Testimony – Andrea Ousley’s project in Estonia


Andrea Ousley from NICA (National Institute of Circus Arts) Melbourne Australia tells us about her mobility project with Circus Studio Folie in Tallinn Estonia

My role at NICA is that of Social Circus and Certificate III coordinator.

Social Circus is using circus skills in a community cultural context. Since opening our doors in 2001, NICA has been committed to not only provide professional contemporary circus training, but to also work on a grassroots level and take circus to community. NICA does this by conducting Social Circus workshops and outreach programs. High level artists are often born in community engagement projects.

I also oversee the delivery of NICA’s certificate III program that is part of the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE), the 2 final years of High school in Victoria. These students participate in circus training at NICA and do their academic subjects Off site at another school.

I’m visiting Circus Studio Folie in Tallinn Estonia. I’ve been watching all the different workshops from the parents and kids to the adult aerial classes.

The small children took the opportunity to practice their English. Asking me different questions, for example
How old are you (55)
Do you have a pet (yes, a dog Hedwig)
Your favourite colour (Pink) this response was met with much joy from the small girls mostly dressed in pink……..

The workshops that I have found the most different and interesting have been teenagers group.

They participate in 3 workshops a week. Varying the type of workshops, from the straight circus skills/techniques class to a more movement, dance, improvisation style workshop.
The same group participating in many styles of workshops seems to offer them a strong sense of ensemble and the performance skills with which to present their circus techniques. Which then leads to the high quality of their performances.

I was also able to see a show ‘Pure Mind’ at the Tartu UusTeater, Tallinn this had performers who made their start in Folie. It was a show that used many elements of circus, along with physical theatre and an extremely interesting fashion parade on two highs.

We also spent a day in Helsinki visiting several circus schools The Circo Centre, Lahti Circus School, Circus Helsinki and then Finally Linnanmäen Sirkus. All of these places offering something slightly different. I have been embracing my opportunity to wander Tallinn exploring the Historic Centre (Old Town). My accommodation, which was organized by Clare Toms from NICA, was in a perfect location directly opposite Old Town which meant I could take myself for a wander in the evenings and truly spend time discovering this unique city. Tallinn Old Town is a Unesco World Heritage Site. It was a marvelous experience to be in a place that felt like being in a fairy story.

I also went on many food excursions, being vegetarian meant asking lots of questions to various strangers and in doing so I found Telliskivi a bohemian arts village with lots of great cafes and a beautiful hidden circus space. I was lucky enough to see and be an audience for a community circus workshop run by another Australian Dan Renwick.

It was remarkable to feel as if I was home although I was in a different country far from my actual home

and the 1st language of the people I met was different to my own, we clearly had a common language, that of circus and a true belief in the ability of circus to change people’s lives!

Thanks to this amazing Erasmus project, I got to experience Circus in many different guises right across the globe and I now feel connected into and have developed strong networks and lasting friendships within my wider circus community…..