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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In 2017, our strong women participants had the amazing opportunity to perform as part of Taylor Mac's 24-Decade History of Popular Music at the Melbourne Festival performance in October 2017. 

"[This project was an] opportunity to create, develop and exist outside teh archetypes imagined in the hears and minds of men." - Tarah Carey, Strong Women 2016 participant

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.

 "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"

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.

Strong Women 2017 Taylor Mac Performance

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