Zip Zap celebrates 30 years of circus training

Masizakhe Kovi demonstrating his hand-balancing skills at the Zip Zap Circus academy.

After two years of being unable to perform in front of a full crowd due to Covid-19, Zip Zap Circus is back with a bang and ready to entertain.

The non-profit, which provides opportunities for circus training to children from diverse communities, has been running for 30 years.

It was founded by former trapeze artist Brent van Rensburg and his wife, Laurence Estève, who is also a circus performer.

Ms Estève says the circus was established to bridge gaps between kids from different backgrounds and cultures.

“We were determined to follow Nelson Mandela’s vision of a Rainbow Nation,” she says. “We met him in 1995 and he told us to continue the good work, so we listened!”

The Zip Zap training academy has been in Salt River since 2017, and its performing dome has been in the Founders Garden near Artscape since 2008.

Each year, Zip Zap trains an average of 2000 children aged 4 to 18. It has six outreach programmes and two youth programmes, all of which are free.

One of the programmes, Khula Nathi, which means “grow with us”, trains children of preschool age, teaching them balancing, hand-eye coordination, agility and social skills.

A beginners programme encourages children from ages 7 to12 to get involved with circus training.

Zip Zap’s marketing manager Colette Van Aswegen says the circus resumed live stage performances in February with Moya, which was staged at the Zip Zap dome in the Artscape precinct.

Moya also played at Montecasino, in Johannesburg, earlier this month and at the National Arts Festival in Makhanda in June.

“During Covid-19, we had to suspend many of our programmes. When we could resume the circus training last year, it had to be under strict regulations of wearing masks and using hand sanitiser,” says Ms Van Aswegen.

Now that regular operations have resumed, Zip Zap alumnae who started out as trainees are sharing their expertise with the future generation of circus performers.

Zip Zap Instructor Xolani Sikunana, 26, from Woodstock, has been with Zip Zap for eight years. “I received a lot of love from Zip Zap when I was young,” he says. “It is always good when you can see smiles on the children’s faces when teaching them.”

Zip Zap’s next production, Slapstick, is Sunday August 21 and Sunday August 28 at the Zip Zap Dome with shows at noon and 4pm. Tickets are R105 and available through Quicket.

Visi or call 021 421 8622 to find out more about the Zip Zap Circus.

Nombulelo Ngemntu, demonstrating her trapeze skills.
Liyabona Makhele demonstrates his aerial silk skills.