Zip Zap Circus adapts during lockdown

Zip Zap Circus performer, Xolani Sikunana

Ahead of World Circus Day, marked on Saturday April 17 this year, Zip Zap Circus is gearing up for their first major act since performing at the Federer vs Nadal showcase match in 2020.

That was their last live performance.

A year on, and the team has managed to keep its Big Top tent afloat, as well as make MOYA – their first-ever acrobatic art film – during the pandemic.

In the days leading up to the film’s unveiling on Saturday April 24, Zip Zap will have a series of pop-up experiences around the CBD from Wednesday April 14.

Laurence EsteÌve, co-founder and CEO of Zip Zap, said the team used the time to radically rethink their budget, cut all possible costs, and innovate.

“We’ve never worked that hard in our lives.”

Prioritising the well-being of the team and performers was the primary goal, she said.

They reopened their physical programmes as soon as they were able to, with the necessary protocols in place.

Throughout the varying levels of lockdown, the Zip Zap team stayed connected with performers, providing support and e-learning. This ensured all young people felt cared for – from performers based in Imizamo Yethu to Khayelitsha.

The idea to make a movie came from EsteÌve’s daughter, Sabine van Rensburg. A former Zip Zap student and member of contemporary circus company Seven Fingers Arts Collective, she returned home and started teaching the performers at Zip Zap.

The filming of the acrobatic art film was completed in two months.

“The result is beautiful. It’s energetic; it’s Cape Town. You know the flame lily that only grows when everything burns. And the phoenix that rises from the ashes. That’s what I learned. When everything is devastated, just create something new,” said EsteÌve.

She said while the community has rallied behind the circus throughout the lockdown, they still need support.

ZipZap was not just a show – the team also runs outreach programmes to reach at-risk youth, she said.

Their flagship vocational programme, Dare to Dream (D2D), aims to alleviate poverty and reduce unemployment by using circus arts as a practical medium to teach soft skills, technical skills, artistic development and teaching capabilities.

D2D students are selected for the programme based on potential, and participate in different modules, including coaching the younger children. There’s also a “professional insertion year”, where they become work- and life-ready by working with Zip Zap.

Xolani Sikunana, a D2D student, said the programme means the world to him.

“I have learnt so much about my personal value and the importance of being myself. Through the programme I have opened up to others and I love sharing my knowledge.”

Tasso Evangelinos, CEO of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID), said: “We have so much admiration for the work that Zip Zap has done for the last 29 years. They’ve been phenomenally tenacious throughout lockdown and we salute them for their innovation and never-give-up attitude. We look forward to seeing the performers lighting up our CBD.”

Apart from the film, Zip Zap also has a new live comedy-circus show called Slapstick, coming in July, and an Artscape performance planned for October.

MOYA will air for 48 hours from Saturday April 24 to Sunday April 25, with tickets available on Quicket at R100 each.

Residents and visitors to the CBD can also enjoy a series of pop-up acrobatic stunts.

The pop-up performances scheduled for Wednesday April 14 are:

  • Waterkant Street between Long Street and Loop Street, at 9.30am.
  • Corner of Government Avenue and Parliament Lane at the Arch for the Arch, at 10am.
  • Thibault Square at 12.30pm
  • Outside Newspaper House in St George’s Mall, at 1pm
  • At the Bart Simpson Statue in St George’s Mall, at 1.30pm