Blakflip and beyond: Aboriginal performers and contemporary circus in Australia
New Theatre Quarterly
Cambridge University Press
Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)
In this article Katie Lavers and Jon Burtt investigate BLAKflip and Beyond, a programme of workshops set up by the Australian circus company Circus Oz to mentor and support young Aboriginal performers by providing training and pathways into professional circus. Their analysis is contextualized through an examination of the thirty-year history of Circus Oz, most significantly its roots in the progressive and radical politics of the 1970s. The history of notable and successful Aboriginal performers in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Australian circus is also examined, questioning why, given the relative success of Aboriginal circus performers in the recent past, there are almost none working today. Whiteness as a pervasive characteristic of contemporary Australian performance is offered as a possible cause of this absence, while hopes for the future of Aboriginal circus are discussed with Davey Thompson, the new Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Programme Manager at Circus Oz. Katie Lavers is an adjunct faculty member at Edith Cowan University, author of numerous journal articles, and co-editor (with Peta Tait) of The Routledge Circus Studies Reader (2016). Jon Burtt is a lecturer in Dance and Performance Studies at Macquarie University. He is the author of numerous articles on circus pedagogy, and is an advanced-level circus trainer. Lavers and Burtt are currently co-authoring (with Louis Patrick Leroux) a book on contemporary circus (forthcoming 2019).