Pale Juu and Beyond, Kenya

Pale Juu means ‘up there’ in Swahili and refers to the goal of breaking poverty and moving up in society. It also points to the opportunity to learn aerial skills which aren’t as widespread in Kenya as other circus skills.

“Pale Juu and Beyond” was Vertical Circus’s first major social circus and music project. It was run in cooperation with our local partner Sarakasi. It ran for eight weeks, with 21 core participants and a further 20 participants on selected days. Participants received daily transport fare and lunch. They engaged in a vigorous training program covering, strength, flexibility, aerial and acrobatic technique, partner work, music, physical theatre and show creation. Participants hail from the slums and ghettos of Nairobi. We also had three deaf students in the program.

The project had a focus on the “complete artist” as such participants were supported financially to view other cultural activities in Nairobi such as the dance festival of solos and duos. The viewings lead to critical discussion sessions during the project. Similarly students were asked to critique, choreograph and create their own work or scenes.

There was also a strong focus on the social aspect of the project with small group or one-on-one discussions with social case worker John Nyagah, as well as large group discussions about identity, Kenya and Nairobi with many trainers present.

After seven weeks of hard work and creativity it was time to perform the show entitled “Nairobi Lights”. Opening night was hosted in the sold out Sarakasi Dome. We played our second show at the International School Kenya’s theatre to a crowd of 420 people. Both performances were well received and lead to bookings and employment for the cast. On New Years Eve, 14 of the 21 participants performed at the prestigious five star Sankara Hotel, Nairobi on an elevated platform in the hotel’s pool. 14 youths from the slums of Nairobi slept their first night of 2012 in a five star hotel, and got paid for it!

Poster for our show "Nairobi Lights"