perform three shows everyday at 1pm, 4pm and 7pm, which we often watched to view improvements and gather further ideas. Some of the artist also practiced at 10pm. This was the daily schedule except for Sunday, the “day off” with only three shows and no early morning training!

We also had circus artist Edu Martinez Perez from Spain come on board to share his knowledge at the Gemini Circus. 

Most excitingly we were able to engage Bunty Bhatt, one of the participants from the “Circus with Spice” program, who has been training in dance with Vikram Mohan at the Kalakar trust for over four years. He worked and earned an income as a choreographer, dance teacher and translator at the Jumbo and Gemini Circuses.