Interview: Jamee – Cirkos
I meet with Jamee in one of the big recreational halls at the Broadmeadow PCYC that still holds that same dusty smell I remember as a kid. She greets me with a big smile and leads me to the stage where we take our seats surrounded by an assortment of ropes, hula hoops and high wires. The first thing I ask Jamee, is why has she spelt circus Cirkos? With great enthusiasm she tells me about the history of the original Greek word for circus, kirkos. “I really wanted something that was around the word circle because I do a lot of things involving circles: hula hoops, juggling balls, German wheelers. I wanted to spell it with a K but my partner pointed out that everyone will say it wrong and it would drive me crazy, so that’s where Cirkos comes from.”
Jamee is passionate about circus and dance, if it doesn’t show through the multiple degrees that she has finished it certainly shows through her dedication. Even having only recently moved to Newcastle this year from Brisbane Jamee has already participated in a RAW Newcastle showcase. Then upon noticing a distinct lack of aerial dance in Newcastle she took business into her own hands and signed up for the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme through NSW Government and Cirkos opened for enrollments.
Being new to Newcastle Jamee has been patient in filling her Tumblebugs, Monkey Business and Aerial Dance classes which officially opened on the 8th of October. “The first few weeks trying to get enrollments was really scary. Slowly and surely the classes have been filling, even in the last three days the bulk of enrolments have come in and that’s through word of mouth, which is amazing because I’m new.”
Jamee shares the space at Broadmeadow PCYC with Circus Avalon. Upon deciding to move to Newcastle, after years of being involved in circus, she was pointed in the direction of Circus Avalon. The circus community in Australia is a small one, she tells me. “Circus is a real great community where you can rock up somewhere, in another state or country, and be like “I’m a carny”. You’ll play and share some tricks, it’s like you’re family straight away.” So how did Jamee become involved with the circus?
She began with ballet at the age of four competing throughout high school and then enrolling into a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance at the Queensland University of Technology. After graduation she worked as a professional dancer, however she had a real lust for learning different forms. Karate, Thai dancing, Jamee tried whatever she could until one day she took a circus class. “It completely changed my life,” she says, her smile widening. “It was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done. It was like dancing upside down and in the air, with added danger, it was all of the things of dance but plus some. So I ran away to join the circus. I moved to New Zealand and I learnt circus there, which finished up with me getting a degree of Circus from the NICA (National Institute of Circus Arts) in Melbourne.”
A lot of enthusiasm and energy emanates from Jamee, as she speaks her eyes sparkle. It’s evident she has a high regard for her unique art form. “I would like to do more classes and have more kids but I want to keep the class sizes small. I want to be the best, not the biggest. Just to have a really high quality product and for that to be passed around by word of mouth.”
So what can you expect from classes? First and foremost, an encouraging, non-competitive environment. A lot of the exercises performed in class rely on positive reinforcement and are team orientated. Jamee elaborates, “On each of the apparatus you’ll generally work with yourself but with acrobatics and clowning it’s really breeding a community of looking after each other and accountability. So if someone is standing on the back you have to be a really strong base and concentrate, you don’t want your friend to be hurt.”
Each class begins with circle time where attendees will share what’s happening with their day so Jamee can gauge how the class will work. The classes will differentiate throughout the term, working on different muscle groups as well as different skills such as trapeze, triple trapeze, silks, pole, stilts, aerial cube, aerial dodecahedron. The list goes on. From skills the class will move into choreography with a little sequence that looks at the transitions and the dynamics within the movements.
If you don’t feel easy about being high up, or even a little of the ground, there’s no reason to worry. The apparatuses will be close to the ground to begin with so you can progress through the class. It can sometimes be harder to get up on the apparatus and hold a shape. Jamee is understanding of this concern as well, just speaking with her you can tell that she won’t push you into doing something you’re not comfortable with. She is considerate and encouraging, and has had experience with an ice skater who came to Jamee to overcome her fear of heights;
“She was an ice skater so she was very capable in her body but would just freak out every lesson. She was sweaty and shaking, you could tell she was really uncomfortable. By the end of two terms she said “actually I want to perform a solo.” So she really just kept working at it and confronting it until she finally got in the air and really loved it. So I will encourage you to push yourself but only in the realms that you’re comfortable with. I don’t want you to freak out and get into any situations that wasn’t a positive experience. I want you to feel really good about what you’ve achieved, even if it’s the tiniest bit of progress it is still progress. Aim for progress not perfection.”
Term four Cirkos classes will run until the 14th of December before re-opening for first semester in 2016. It’s exciting to have aerial dance and circus in Newcastle; it’s common in capital cities like Sydney, Brisbane and of course Melbourne, which is considered to be the circus centre of Australia. Jamee is a spirited individual and it is hard not to feel motivated by her. If you would like to sign up to one of her classes (or even a free trial) you can visit her website for more information or follow her Facebook page for more information.
Interview by Jodie Millard on behalf of Culture Hunter.
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