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Your Inner Circles

An arts alliance against gender-based violence

3 min read

How do you create a safe space and nurture an ‘Inner Circle’ among a diverse group of survivors of gender-based abuse who have only recently met, and are about to share their experiences on stage? 

An initiative of Brisbane’s Chrysalis Projects, YOUR INNER CIRCLES coincides with the annual United Nations Women’s Global 16 Days Campaign, which is focused on raising awareness about gender-based violence against women.

To propel the concept that one of the most powerful and positive resources a woman can have is a circle of trust, allies and hope, her ‘Inner Circle’, members of Queensland’s arts community are banding together to hold events and start conversations to create safe havens of sisterhood and trust.

This is something Vulcana Circus has been doing for more than two decades, using the shared physical language of circus to allow people of all backgrounds to explore, express and build connections.

The company is currently preparing for its upcoming season of Circus in a Tea Cup, which will run in our Cremorne Theatre from 16 to 18 December 2021 and see Vulcana community members collaborate with survivors of gender-based abuse to tell stories of recovery, resilience and triumph in a contemporary circus performance.

Rehearsals for Circus in a Teacup Rehearsals for Circus in a Tea Cup. Image supplied.

With this kind of project, there’s the need for an ‘Inner Circle’ from the get-go, with the first stage focused on community building and learning circus skills. In an interview with Nothing Ever Happens in Brisbane, Vulcana Artistic Director Celia White said there was an unspoken understanding in the rehearsal room.

“There’s a shared understanding of the imperative for action around this particular issue. And there’s a shared kind of perspective on power structures and things that don’t need to be stated, but implicitly, and in shared conversations, that the group has been able to demonstrate to each other that they are on the same page. As opposed to implicitly asking questions about that.

“It’s the connection between the women that happens, there is this level of closeness, and then the way that they support each other in the things that are going on outside in their lives, as a result of them trying to survive this experience, and people at different points of the journey along that.”

Rehearsals for Circus in a Teacup Rehearsals for Circus in a Tea Cup. Image supplied.

Sally Walker has been a member of the Vulcana community for more than 20 years, initially taking part in workshops to now supporting the participants of Circus in a Tea Cup through the creative process and eventually performing alongside them. During rehearsals, the group has been sharing their ideas and experiences and exploring them through movement.

Whether it’s catching someone when they fall in rehearsal, or just being there to pick up a phone call any other day, Sally puts it simply:

“It’s just lovely seeing a group of women support each other like that.”

She predicts there will be a real sense of pride and accomplishment among the group as the curtain rises on opening night.

“The first day we all got in a room together and were like ‘how are we going to make a circus show that we’re going to put on at QPAC? This is madness’, but we’ve come such a long way.

“For the audience, hopefully we will show them something they’ve never really seen before and they hear stories they might not usually hear. I hope the audience will come away surprised and with something to think about.”

Circus in a Tea Cup is presented by QPAC in partnership with Vulcana Circus and Brisbane Domestic Violence Service as part of Micah Projects. It is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland.

For more information about the YOUR INNER CIRCLES program running from November to December 2021, visit Chrysalis Projects' website.


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We pay our respects to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestors of this land, their spirits and their legacy. The foundations laid by these ancestors – our First Nations Peoples – gives strength, inspiration and courage to current and future generations, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, towards creating a better Queensland.