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NICA's Zebastian Hunter provides an insight into collaborating with artists and teachers at the Beijing International Acrobatic Arts School

During February 2017 NICA performance teacher and trainer Zebastian Hunter travelled to Beijing International Arts School to direct a student performance as part of a new exchange initiative between the two organisations.

Below Zeb provides an insight into his experiences collaborating with the young artists and highly skilled teachers at the school.

“Earlier this year I travelled to Beijing, China with the goal of creating a spectacular new juggling act in an exchange between NICA and the Beijing International Acrobatic Arts School. The first exchange of its kind in history.

The exchange had been brought about through a conversation at the Shanghai International Circus Education Forum the previous year. I had attended the forum as a guest panellist presenting my Masters Thesis and as a representative of NICA. While there Mr Guang Rong Lu OAM NICA Director (International Engagement) introduced me to Wan and Mr Li, representatives from the Beijing International Arts School. Over a breakfast conversation we arranged that I would come back to China for an exchange between Eastern and Western creative ideals.

I spent the first weekend there travelling to numerous museums around the Forbidden City, stopping at times to watch the people, observe the ancient artefacts and sit entranced by a group practicing Tai Chi with a Master.

On the following Monday morning I met the students I would be working with. Four inquisitive young faces greeted me: Guan, a cheeky 17-year old boy and Miao 1, Miao 2 and Miao 3 – three juggling triplets. Over the course of the day I noted their immense discipline, incredible arsenal of skills and the various technical components that could be integrated into the performance.

We worked from 8:30am to 9:00pm, Monday – Friday, combining the two distinct knowledge bases from traditional Chinese circus practices and contemporary performance methodologies. There were also weekly presentations to the school’s directors – an impressive array of teachers, creators and performers with numerous prizes to evidence their vast experience in act construction. Working visually, kinaesthetically and vocally (when I finally learned to speak a few key Chinese phrases!) we managed to distil the essence of the work. We then presented a vision of this, supported by a fantastic team of local creatives, incorporating lighting, costume, set and musical composition.

Leading the young artists through a series of progressive classes and creative tasks was a challenging endeavour due to communication barriers (despite a lovely translator), introducing the students to new creative methodologies and not being able to figure out who was who amongst the triplets!

The final result is still in the making and I am excited to see where it will end up being performed. Already the exchange has been a huge success in creating friendships and securing important partnerships with a sister school. I look forward to the opportunity of going again soon to participate in an exchange that incorporates thousands of years of traditional practice with contemporary performance methodologies. Perhaps next time NICA students will even come along!"

Article added 21 Apr 2017

National Institute of Circus Arts

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