A risky business for kids

DOWN amongst the turnips and spuds you might glimpse a flying trapeze artist or a teenager walking the high-wire.

Since CirQuest moved into City Farm last year, the circus club has gone from strength to strength and now has around 100 members and teaches everything from juggling to silk trapeze.

CirQuest founder Isobel Lyall says in a world where kids are wrapped in cotton wool, circus training injects necessary risk into their lives.

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• Isobel Lyall (pink) and Bonnie Blewitt (blue) say circus is a great way for kids to learn how to cope with taking risks. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

“Risk is something frequently unavailable to children nowadays—they are not even allowed to do handstands or cartwheels in the playground,” she says.

“If you are never exposed to any kind of risk, then you can’t learn to manage it in a safe way.

“A lot of families appreciate that we let kids take a chance and make them aware of the consequences of their actions.”

The school runs classes for adults and kids as young as two, who develop fine motor skills and sensory awareness.

Training to be an occupational therapist, Ms Lyall says circus training is beneficial for children with learning difficulties or attention-deficit disorders.

“I was contacted by an occupational therapist who noticed that kids who attended our classes were making greats strides in other aspects of their learning,” says the 39-year-old. “It’s definitely part of that whole act-belong-commit philosophy.”

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A performer of 20 years she puts the circus resurgence down to Cirque du Soleil, which since making its Las Vegas debut in 1993 has taken the world by storm. Burlesque and “Circus Noir” have also brought in people interested in the big-top’s darker, edgier side.

“We have a number of members who also moonlight doing burlesque,” Ms Lyall says.

The school performs at festivals, community events and corporate functions, with profits used to buy new equipment. The club gets free use of the farm’s old market’s building in return for managing the space as a community arts venue.

“Now we have a permanent home, we are able to use bigger and more elaborate equipment,” Ms Lyall says. CirQuest runs classes six nights a week.

by STEPHEN POLLOCK

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