Arts, Culture & Media

There are risks, and rewards for a life in the circus

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Credit: Marawa

Marawa the Amazing shows off her style with 133 hoops

Marawa is a veteran of the circus world. The Australian performer known as "Marawa the Amazing" says circus performers worldwide make up their own small global community. 

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(This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.)

"There's probably 40 performers that I know quite well that are in shows that I work in and we all see each other around the world," she says. "We link up in Sydney, Australia, and at the Edinburgh Festival and in Europe and America, and even in Asia.

Marawa says it's sort of an extended family of probably about 400 performers that work at Cirque de Soleil or Ringling Brothers. It's a big community traveling from place to place, with visas for different countries.

"It is sort of like being in a caravan without actually being in a caravan, being in a hotel instead," she says. "But we get along, you have to accept everyone's differences and it's a really great environment to work in." 

In her own dressing room for example, Marawa says there are two French Canadians, a German aerialist, and an American clown. As she's traveled around the world, Marawa observes different circus cultures.

Marawa says her own career started at a circus arts school in Australia where she trained in a range of circus skills at NICA (National Institute of Circus Arts Australia), specializing in swinging trapeze. But, she says she knew her future was with hoops.

"(They're) super portable, super fun, and anyone could get involved, any age, anywhere in the world with just a little bit of practice," Marawa says. "I’ve now performed and taught hoola hooping in Nepal, New York, North Korea, Melbourne, Zagreb, London, Paris, Poland, Mexico, Somalia, you name it, I’ve hooped there."

Early in her career, Marawa had the chance to go on a tour of Chinese circus schools. "China was absolutely insane," she says. "Those kids train harder than anything."

At a circus competition in Dalian, China , Marawa remembers seeing a tower of chairs act. "The chairs went up, you couldn't see them, they went up into the ceiling, there were just so many," she says. "I actually went down to the front of the stage to try and see where they went. It was really mad."

But as she reflects on the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey circus accident that seriously injured eight women, Marawa there's a risk that all circus performers share.

"It's always really, really sad when you hear about something like that," she says. "You don't take it for granted but you do forget that there's so many points in every show, there's so much up and down, going up in the air and coming down, it's kind of amazing that it doesn't happen more often because there are so many points where something could go wrong."

Marawa says you have to really trust and put your faith in the riggers who work on the equipment.

But, she says there are going to be freak accidents and "it’s really sad when it does and this one was really awful. It’s just a miracle that no one died and I'm grateful for that."

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