Operating throughout Auckland and Northland, Circability offers workshops, classes and performances in circus arts. From juggling to plate spinning and clowning, people of all ages and abilities can unleash talents they didn’t know they had.
However, Circability is about much more than learning circus skills. ‘We bring communities together,’ explains creative director Thomas Hinz. ‘We are an open, participatory social circus that connects people from all backgrounds,’ he adds.
With an emphasis on fun, colour, movement and humour, Circability strikes a chord with young people. And it also has a unique appeal to marginalised groups, including at-risk youth, people with disabilities, and mental health, learning or behavioural issues.
Thomas says that Circability delivers around 50 classes and workshops weekly and has around 500 students on the books. And he estimates about 75 per cent of classes are for people with disabilities.
Circability offers opportunities for youngsters with disabilities to participate in play-based activities. Often, options for these young people to have fun and develop their creativity are limited. Circability provides a vital creative outlet while also increasing physical and mental wellbeing. ‘Our programme increases the confidence, energy and aspirations of all young people, including those who may not otherwise get the opportunity,’ Thomas reports.
Lockdown was a very challenging time for Circability. In-person classes and workshops were off-limits for months on end. This significantly impacted disabled young people who were often isolated and alone.
However, a successful application to the Your West Support Fund ensured Circability remained connected to their disabled students. Classes were taken online, and the funding was used to invest in boxes packed full of circus equipment and delivered to special schools out West.
The exciting boxes meant students could fully participate in online classes. After all, it isn't easy to learn how to juggle without having the right props.
And now that in-person classes are back up and running, the boxes are still being put to good use. Thomas explains that what was a once-a-week activity is now every day. The young people use the boxes to practise their skills and deepen their experiences outside Circability’s sessions.
All students are eligible to take part in Circability’s Youth Circus Festival, which will be held in April. This annual event showcases the talents of all performers in a weekend-long celebration. And throughout the summer, Circability is taking the circus to a park near you with the fun-filled and inclusive Circus in the Park programme.