NICA 2023 Showcase ONOFF Gemma Truong (c) Daniel Rabin


NICA’s Dazzling Circus Extravaganza Redefines the Art of Performance

Reviewed by Brendan Daynes

In the heart of Melbourne, the world renowned National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) presented ON/OFF, a breathtaking showcase that epitomises the dedication and brilliance of its graduating students. The purpose-built NICA stage provides a captivating canvas, unveiling a remarkable demonstration of skill, innovation, and artistic expression.

NICA 2023 Showcase ONOFF Asha Colless (c) Daniel Rabin

As the performance is about to commence, the audience is ushered through a makeshift dressing room, providing a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the performers preparing for the spectacle. This immersive journey leads into a world where contortion, aerial silk, trapeze, and various circus arts harmonise in a symphony of strength, grace, and extraordinary talent.

Strength is a fundamental requirement for all circus performers, and one apparatus that truly showcases this is the straps. This apparatus demands a unique blend of strength, flexibility, and artistry, and the performers were able to showcase their skill by intertwining their bodies to create visually striking and intricate shapes during dynamic and gravity-defying aerial routines. The impressive use of lighting and sets further enhanced the audience perspective on this apparatus, adding to the captivating display. Additionally, contortion, a well-established skill in circus performances, was masterfully demonstrated, with the artists showcasing remarkable flexibility and assuming mind-boggling positions. This left the audience in awe of the seamless fusion of strength and flexibility displayed by the performers.

The showcase further explored a realm of grace by skilfully reimagining timeless circus techniques. The performers not only exemplified elegance but also incorporated daring moves, while infusing moments of comedy. Furthermore, groundbreaking fusions were introduced, such as the integration of trapeze with contortion—an adept amalgamation of these established circus disciplines that resulted in a mesmerising performance seamlessly blending strength, flexibility, and artistry. Another noteworthy act was the dance-inspired masterpiece, where the artists cleverly blended hoops with the timeless Fosse dance classic, introducing a captivating display of creativity and skill.

NICA 2023 Showcase ONOFF Rosalani Mordaunt(c) Daniel Rabin

The showcase payed homage to tradition with a contemporary twist, featuring acts that showcased the rich heritage of circus arts. A trapeze act inspired by Hercules paid tribute to classic circus skills, showcasing both strength and the enduring resilience of the human spirit. The awe inspiring whip cracker introduced a contemporary flair to a seemingly simple prop, transforming it into an art form that held the audience captivated. The jaw-dropping tumbler, utilising three hoops as a bullseye, presented an act that was both thrilling and precise, demonstrating a mastery of acrobatic skills. The final act, a masterclass in partnering and trust, showcased seamless transitions between lifts, underscoring the importance of collaboration and mutual reliance – vital skills for any accomplished circus performer. Each lift not only demonstrated physical strength but also conveyed a sense of trust and connection, concluding the showcase on a powerful and harmonious note.

ON/OFF highlighted the performers’ remarkable professionalism and flawless execution, offering a glimpse into the exceptional talent on stage. Despite their student status, their ability to deliver such a high-calibre performance reflects a level of skill and discipline exceeding typical expectations for this stage of their artistic journey. This professionalism hints at a promising future for these budding artists. As they continue their journey with ongoing rehearsals, it becomes apparent that their skills extend beyond their institution’s walls, positioning them to make a significant impact on the global stage, showcasing their prowess and captivating audiences worldwide.

ON/OFF ran from November 29 to December 2 at NICA in Prahran. The National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) is Australia’s Centre of Excellence for training in contemporary circus arts, for more information on NICA please visit

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