• Natasha Halliday

A Note on the Closure of Whitireia’s Circus and Dance Course

A Note on the Closure of Whitireia’s Circus and Dance Course

I’ve been a student in Whitireia’s Circus and Dance programme since it’s opening year. In 2017 myself and the four other students that started this journey with me graduated with a BA of Performing Arts (Circus), and I am now completing a post-graduate diploma. What I’ve seen in the past four years is a blossoming of new and unique local talent. As enrolments increased every year, we ended up gaining an incredibly diverse range of performers. We have aerial artists, jugglers, hula hoopers, acrobats, contortionists, and so much more. The course went from 5 students in its first year to over 20 students in its fourth, and unfortunately, penultimate year.

Due to a myriad of different factors, mostly financial, it has been decided by the administration that the circus course will not continue beyond 2019, and is to take no new enrolments. Obviously, this is a very sad turn of events- not just for the course but for the wider performing arts community as a whole.

Course coordinator, Deborah Pope, has done an amazing job of not only creating circus performers, but contemporary circus artists who draw from multiple influences and a diverse skill set. Every single student in this course is capable of performing solo or in an ensemble. Learning how to create our own work and getting work was the underlying theme of everything. Earlier this year, Circus and Dance graduate Sophia O’Connor, debuted her show ‘The Composer’ at the Wellington Fringe festival which had extremely favourable reviews.

Year after year I’ve seen Wellington events become increasingly more vibrant due to the presence of the circus students as we grew in numbers and I truly felt that perhaps New Zealand circus was on the verge of revitalisation in the wake of CPIT’s CircoArts having to be closed due to earthquake damage. I was living in Christchurch then and remember feeling as if everyone had immediately dispersed overseas. I gave up the hope of being able to study circus at that time, so the news of this course opening in Wellington gave me back that hope and drive, and it didn’t disappoint.

I want to say thank you to Deb for fighting for us, and for mentoring us. Plus all the other trainers for coming on board and sharing their wisdom and skills with us. We have been truly privileged to have had the support of these amazingly talented artists in their own right. Many thanks also to the Circus Hub who have given us a space to train. The fight is not over yet, and this course has ignited a passion for circus in it’s students and we do not want to give up. 2019 may be final year for the course, but the students plan to go out with a bang.

If you want to show your support for the students and the course, they are currently performing at the 2018 Wellington World of Wearable Arts and will be putting on a show towards the end of the year. More information on the show will be published as it comes.