Brazil Circus Holiday: Week One

After a week of adventuring through sunny beaches and flying trapeze classes it seems like a good moment to pause and reflect on of our trip so far. We: a group of 3 nationalities from 5 different circus schools across the UK have travelled to the south east of Brazil to a small island called Florianopolis to take part in 3 weeks of circus classes at Circocan here.

Led by myself, Amy from Aerial Edge, the other participants: Holly, Stephen, Joanna and Alison all heard about the trip at The Edinburgh Aerial and Acro Convention, resulting in the diverse nature of our group. But the real origins of our adventure began in 2012 at the Circus Warehouse in New York, where Mark and Pedro (the directors of Aerial Edge and Circocan respectively) met while training there. They quickly became friends and Pedro invited Mark to visit their school in the beachside town of Jurerê, complete with outdoor flying trapeze rig- an offer not many would refuse! This was the start of a 4 year collaboration and cultural exchange between our two schools, eventually resulting in the concept of opening up a trip for students to train in Brazil.

In 2016 we ran a successful trial of the holiday, taking 4 staff members and 4 students from Aerial Edge to train at Circocan, a trip which even attracted the attention of the local newspapers. People here are delighted that someone would travel all the way from Scotland to be here and declarations of your nationality frequently draw astonished reactions from the locals, who are largely accustomed to tourists from other parts of Brazil and South America, particularly Argentina.

Circocan prides itself in being an international circus school. Many of the classes are taught in both English and Portuguese but the staff are also known to speak in French, Russian and occasionally Chinese! It’s fast becoming a hub for international meeting and collaboration: in the week that we’ve been here we’ve already met some amazing individuals including the owner of a pole studio in the Netherlands and the co-director of a dance and circus school in the Amazon, both professionals in their own right who have travelled here to learn more. Previous visiting artists include Jason Bruegger (who went on to win the title of Switzerland’s Biggest Talent) and a few of our own instructors from Aerial Edge! The recent addition of two École Nacional de Cirque trained teachers (Anna and Carlos) to the Circocan staff has further boosted the school’s international credentials.

At the core of the school here is a gruelling Circofitness programme, led by the excruciatingly attractive couple: Pedro (who boasts over 10 years experience in circus training) and Nikki (whose background in professional gymnastics makes even the toughest exercises look elegant). The bootcamp-style Circofitness classes push participant’s mental and physical limits to the maximum as Holly experienced on her first day here:

“I thought I was going to be sick after 10 minutes, these people go hardcore! I’ve never sweated into my own eyes before!”

New students joining Circocan (without previous circus experience) are required to complete 3 month of circus fitness classes before progressing on to other disciplines, an approach which sits in opposition to the fun-led approach of most the recreational circus programmes in the UK. Our students have quickly adapted to this style of teaching however:

“After a couple of days you get used to hardcore bootcamp style exercises and after a week I can’t imagine going home and not doing these exercises any more!” – Holly

Despite this seemingly tough approach, Circocan classes are extremely welcoming and inclusive. When I asked the group what their first impressions of the school were, the Brazilian hospitality was top of their list:

“It’s a very positive and encouraging atmosphere. You’re always made to feel welcome, even when there is a language barrier.” – Stephen

“This is the most welcoming community I’ve ever known, even to us stiff British people who don’t normally touch or hug!” – Holly

This spirit of hospitality is universal in Brazil, where our Uber drivers have insisted on detours to scenic locations for photo opportunities and no request is too much trouble for our landlord, who has received our group to his property with the affection of a welcoming father.

In this first week, we’ve packed as much activity as possible around our circus classes including beach trips, Portuguese lessons, Sand boarding down the Sand dunes of Joaquima, where we couldn’t resist the opportunity to do some acro against this spectacular backdrop. But it’s not just fun and games: the group have thrown themselves into as many classes as possible and are already noticing physical changes to their strength and stamina, which after only a week here is a testament to their hard work and willingness to challenge themselves with new disciplines.

It’s been a busy and fun start to our adventure so far, we’ll keep you updated with more blog posts throughout the remainder of the holiday.

You can also follow our adventure on instagram with daily posts about our trip!

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