Project Report Circus with Spice

What a great success the Circus with Spice Project was. Our first performance was at The American Embassy School. Five cast members and myself enjoyed ascending to new heights in the scissor lift to rig 8 points for the  triple trapeze, aerial silks, rope malakhmab and Spanish web. 3 days later over two shows the whole school was able to enjoy our show ‘Aakashan’ (which means ‘sky’ in Hindi), and we were honoured to receive standing ovations from both audiences.

With much hard practice and further training and development we rehearsed and fine tuned the show.

Our next performance was at the Kalakar Trust Theatre, New Delhi. This was a good opportunity for members of the cast’s family, friends and community to see the show and what everyone had been working so hard towards. Again we were blessed with a wonderful crowd. 

Our next venue was the Basava International School in Dwarka, with whom Vikram Mohan, our choreographer, dance teacher and cultural advisor, has a very strong relationship. The students thoroughly enjoyed the show.

With the school shows behind us it was time to build on our newly formed relationships and understandings.

We continued developing the skills of our 20 strong cast and created a new show more suitable for our two feature shows The Flying Club and Kamani Auditorium.

The Flying Club, a very prestigious venue in New Delhi, was our next show adventure. We were all very excited to perform on our outdoor aerial rig to many VIP guests. The evening was beautifully created and managed by one of the Kalakar Trustees, Sterre Sharma. With help from Naresh Kapoori, we shone like stars under his beautiful lighting design.

It was a very stylish and successful event and we enjoyed our first taste of media interest. Interviews, photos and mid-rehearsal phone calls.

 Our tight schedule launched us straight into a day of rigging 18 metres high above the boards of the Kamani Auditorium with 2 cast members to help, the rest were rehearsing.

We dropped our now 9 points needed for our more developed show. The rigging environment was very dusty and greasy from all the wires to run the fly tower system of the classic Kamani Auditorium.

We would like to thank Hema Singh Rance, Cultural Manager at the Australian High Commission, for her outstanding cultural work in marketing. The 600 seat auditorium was a full house with standing room only.

Also a big Thank you to Penny Campbell, who flew from Australia to combine volunteering and holidaying in India to create beautiful lighting for the show which made us all look good, and our shadows-love your shadow work Penny!

As Vertical Circus often experiences, we were fortunate to have immediate bookings for other events, which translate into livelihood for the cast earnt through their newly acquired skills.

Our first stop was the Kung Fu Nuns event in New Delhi, where we did an abridged version of the show and met His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa, who heads the Drukpa Buddhists.

2 weeks later over 50% of the cast, were again employed to perform on the grounds of the Australian High Commission, a very prestigious event namely the annual Delhi Commonwealth Women’s Association (DCWA) Fundraiser Ball.

The ball was well attended by many VIP guests from the diplomatic, international and local community in New Delhi and again the media enjoyed talking to us, and printing photos and articles in the major newspapers.

A very big Thank You to Natalie Daalder, President of the DCWA and her husband the High Commissioner, Patrick Suckling for their support and hard work in making this event and our participation in it such an inspiring experience.

It was a great feeling for all of us that 10 weeks of early morning starts and at times late night finishes paid off.

We would also like to Thank Anju Choubey for her endless hard work and support in managing the project and for securing the partnership with the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and the Kamani Auditorium venue.

The cast were trained in aerial skills such as trapeze, single point spinning trapeze, Spanish web and silk. There was a strong focus on technique, how to help each other in strength exercises, presentation and smiling. Smiling means the audience can see your teeth!

The cast also received training in physical theatre creation exercises, show making and presentation skills. Clowning from Jair Ramirez and train the trainer sessions with John Nyagah.

We were fortunate to have the talented Carly Sheppard, an indigenous Australian contemporary dancer, recipient of the Victorian Indigenous Performing Arts Aunty Eleanor Harding Award 2014.

Carly performed in all shows, choreographed her solo and duo and an ensemble piece, learnt a few new circus skills and drumming herself, taught contemporary dance and indigenous inspired dance. She also  shared her story and knowledge to the cast, other trainers and myself about indigenous Australia.

Vikram Mohan, who has been training the cast in dance and aerial silk for the last one and half years through the Kalakar Trust structure, hosted workshops in acting, ballet, bollywood and contemporary dance. He choreographed beautiful dances and acrobatics for our final show. He inspired the cast with invigorating and deeply meaningful words. He was also an immense help to all of us at Vertical Circus with advice on any aspect of Indian culture.

Through a wonderful stroke of luck or good site management, Thank You Catalina Palma and Mark Gandrabur for your continued website support, the British based charity, Performers without Borders, contacted us to visit New Delhi and volunteer. www.performerswithoutborders.org.uk . Abi and Tom, from Cambridge, hosted workshops in parkour, aerial skills and acrobatics.

Australian and New Zealand trainers Mary and Sam, who had recently completed their Circus Aotearoa tour in New Zealand, www.circusaotearoa.co.nz hosted workshops in  ensemble acrobatics and “toss the girl” and also jumped on board to perform partner acrobatics at the DCWA fundraiser ball.

It was wonderful to have so much expertise in the training space at once. We all also enjoyed the injection of fresh energy, skills and new cultural exchange, new friends and stories to be told.

The cast, all of whom live in the Kathputhli Colony, immediately invited our new guests (or ‘foreigners’ as they say in India) for lunch and dinners and of course a wedding.

It was a great experience to see and be guests at Rahul’s sister’s wedding, we left the celebrations at 4am and the groom, who spends most of the evening on a white horse under a parasol, still had not made it to the bride’s houses. There was dancing, heated dowry discussions, tasty food, beer, whisky and great stories.

It was with much sadness that we had to leave such a talented, vibrant and giving community. All the cast, the Vertical Circus team and our local partner the Kalakar Trust are so grateful to all those people who supported the Circus with Spice project in any which way.

We stay in touch with our cast and their happenings through facebook.

Two young men were recently in a Bollywood film clip and one has gone on to act in the film.

We are sure that the project will continue to have a lasting impact through the efforts of the Kalakar Trust, Choreographer Vikram Mohan, the two captains Maya Pawar and Rakesh Bhatt, who on John’s advice, used his hard earnt savings and bought a lap top, with which he immediately edited the Kamani Auditorium show www.youtube.com/watch?v=7q1vYiGXpWg

The aerial equipment still hangs at the Kalakar Trust and is being trained on.

Rahul Bhatt has started to choreograph younger cast member’s in his own choreographies and he himself will travel to Holland to dance.

3 young men through the support of Vertical Circus attended a workshop at the Gati Foundation, one of New Delhi’s prime contemporary dance foundations and connected well with the choreographer hosting the workshop.




We are confident great things will continue to develop out of our 3 months of hard work.

Catherine Daniel - Creative Director

John Nyagah - Head Development

This project was made possible through the support of the Australian Government through the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Australian International Cultural Council.

Photos- John Nyagah & The Kalakar Trust