HOW DID YOU GET INTO CIRCUS/PHYSICAL THEATRE?
Westside began in 1996 as the brain child of Debby Maziarz who received a small grant to deliver circus workshops to female offenders from the Sunshine Juvenile Justice Unit. The workshops were a success and Debbie partnered up with colleague Andrea Ousley to deliver classes under the name Westside Circus in locations all over Melbourne. In December 1997, Westside Circus produced its first large-scale performance, ‘Fazed Out,’ involving 25 young women and a live band.
Today, Westside Circus offers programs to over 4000 young people aged 3-25 years from diverse social, economic and cultural backgrounds. Workshops are delivered to diverse communities, such as newly-arrived migrants, youth with disabilities, youth at risk of poor education outcomes, homelessness, unemployment and crime, and young people transitioning from English Language Schools to mainstream education. Our innovative programs build emotional and physical confidence in young people to assist them to develop positive relationships with peers, family and community.
WHAT ELSE DO YOU DO?
Westside also offers a program of public workshops to all ages, including toddlers and their parents, and professional development opportunities for our trainers. This year has seen the re-emergence of Westside as a performing ensemble. The Westside CIRCUS Troupe is a new initiative that creates pathways and opportunities for youth, through offering experience and skills development in quality artistic performances. The Troupe performers are drawn from any of our youth workshops and include emerging artists from our mentee program, company Circus Trainers and other associated artists and performers brought together to create courageous and dynamic performances. Not only have we already presented shows for the City of Melbourne in July and will shortly add Watermarc Leisure Centre, Banyule City Council and others to the list, but we are launching a proactive campaign to raise funds through a variety of channels to assist these kids to perform at the London International Youth Circus Festival in 2014.
WHAT DOES CIRCUS/PHYSICAL THEATRE MEAN TO YOU?
Circus is a vibrant and physical art form that attracts diverse participants and audiences. People of all abilities can discover circus activities that they can approach with confidence and grow from. This is the basis of the artistic rationale for Westside. We believe that by prioritising artistic excellence within our community work we multiply the benefit for participants, as they experience positive goal setting on top of the recognised benefits associated creative collaboration and self-expression and feel an increase sense of pride in the quality of product they produce.
WHAT’S THE HIGHLIGHT OF YOUR CIRCUS/PHYSICAL THEATRE CAREER SO FAR?
Without a doubt the highlights have been the numerous performances created by participants at Westside Circus. Of particular note are Off the Wall, the company of young people from Behind the Wall, who banded together and self-produced the award winning show, No Such Thing As Normal.
IF YOU WEREN’T DOING CIRCUS/PHYSICAL THEATRE, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING RIGHT NOW?
Westside exists to do Circus and Physical theatre – so if we couldn’t do it we would cease to have a reason for being.
WHAT SKILLS DO YOU LIKE PERFORMING AND WHY?
Our shows and workshops encompass the full range of Circus Arts – with a big emphasis on group skills like acrobalance and acrobatic skipping. Our performances have included a wide range of circus and theatre skills and we focus on audience engagement as key to the success of circus as an art.
WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE IN 5 YEARS TIME?
The next five years will see Westside consolidating its relationship with its surrounding geographical community in Brunswick, and building a stronger sense of community amongst all our participants including trainers and parents.
WHY DO WE NEED CIRCUS/PHYSICAL THEATRE IN THE WORLD?
At Westside we aspire to a world of creativity and imagination, where physical and emotional health and wellbeing is universal. While all art forms offer opportunities for personal growth we believe that Circus is unique in its capacity to offer something for everyone, to build collaborative and interactive skills and to engage with audiences of all ages.