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Arts Access at FAC: Circus On Wheels (Cirque Sur Roués)

Wednesday 17 June 2020

Circus on Wheels at FAC

Circus On Wheels (originally named Cirque Sur Roués) is an inclusive circus, catering for adults of all abilities and welcoming people with physical and intellectual disability.

As an all-inclusive venue, the FAC is passionate about providing arts opportunities for all abilities. Circus On Wheels (fondly known and originally named Cirque Sur Roués) is an inclusive circus, catering for adults of all abilities and welcoming people with physical and intellectual disability or acquired brain injury. The brainchild of Isi Lumbroso, Circus On Wheels aims to engage, inspire and challenge those with a disability. This circus is driven by process, not outcome. Classes run weekly in Cube 37 (during school term).   

We spoke with Isi about how Circus On Wheels began, how it has evolved and what a class entails.

How did Cirque Sur Roués begin?

In 2001, there was a mental health initiative with Vic Health, Royal Melbourne Children’s Hospital and Yarram High School called ’The Festival for Healthy Living’ exploring the theme of friendship and artists. Weavers, drummers, puppeteers, computer teachers and myself (circus) collaborated to facilitate two terms of ongoing workshops with year 6 & 7 students from six schools under the friendship paradigm. The aim was to assist a smoother transition for the year 6 kids into year 7.

Thematically we explored trust, humour, and support, culminating in an end of semester show-off for the parents and community members. In my group, I had a wheelchair user. I was asked repeatedly if it was OK for him to join the group and the school was tentative about him partaking in circus. I thought it was an opportunity to use an unexplored apparatus. This led me to question why anyone would think they could not do something. Just because you might be in a wheelchair does not mean you can’t do circus. 

To research how I could create a program, I went to the wheelchair supplier and borrowed a wheelchair, strapped myself in and took it for a spin, trialling circus apparatus including hoops, plates, juggling, devil sticks, ribbons and poi. Following a discussion with the Arts Access Officer at Frankston Council, and after a successful pilot, I partnered with the council to start Cirque Sur Roués (Circus on Wheels) - adults all abilities circus. This has been an ongoing weekly program running in partnership with the council, where participants pay a subsidised admission fee to participate each week.

Circus on Wheels class What happens in an average session? 

We start with a game or a dance, followed by a stretch. We then work on new tricks or routines for performances. We get to have free time during the session to focus on our specialities. We try to vary the sessions. Some weeks we might have the mini-tramp out, acro-mats, and aerials while other weeks may include movement, theatre, or just working on an act for an upcoming show.

How would you describe the many benefits of the program for participants?

Firstly, the social interaction and connectivity - the support, trust, humour, and friendship - has immeasurable benefits on the wellbeing and confidence of the participants. 

Then there is the physical aspects, such as assisting wheelchair users sit in the aerial silks or on the trapeze. Watching people as they cross the midline (very difficult with ASD) in juggling, holding objects when they have never been able to grip things, improved fitness, balance, body awareness and coordination have been just a few of the physical benefits witnessed.

On a creative side, seeing participants lose all inhibitions when it comes to act development or performability. For any artistic coordinator, watching the group fully immersed in their art, is an achievement.

Circus on Wheels classes for all abilities What has the program given to you personally?

As a facilitator, Cirque Sur Roués has reinforced my belief that in life there is no such thing as ‘can’t’. 

To see the members of CSR get a trick for the first time when they have been working on it for ages; when that energy ignites their spirit and you see it and are part of that process, well that’s the moment. In this moment, you know that the process to get here is paramount to the outcome. Watching the group support each other, cheer each other on without prompting, is just divine. Imagine if we all celebrated everyone’s achievements in life that way... focusing on peoples individual strengths and then celebrating those things with gusto.

Of course, when CSR gets to perform, as a facilitator I feel a huge sense of pride and gratitude. I feel proud because I am aware of the journey, the perseverance, determination, enthusiasm, frustrations, skill development, achievements, coordination, choreography, the energy it takes to show up every week even when some might not be feeling their best.

As a facilitator, the program has given me the skills and tools to develop programs to adapt to all bodies. It has helped my understand modifications required to program to any age or ability group.

Who can join in and how do they join?

Anyone can join – even those without a disability, as we aim to integrate all participants. Just contact the Frankston Arts Centre to book your sessions – classes are held weekly on Thursdays from 12.15pm-2.15pm ($12.50 per session).

Please note:  Circus on Wheels classes are currently not running due to the temporary closure of Frankston Arts Centre in response to COVID-19. Our website will be updated here as soon as we know when classes can resume, so please stay in touch by checking the website for updates.

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