Jessie, Juliet, Theo and I were lucky enough to spend our last two weeks on tour with Sapana, Nepal’s first and only contemporary circus company. Sapana is an offshoot of an NGO called the Esther Benjamins Trust (EBT), which rescues displaced Nepali children, many of whom have been trafficked illegally into Indian circuses. Over 130 children are looked after at a refuge run by EBT in Godawari, where they live and go to school. 12 of the older children, some of whom have left school and go to work during the day, have decided to continue to explore the art of circus on their own terms and they make up the Sapana circus company.
So along we went to meet them all at the Gurkha gym where they train. We were accompanied by two perky Aussie fellas, Ivan and Shaun, who are trained circus professionals and now work with EBT full time, training the Sapana kids and helping them devise their shows. At the moment, Sapana are gearing up for a trip to Dubai in October, and are devising the show that they will tour with. As if the pressure of that weren’t enough, they also had to perform at a fundraising benefit held at the British School, a private international school primarily for ex-pats, with just four sessions to polish what they had and turn it into a showcase.
As time was tight for Sapana, we didn’t have much scope to do our thing and run a full course of workshops with them. But we did get the opportunity to observe them in action, practicing their extraordinary hula-hooping and tumbling skills. The personalities of these kids are great, and the potential for them to develop some clowning routines along with some very impressive acrobatic set-pieces is enormous.
When we did get a bit of time with some members of the group, we ran some Complicite exercises, helping the kids with their teamwork and focus, and developing a sense of unity between them as a group and between the group and the audience. While our success varied, one girl (I think her name was Angeli) played quite an intense partner focus exercise with Juliet, which left her speechless and tearful. I think her words afterwards were ‘I don’t know whether that was horrible or wonderful’!
Theo, our most acrobatically gifted Rickshaw member, threw himself in (quite literally) with their tumbling training. And, along with Shaun, he choreographed a kickass fight scene with two of the boys (both called BJ) from the group, involving some spectacular, and somewhat frightening, tumbling. The show in its entirety was performed towards the end of our final week of tour, received with much acclaim at the British school. The kids looked great all dressed in black, and did not fail to impress the audience who cheered and clapped at every interval. It was a privilege to have met them and worked with them, and we hope Rickshaw can do some more in-depth work with Sapana in the future!