Strong Women

This program aims to develop female circus artists that are able to send an empowering message to the broader community that sexism is not ok, that women are all shapes and sizes, that girls don’t have to behave or look a certain way, and importantly that women are strong and capable.

Circus Oz celebrate what women are capable of – incredible strength and stamina, extraordinary grace, rebellious spirit and ability to laugh in the face of danger.

While a giant step forward was made for gender equity in the 70’s, Circus Oz believes it is still a long journey towards true equality. This is why Circus Oz champions the potential and actual achievements of women by promoting role models and challenging perceptions.

Our program provides a dedicated path for the development and celebration of women within the contemporary circus industry, nurturing emerging talent through dedicated training, masterclasses, mentoring and recruitment.

With your help, we can continue to create these opportunities for women, ensuring the next generation of ‘Strong Women’ emerges from within our circus ranks.

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The 2016 Strong Women program provided nine circus artists with advanced circus training and creative development opportunities. They worked with Lead Director, Maude Davey, an experienced director across a range of performance genres including text-based feminist theatre, burlesque, cabaret and circus. Davey brought a unique set of creation and performance techniques to the project, and through a series of ‘provocations' and workshop exercises, she both challenged conventions and ideas about what women are capable of, and gave the participating artists new tools for creating work.

In addition, the participants were privileged to work with Anna Yen, a movement trainer and director who has developed a unique series of workshop techniques to unlock and nurture circus artists’ inherent physicality, something which is often lost, masked, or remains undiscovered, during their technical training.

The participating artists also worked with Master Circus Trainer, Rudi Mineur, to advance their circus skills, with a focus on Rudi’s areas of specialty, duo and group acrobatics.

As part of the program, Emerging Director Carly Sheppard was mentored by Maude Davey, and given the opportunity to direct the participants herself, and to explore her own approach to the creation of new work within circus. Carly was selected as the emerging director as a result of her participation as an artist in our BLAKflip program. Circus is still a relatively new medium for her. However, her background as a dancer and independent artist put her in an ideal position to develop skills as a director for circus, and we hope to provide further mentorship opportunities for her in the future.

SW Strong Women Participants

2016 Strong Women Participating Artists: 

Tarah Carey - the writer/co-director, Gravity Dolls, currently touring their first work, “My Life in Boxes"

Kate Muntz: from Brisbane’s Company 2, a company credited with making a major contribution to the artform’s development in Australia.

Mieke Lizotte: formerly a member of Circus Aotearoa and now a member of internationally acclaimed Adelaide-based contemporary circus, Gravity and Other Myths.

Amy Stuart: a recent graduate of the Flying Fruit Fly Circus.

Phoebe Carlson: a new member of Brisbane company, Casus, they have a strong focus on strong gender roles and cultural diversity;  

Alyssa Moore, Josie Wardrope and Olivia Watts: members of the Melbourne-based, women-only, circus ensemble, Elements of Consequence, which recently won the Gasworks Circus Showdown.

SW 3Carly Sheppard    

Emerging Director: Carly Sheppard, Melbourne-based Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander dancer, comedian and performance artist from the Wallangamma and Takalaka Tribes of North QLD.

SW 3Maude Davey    

Lead Director: Maude Davey is co-creator of 'Retro-Futursimus', an all women cabaret/circus/theatre work that is about to be featured at the 2017 Sydney Festival. She is also the collaborating director for Gravity Dolls, is frequently a featured performer for Finucane and Smith productions such as 'Glory Box', and is the former Artistic Director of Adelaide company, Vitalstatistix, an established contemporary feminist performance organisation with a tradition of supporting women artists.

SW 3Anna Yen    

Movement Trainer:  Anna Yen  is a movement teacher and director from the Monika Pagneaux (one of Europe’s leading exponents of movement in contemporary theatre) also an experienced circus performer and creator.

SW 3Rudi Mineur crop     

Acrobatics Trainer: Rudi Mineur is Head of Circus at Circa Contemporary Circus and specialises in duo and group acrobatics.

SW 3Antonella    

Project Design and Management: Antonella Casella, Senior Artistic Associate, Circus Oz

In July 2016, during our Melbourne Big Top season, we held a fundraising event for the program. We had an amazing panel of Strong Women from Australian business, theatre, aviation and entertainment as they discussed "What makes a Strong Woman today and how we can inspire the Strong Women of tomorrow". Our panel members included Wendy McCarthy AO, Circus Oz Board Chair, Rachael Maza, Artistic Director, Ilbijerri Theatre, Georigina Sutton, Chief Pilot at Jetstar and our very own Mel Fyfe, Strong Women and previous Circus Oz performer since 1998. This amazing discussion was facilitated by the warm, witty and smart Libbi Gorr. Following the discussion guests were invited to witness the thrills of the female-empowered Circus Oz show, TWENTYSIXTEEN under our Big Top. 

In January 2016, during our Sydney Big Top season, we held a fundraising event for the program. We had an amazing panel of Strong Women from Australian business, education, politics and entertainment dicuss 'What it means to be a Strong Woman today'. Our panel members included Wendy McCarthy AO, Chair of Circus Oz, The Hon. Quentin Bryce AD CVO, Governor General of Australia (2008-2014), Denise Bradley AC, former Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of South Australia and our very own, Mel Fyfe, Strong Woman, previous performer since 1998. Guests enjoyed an engaging and thought provoking discussion lead by Julie McCrossin, lawyer, broadcaster, journalist, and also got to witness the thrills of the female-empowered Circus Oz show under the Big Top.

 "For an 8-year-old boy, for instance, the shock and awe of seeing "a girl" do the same strength feats as her brawny male partner - lifting and carrying him exactly the same way he had lifted and carried her - is unforgettable and astonishing. James's gasps and grin of wide-eyed delight were unforgettable for his godmother who instantly remembered being equally stunned some 30 years ago by the first generation of Oz strong women"
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