Photo – Rob Blackburn

By the time students graduate NICA (National Institute of Circus Arts) they have a unique skill set, sell-able on the circus circuit. The 2022 final years are no exception. Even with COVID lockdowns, they have honed their physical acts to a professional level.  

Made to Measure is a chance for them to strut their stuff in personalised acts. But like all graduate showcases, it’s a tricky balance to give everyone their chance to shine while simultaneously offering a thematically cohesive show to audiences.  

In this case, drag performer Valarie Hex of the YUMMY ensemble takes the role of emcee. In a glorious array of outfits, Hex does an admirable job of firing up the crowd and acknowledging all the performers, all with lashes of wacky, yet surprisingly insightful poetry.  

The individual routines each highlight a specific piece of equipment – trapeze, hula hoops, aerial ring, cyr wheel, tightrope, hand balancing, corde lisse (rope), and bounce juggling.  

All demonstrate adroit mastery of the various apparati. Even from a few years ago, the stakes seem higher in the difficulty/physical skills/choreography/flow of the acts. Transitions and tricks are well above stock standard.  

Due to an injury, Michael McDonald’s pole act was shared via a moody, black and white edited film of art house quality. While not as exciting as in the flesh, it was a good compromise and showed the potential of circus to be out to the box. 

Circus often expresses dark themes, with apparati like rope and trapeze becoming symbols of emotional obstacles and challenges. This option is what most students embraced, opting for acts that bristled with a psychological intensity, supported by music (often no vocals) that further prescribed the emotion.  

The sheer number of internally focused offerings made the overall showcase dynamic a little sluggish and struggled to gel with Hex’s forthright and performative hosting style. But given that Made to Measure’s focus is presenting the individual acts and personalities of the students, with NICA encouraging them to be “disruptors”, the tonal discrepancies are understandable.

Group ensemble numbers top and tailed the evening and offered catwalk style, simple, fun choreography that acknowledged the fashion theme of the showcase.

Highlights included Linda Corazza’s immense strength and focus on the corde lisse; Josh Duncan’s calisthenics -influenced style in duet with the cyr wheel and Alanah Hill’s incorporation of self-reflexive film into her hula hoop routine. Zachary Stephens’s zany acrobatic hand balancing was pure fun while Chris Higgins ambitious dance/juggling routine also put a smile on the dial. 

Event details

National Institute of Circus Arts presents
Made to Measure

Curators James Brown, Martine Howard, Benjamin Sheen and Linda Sastradipradja

Venue: NICA National Circus Centre | 39 – 59 Green Street, Prahran VIC
Dates: 22 – 26 November 2022
Tickets: $35 – $28


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