Operating out of the Labrador Community Hub, Circus Stars is a specialised training program catering for children from 3-12 years-old across the whole spectrum of Autism.
“The style of circus we use is called social circus,” Kristy explains. “We do a whole cross section of circus activities—trapeze, aerial silks, partner acrobatics, human pyramids, juggling, agility circuits, balance beams, skipping—mapped to the child’s ability.
“What is interesting about circus and autism is that a lot of the things we do also occur in physiotherapy but with Circus Stars they happen in an active play environment. We are building confidence and trust and creativity and individuality …
It’s incredible watching the growth and development. They go from being highly anxious, social and physically awkward children to confident group leaders, quirky individuals, and strong, agile little members of the community.”
So how does a girl from the Gold Coast become involved in circus in the first place?
“In 1999 I was studying a Bachelor of Creative Arts at Griffith University and there was a physical theatre component that led to my involvement in contemporary circus,” Kristy explains.
“Then Rodleigh Stevens, a Master Aerialist from South Africa who developed Trix Circus, set up an aerial school in his backyard at Nerang. It was a really amazing environment to not only gain the techniques I needed to be an aerialist but to learn about the industry and find out about creative circus in Australia.”
Kristy went on to become head trainer at Flipside Circus in Brisbane as well being in demand as a freelance aerialist in nightclubs, cabaret and theatre.
“I’ve been in the industry now for over 16 years and I’ve worked very hard to have a circus job, whether that be training, artistic direction or performing,” she says.
“I know it seems crazy but I love being up high … I love flying … I love the feeling of being upside down and spinning … it’s just part of my DNA to be active in extreme ways.”
In addition to performing and running Circus Stars, Kristy is also studying for her PHD, undertaking a conceptual study on the history of contemporary circus in Australia from 1978 until now.
“I spent a month in Montreal through the Uber Mentorship doing a research residency at the National Circus School and at Cirque du Soleil. Cirque du Soleil have an amazing social circus program called Cirque du Monde that Circus Stars is affiliated with. I also spent some time looking at social circus around the world and where Australia fits in to that.”
Back on the Gold Coast, Kristy is putting her research to good use and helping develop the region’s contemporary circus potential.
“It would have been easy to move away but I was determined to stay here in my home town and broker for a circus industry that’s always had the potential to belong here but has gone elsewhere,” Kristy insists.
“There’s a groundswell and an industry here that supports what we do … it’s fun to be an artist on the Gold Coast. I am part of a collective called Circus Corridor which has received Accelerate Triennial Funding from City of Gold Coast. Our mission is to future proof the circus industry on the Gold Coast and to provide creative development and collaboration for local artists.
Circus by nature is a group activity and you rely on other bodies and other creative minds to create work. Brisbane has an amazing history and culture of contemporary circus that can feed into what we are doing and vice versa. Collaboration is really important in growing a network and sustaining it and ensuring local artists have exposure to different ideas to keep them interested and making innovative work.”