Sure, there are flips, tumbles and splits but for Harley Mann circus is all about connection. The Wakka Wakka man, 23, who will direct the premiere of Arterialat the Meat Market Melbourne this week, says circus has a synergy with Indigenous culture.
Both are support-based cultures, he says, in which everyone works to help the group. “The thing about circus is it has this inherent similarity to the way Aboriginal people function. Learning from your elders, sharing, coming together at night and performing, it’s about connecting,” he says. “You go to circus festivals and it really feels like you’re out with mob.”
Arterial is about how First Nations people connect with each other, community, place and country. The name was inspired by the idea of arteries in the body, as well as in nature – rivers, streams, roads. As Mann describes them, they’re “these route systems that span out and connect people but they can be unnoticed and overlooked”.
“It really came from this initial thought of, ‘What is connection?’ and a feeling for me that when I get to meet new elders, they are always inherently my aunties and uncles and I know they will guide me, help me, show me how to grow as a person,” Mann says.
“Because of the way Aboriginal culture works and because we have experienced massive trauma, the way we connect has massive trust – inherent and instinctual trust.”
Mann grew up in Gadigal country, in Sydney’s Dulwich Hill, and studied at the Newtown High School of the Performing Arts, where one of his drama teachers introduced him to circus. He specialises in aerial rope and has performed with some of Australia’s top contemporary circus groups, including Brisbane-based Circa and Casus, as well as Circus Oz…
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