Circus skills that build more than confidence!

Tauranga Girls’ College student Peyton Crawford has enjoyed Circability classes in 2023. Photo: John Borren.

The favourite part of Rowan Ford Dawson’s job is seeing people’s faces light up when they know it’s circus class.

“[I love] Watching the students get joy out of it and growing and expanding their ability to do the tricks that we’re teaching them.”

Rowan is the regional hub manager of Circability in the Bay of Plenty – which provides circus classes to people of all ages and abilities.

Circability classes teach people of all abilities circus skills in schools, disability centres and retirement villages.

Available in Auckland and Northland, Circability has been running in the Bay of Plenty for one-and-a-half school terms.

“Circability started in New Zealand more than 10 years ago, and there are classes for people of all ages, all abilities, all cultures, all together.”

Government funding of more than $300,000 has been granted to The Circability Trust to provide more social circus practitioners in regional areas, including Tauranga.

“We go into schools, disability centres, retirement villages and preschools and we teach social circus,” says Rowan.

“Social circus is using circus skill as a social tool to encourage coordination, balance, confidence, social engagement and self-pride to create positive outcomes for our students.”

It also fosters building confidence, overcoming trauma and developing essential capacities such as resilience and responsibility.

There is a particular emphasis on teaching disabled and disadvantaged youth via inclusive transition.

The focus on disability is at the forefront of what Circability does.

“I work with people who have disabilities and they don’t let it stop them.

"They get in there and they give it a go.”

In circus class is  student Pippu Jefferies, tutor Regina de Jong, student Tilesha Pouaka, Circability BOP’s Rowan Dawson and student Peyton Crawford. Photo: John Borren.

Rowan’s team also works with at-risk youth and people with neurodiversity.

“We have people that you wouldn’t expect to be able to do these technical tricks and they’re getting in there and they’re giving it a go.”

“Parents come in and they see students do tricks that they never would have believed they could have been able to do.

"They see a student who is not in the mainstream school, and here they are juggling three balls and doing it capably,” says Rowan.

For those interested in becoming a circability tutor and being employed long-term, Circability also offers pathways to these goals via the Power of Inclusion training and development programme.

So what’s the goal for Circability in the Bay of Plenty for 2024?

“We’re working in multiple schools, disability centres, and next year we hope to include more of the preschools and aged care into our roster.”

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