For the last 13 years, Whangarei residents of all ages have learnt juggling, acrobatics, rope work and even fire play with Circus Kumarani.
David Steemson visits a rehearsal for their annual fire spectacular to mark Matariki next month.
The evening I arrive Frenchmen Jo de Carvalho and Mat Manamat are the tutors at Circus Kumarani. As the smiling students arrive out of the minivan, they greet them with hugs, high fives and shouts of welcome. Than everyone has to go through their exercises.
Jason’s been coming here for 13 years and grins as he says how much he enjoys it all. For the next Matariki performance he’ll be up on stilts bearing a flaming staff, portraying Tane Mahuta. no less. Tonight he practices his stilt-walking and does two circuits of the room, but without flames.
Andy and Felicity are quite serious as they practice their bike wheel duet. And Katrina concentrates on her hula hoop.
Later outside in the dark, a band sets up, and a bucket of kerosene is readied. Everyone gets to practice, this time with live music and real fire. You can see the concentration on their faces. Andy and Felicity have their bicycle wheels ablaze and Katrina is busy with her fiery hoop. Jason beams from on high as Jo, bearing his flaming umbrella, zips about shouting instructions and offering advice and help.
Circus Kumarani has been based in Dargaville for the last 13 years. It gives after-school and holiday time classes for the kids of the town and adults too. Manager Jenny Huriwai says the circus has an annual budget of over $200,000 and it’s a constant struggle to raise funds.
At the end of this evening’s rehearsal a happy people head home - tired, a bit singed and smelling of kerosene.