Update 4: Our final show!

Circus with Spice has been an amazing experience for everyone involved. I have  enjoyed the energy, exuberance, joy and talent of the cast. They have enjoyed learning many new skills and also fusing them with their traditional forms. Jair has given great clowning workshops which culminated in a clowning scene in the show, a scene in which Carly also performed – she is very funny. 

Penny did a great job with Naresh Kapoori in lighting the show. John ran between the projector and his camera. Vikram is in Holland furthering his chorographic training and everyone enjoys the piece he choreographed, with Carly dancing and interacting with a large puppet, made by the cast under Rahul’s guidance.

We decided to purchase an extra 70 metres of rope which meant all the equipment could hang form the 13 metre high support beams at the Kamani Auditorium and I didn’t have to rig during the show as I had done in Kenya. I happily sat in the front row enjoying a great evening of entertainment. 

I also enjoyed working with the team from the Australian High Commission in New Delhi and the team from the Kalakar Trust who together ensured we had ample media coverage to pack out both shows 642 seats at the Kamani Auditorium and 400 audience at the Flying Club New Delhi.

My pick of the press coverage is the following from journalist Dabesh from the Indian express

We have already performed at the Kung Fu Nuns event last Saturday in New Delhi. Which was a fun festival celebrating women empowerment. We shared the stage with 80 nuns from Ladakh, who among many other things are trained in Kung Fu. It was wonderful day and I was honoured to shake His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa’s hand after the performance. He is a very high level Buddhist holy man and I certainly felt a very positive energy emanating from him and his handshake.

This weekend we will perform at the cast’s home the Kathputhli Colony, which will be a great chance for the people in their community, who couldn’t attend the shows, to see what they have learnt.

Next weekend we will be the feature acts at the Delhi Commonwealth Women’s Association Fundraiser Ball. Along with Mary Weir and Sam from Australia and New Zealand who will also offer some workshops to the cast next week.

We have handed over the managing of the group; which has named itself Aakashan (which means ‘sky’ or ‘to the sky’ or ‘reaching to the sky’), to the two captains Maya and Rakesh. Currently we are mentoring them in management skills, and are confident they will ensure the sustainability of the Circus with Spice project, along with the rest of the group and the Kalakar Trust.

I am sad that it is all coming to an end. Officially the project is finished; we are running a few extra workshops and enjoyed celebrating holi, the festival of colour with the cast. 

We will send through other footage and photos as they become available.

Thank You all our supporters for making this life changing experience possible. For Vertical Circus to partner with the Kalakar Trust. We have really effected the lives of many young people, as they have effected us. Our cast have very little in a financial sense but are so rich in their talents and hearts.

Update 3: A report from one of our Artists

It is two days before one of our very big shows at the Delhi Flying Club. Then next week we will be performing at the Kamani Auditorium.

This update is a report from one our artists. Deepali Bhaat she is 16 years old.

I am very happy with this project, because this is like a dream project for everyone. I don’t think before this project anyone know about aerial things, maybe just know about it; but can’t use it. When I came for the first time to the class and I see the silk, I will be scared because I don’t know what can I do on it, even I don’t know how to climb on it. But now everyone do very well on tissu. I like the spinning web very much in aerial things, but I can’t do that but I wish that one day I also want to do that.

I am very proud of my group. This is the best group I have ever seen because in this group everyone know each others’ feelings, and they help each other and there is something that I feel from my heart-

In the flower, my rose is my group

In the diamond, my khohinoor (best diamond) is my group

In the sky, my moon is my group

I am just body, my heart is my group

That is why I never forget this group.

And we already do three shows and they are success and everybody like it, before show everybody was nervous when the show start they just do what they have to do even when we do the show everyone forget everything going on in their mind. They just focus and concentrate what they have to do in the show.

I know they are talking very much and everyone from outside thinks that they are not doing anything, but when they all are on stage they set the stage on fire and that’s true. We have four shows left and I am very excited for that. I always wanted to dance in a show and now I am so I am very happy and I am doing my best.

In rehearsals I always separate with my best friend because when I am doing trapeze she is doing clowning. When I am doing dance she is with Carly, but we know after this we are together. When we need something we always have to loose something.

Before sleeping I always remember today happening with me, like in which act I am inside, in which place I am helping. If I am in dancing so I just remind my steps in my mind. I really like to do the trapeze because in trapeze I am with my two friends. Sometimes it is painful but I like the pain very much.

I really like to go in rehearsals because now its like family. If I miss some class I feel very bad. When I wake up the first thing on my mind is that I have to finish my housework quickly because I have to go for the class.

I am worried only one thing that after 29th of March the last show that happens with this group maybe we are together or not. I don’t want that after that show the group will be separate because we are doing a lot of effort to make this group. I just want after 29th much everything be the same.

I hope our colony people see the show at Kamani. And that they can’t believe what we are doing and they can’t believe that we are from our colony. And they will be proud of us. And then they know that we are not wasting our time. A lot of people say: “what are you get from here? u r just wasting your time.” They also say this to our parents. But we say to our parents just trust on us. We prove you that we are not wasting our time. I also thankful to my parents for trusting us. And I wish after Kamani show we prove to everyone who think we are wasting our time that we are not wasting our time.

After 29th of March Catherine, John, Carly and Jair has to go but I don’t think about it because I know one day they have to leave from here but when I think about it I feel very bad and some tears in my eyes because I don’t want them to go.

I am very thankful to them because they teach us such nice things this project is possible because of them. Then we will continue this class because they teach us like this that we do this training by our own self.

 Thank you!

Update number Two: New Delhi Sunday 9th of February

What a week it has been! Last Sunday we put in the aerial rigging points at the American Embassy School, 10 metres high in the air. Fortunately the school has a “genie” or scissor lift, which basically means our job was made much easier and a lot of fun. Five members of the cast also enjoyed going to new heights. They are Maya Pawar, Deepali Bhaat, Lakhan Pawar, Jyoti Bhatt, Rakesh Bhatt. The Pawars are siblings; many people, whom we are working with have the last name Bhatt. Jair Ramirez also joined us on this day.

On Wednesday we premiered our show “Attraction” at the American Embassy School. Every student attended one of the two performances that day. They really enjoyed the larger than life puppets, the trapeze routine, the Spanish web and the scary people on stilts.

One young child said “this is so scary; this is really scary, this is so cool!”

By Friday we were at our next venue the Kalakar Trust theatre, a beautiful open air theatre with our purpose built outdoor aerial rig.

Saturday saw our third performance of the season to 1500 people from the surrounding villages. They were very impressed with the cast’s aerial artistry and contemporary dance.

Welcome to Jair Ramirez.

Jair first volunteered with Vertical Circus in Nairobi in the year 2011. He was already teaching silk with our local partner The Sarakasi Trust in Nairobi and with the Vertical Circus project he brought theatrical training to our artists. We have remained in email contact; and upon hearing about our project in India, he decided to join us once more. We are truly enjoying Jair’s daily spontaneous clowning workshops which seem to take place anywhere and everywhere, including the Delhi metro.

Thank You to all of you; our supporters, without you we would not be able to provide such life changing training and experiences.  

Update Number One, Circus with Spice New Delhi, 2014

The Artists.

The artists forefathers are traditional Rajasthani travelling performers, gypsies, nomads. In the past they told stories of their kings through puppetry, song and dance. This generation and their parents are mainly born in New Delhi in the Kathputhli Colony. They have preserved their traditional heritage learning the puppetry, song and dance from Rajasthan, they have also added Punjabi drums known as Dhols to their skill set.

With their drumming skills they can earn quite well at weddings, but this is seasonal work which only happens when the stars, according to Vedic cosmology, are in a good position to be wed.

So you can imagine break times are very colourful. The artists often sing, drum and dance; and are happy to drum on anything.

Aerial skill

The artists are extremely quick to pick up the skills I am teaching them. There is a good cohesion in the group to help one another. There are also three acrobats from the traditional Nutt people; which are also travelling performers from around Mumbai They are all skilled in rope yoga (malkhamb) and are very flexible in splits, back arches and also in the lotus position; they can put their legs in this position during pretty much any pose (for example gazelle descent on the silk, or whilst spinning on the web).

Something which challenged me in the first 2 weeks was the willingness or concept that falling onto concrete is okay. I have taught people with low body awareness that unexpectedly let go; but I have never taught people who are so body aware yet so ready to let go and fall.

Our rehearsals take place within a school for young children, and I see that they, as well as our cast are a lot rougher in their interactions and playing. Hitting one another hard doesn’t seem to be a problem, after one rehearsals two boys were sparring just for fun.

Our cast dances and jumps and does acrobatics on concrete. For aerial we have some mats. After three spectacular falls from the air and many conversations I feel confident that I have convinced our cast that letting go is not an option.

Carly has arrived

Today is Carly’s fourth day in India and she is enjoying herself immensely. The cast has really warmed to her; and I am very happy to have a fellow Australian with whom I can share the experience. She is also bringing a very strong dance technique to the project. Welcome Carly!


The past two weeks had a focus on skills development and getting to know each other. Today we started creating the show. I am very fortunate to have such a talented cast with so many skills: dance, drumming, acrobatics, solo singing, acting and performing. Check out the circus with spice facebook page for footage of our creation process.

Opening night is on the 1st of February in New Delhi. We would be more than happy to have you in the audience. It is in a beautiful amphitheatre, purpose built by the Kalakar Trust for street performers.

We don’t need to advertise the show. The cast plays their drums through the local streets surrounding the theatre and then all the people from the villages, I am told, will come. New Delhi is a city which sprawls onto surrounding villages. These villages are no longer just on the outskirts of modern Delhi, but also right next to the metro line, modern shopping centres and apartments.

Stay tuned for the next update, and Thank You again for your support we could not have done it without you.

Circus With Spice

Vertical Circus has been very busy planning our next project which will be held in India.

We are designing a specific purpose built outdoor rig for the shows which will then stay in India for the Kalakar Trust to continue using after the Circus with Spice project completion.

We are busy ordering equipment so that the artists can start to train and become stronger before the project even starts under the guidance of experienced aerialist Vikram Mohan.

The Vertical Circus team is off to India in January but first we are hosting a fundraiser show in:

                                    **** SYDNEY ****                                         

                                                  BOOK YOUR TICKETS!

If the last show is anything to go by this will be a great two nights of spectacular circus feats and truly entertaining acts from juggling to hula hoops, trapeze acts, daring acrobatics and even comedic monologues. Be prepared to be entertained and dig deep to help reach our $8000 target over two nights.

Circus with Spice fundraiser shows will be held at Aerialize Sydney Aerial Theatre, Canterbury Sydney.

Friday the 22nd of November 2013 7.30pm

Saturday the 23rd of November 2013 7.30pm

Show duration 2 hours including a half hour interval with games, prizes and bar.


Update: Show Success!

The last few weeks since opening night have flown by, particularly due to the fact that we had extra show bookings. Hurrah!

See photos of the show HERE!

Opening  night of the “Safari Njema (safe journey) Circus Show” on the 31st of January at the Saraksai Dome to a sold out crowd of 180 people, was a huge success. This show was focused on community building and assisting networking opportunities in the Nairobi arts scene. Mighty Jambo’s Circus Academy attended, along with choreographers and directors form Ghetto Exposed as well as members of Nafsi acrobats, Kenya. Visiting Danish artists also viewed the show and we have held promising talks of working together in the future. Parents and friends of the participants were well represented in the audience, the sponsors of our three younger cast members were most impressed with their performance and had no idea that these talented young men were capable of what and how they performed that night.

On the 2nd of January, eight of the Pale Juu cast members performed at the postponed Australia Day BBQ for the Australian High Commission, Nairobi. For the first time I heard them say “Nimeshiba”, “I am full”. Nothing like an Australian BBQ to achieve the almost impossible.

On the 3rd of January we performed at the Breaburn Theatre in Nairobi to an audience of 409, turning away 60 disappointed people and placing a sign on the carpark gate “SOLD OUT”. I spent, 9 hours, 12 metres above the ground on the rigging catwalk with our helpers Moses, Francis and D’Costa.

John was outside dealing with the crowd, including mothers saying “Me and my baby are going to see that circus show, I am on that list I am FIRST on that waiting list!” A big Thank You to the Hospital Project clowns who were funny in their pre-show entertainment. The “Safari Njema Circus Show” was very well received, and many people, who had seen last year’s show, commented on the improvement of the cast and the production as a whole.

So popular was the show that the German Primary School booked us for their “Carnival” celebrations on the 12th of February. Rigged from a beautiful big tree, The “Safari Njema Circus Show” performed to 170 children and 40 adults in the grounds of the German School, Nairobi. Personally, I felt the performers really shone on this day. They were so entertaining that even the 4 year old children remained attentive for our shortened 45 minute show.

The last performance, to date, was in an audition context for the Butlins hotel chain in the UK, at the request of Sarkasi Trust’s Managing Director, Marion Van Djick.

Once again we are leaving equipment for the artists to continue training, passing on their skills and performing to earn an income. We have also donated costumes to the Sarkasi Trust for continued use. Thank You to all our supporters who made these donations possible.

We are very excited to announce that two women from The Mighty Jambo’s Circus academy, also cast members of the “Safari Njema Circus Show” are travelling tomorrow to Spain to perform their aerial silk act choreographed and performed in the Pale Juu project.

Finally, we have appointed Juma Mwajora, one of the Pale Juu cast, as our operations manager for Vertical Circus in Nairobi. We are assured of his competence and commitment, having assisted him to manage jobs in the past. Last week he managed his first job completely on his own. Juma and 7 other Pale Juu cast performed over 2 days in Eldoret as part of peace workshops for Peace Net Germany, in context of the up coming elections. You can inspire him at

We are very proud of all our cast and know that the seeds we have planted, with your help, in the Pale Juu projects will continue to grow, blossom and be harvested well into the future.

Stay tuned for the release of our project documentary. For those who have received T-Shirts, best to hand wash or reseal the print again with ironing and grease proof paper.

Peace, love and circus,


Pale Juu NeXt: Show Rehearsals!

I am sitting in the Sarakasi Dome our rehearsal, training and opening night performance venue. As I am writing our dance choreographer, Gabriel Simbine is working with our musician Charleti Obuya to create the celebratory African Dance scene in our peace show.  I have taken the back seat as neither African dance nor drumming are my areas of expertise; but essential for the show which gives our young people the chance to voice their stories and opinions.

See photos of the rehearsals here.

Gabriel is a very talented and passionate dancer, choreographer and artist. A former football player, he has a jump that the rest of us can only dream about. He is Mozambican and in Kenya on exchange, at the Sarakasi Trust through the Fredskorpset program, Norway.

It is a very busy time in the Pale Juu NeXt project we have 13 rehearsal days left until opening night. John Nyagah is busy creating posters and programs as well as ensuring that our shows, like last year, will be sold out. For those of you who have ordered T-Shirts, John is currently designing them and they will come in pink, green, blue and black.

Penny has fit right in and feels vey welcomed by the Sarakasi family. We are currently discussing all the technical specifications and lighting requirements for the show. Penny was also so kind as to transport two brand new aerial silks, which are blue and feature in our photos for this update. Silks which will be donated from Vertical Circus to the Sarakasi Trust.

Next week Pale Juu will go on excursion to Arboretum Park for group work exercises and then to the swimming pool for something a little different and a unique experience for our artists.

We wish you all a Happy New Year with much joy, success and of course circus!


Pale Juu NeXt: Update Number Two

So much has been happening in Pale Juu NeXt that it’s hard to believe the training phase is over and the rehearsals have begun.

On Tuesday 20th of November, 22 proud core Pale Juu students received certificates to mark their completion of the training phase.

Even more nerve racking was Thursday the 22nd of November, audition day. Students were informed to show talents they would like to perform in the Pale Juu NeXt show and that their act must have a story. It was truly an opportunity for them to independently create new and different circus acts. I was completely blown away by their skills and abilities, I was able to see things I didn’t know our students could do, and indeed things I have never seen before in any show anywhere in the world. After much discussion with acrobat trainer, John Washika and dance teacher, Gabriel Simbine, we selected our cast of 22 performers for the Pale Juu NeXt show.

See photos of the audition day here, taken by professional photographer Jennifer Huxta. Check out her other work at

Rehearsals have been going very well. Cast members have formed groups to perform their specialty aerial and ground acts. Our musician Charleti and dance teacher Gabriel Simbine have been working closely together with the cast to create strong and passionate African dance movements to live drumming.

We have also been engaging in discussions on peace, what peace means and how peace is achieved. This theme is very topical in Kenya at the moment as general elections will be held next March and the last elections in 2007 unfortunately saw rioting and bloodshed in Nairobi and other parts of Kenya. The bloodshed of 2007/8 still has implications today. We are all hoping and praying for peace.

The theme of the show will be peace. I am very excited by the possibilities to collaboratively create a new piece of contemporary circus with our 22 talented young cast members, our dance teacher Gabriel, musician Charleti and acrobat trainer Washika.

Last but not least Penny Campbell our technical director has arrived from Australia. She has brought with her equipment to enhance the lighting of the show at the newly upgraded Sarakasi Dome Theatre. She has also transported two brand new aerial silks which Vertical Circus will donate to the Sarakasi Trust, so that the artists and students can continue to practice, learn and perform the aerial arts once the project has concluded. Penny will light our shows, run workshops in lighting design and operation and is herself a trapeze enthusiast.

She is just as impressed as I always am by the talent in Kenya and also the friendliness of the students and trainers alike.

Everyone at Vertical Circus and Pale Juu NeXt wishes you all a safe and Happy Christmas. Till next year,

Catherine Daniel

Pale Juu NeXt: Update Number One

Two weeks ago we started Vertical Circus’ Pale Juu NeXt program. We have 22 core participants and a further 10 to 15 people who engage in the training. The training starts with a one hour warm up every morning not for the faint hearted, led by local trainers Washika or Mohamed, more experienced students or myself. We jump, exhaust our stomach muscles, we have held our necks up for over 3 minutes whilst lying down, stretched our splits and backs and that all just in the first hour. We move onto classes in dance with the much liked and experienced dance teacher, Gabriel from Mozambique, as part of Sarakasi’s international trainer exchange program. Students build pyramids, do handstands on the floor each other and the wall.

See More Photos Here!

In the aerial arts I really feel that we are building on the foundations we had laid last year in the Pale Juu and Beyond project. Students have remembered many aspects of aerial technique and tricks, and have been training hard whilst we were away. Pale Juu NeXt is allowing students to further develop their skills and we are looking at creating individual acts for certain students.

This year we have included a weekly “techniques of teaching” session lead by Vertical Circus’ John Nyagah a qualified and experienced educator and social worker. We discuss with the participants what makes a good trainer, how can a trainer create a good teaching environment and other aspects of teaching. We then break into small groups so that students may practice teaching anything from dance, stretching and trapeze to acrobatics, capoeira and pole to other students in the group.

Afternoons include drumming sessions with Charleti, a Kenyan drumming and percussion expert, along with his vast knowledge of Kenyan Swahili songs. He sings, the students repeat I try my best, their memory is amazing – we have even covered some Swahili tongue twisters! Such as Kakaa kale ka kuku kako, kadogodogo kaliako kokoliko, kako kakaa.

We also embark on physical theatre games and techniques to create new and exciting movement material for the students. These sessions can be quite challenging and new. I am however very impressed by the openness, creativity and talent amongst the group.

There are 14 students from last year, 7 new students and Ngala from the Wema Watoto Orphanage who was with us last year to expand his skill set as an acrobatic teacher, which he can then pass onto his students at the orphanage. Again we have 3 core deaf students and welcome all of the deaf Sarakasi artists to our training.

This year will see some of the Saraksi Dancers participate in aerial classes.

Every Friday I am teaching a further 20 students at the Mighty Jambo Circus Academy. Focusing on act creation with their diploma students.

Thank You to all our supporters new and old who have made this project possible.

Stay tuned for further developments in Vertical Circus’ Pale Juu NeXt program in partnership with Sarakasi Trust.

Pale Juu NeXt: It's becoming a reality!

Exciting times!

We are gearing up for our biggest project yet, 4 months with two organisations and up to 70 students!

We have raised through website crowd sponsoring, our fundraiser shows in Sydney and private donations $8884 (Australian) and we still need $1072 to cover the last of our lunch and transport costs.

The project is Pale Juu NeXt which you can read about on our projects page. It takes place in Nairobi, Kenya.

Most excitingly the project will culminate in not two but five shows in different locations around Kenya, accessing audiences across a broad spectrum of Kenyan society, and providing participants with an income.