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Audiences can look forward to "comedy, dexterity and a Kiwi flavour", performers in New Zealand's only animal-free and polytechnic-educated circus say.
Performers and crew members of Circus Aotearoa set up the big top on Warren Park yesterday for their four shows, the first of which is tonight.
Luke Forrester, of Motueka, juggles and balances on a ladder during the 90-minute shows. He remembers as a child being impressed by jugglers on the streets of Nelson and learned the skill three years ago.
Mr Forrester and his fellow performers studied full-time for two years to earn the diploma in circus arts, or "CircoArt", at Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology.
"I got picked up by the circus after they saw our end-of-year show and offered me a job," he said. "I went from high school, to circus school, to this."
Everyone who performs either helps erect the Big Top, which takes a day and a-half, or promotes the circus around the town.
"It's pretty hard physical work, but you get to see a lot of the country. I've never been this far south before," he said.
Hula-hooper and clown Briar Seyb-Hayden, of Christchurch, had always enjoyed comedy characters in theatre, but wanted to perform away from the mainstream.
After her studies, Ms Seyb-Hayden taught circus arts in Australian and Ghanaian schools, then joined Circus Aotearoa last December.
"It's great, it's fun, it's like being in a family. It's full of energy. We eat, sleep and work together. It's really supportive because everyone has to pitch in."
Circus Aotearoa opens on Warren Park, off Gorge Rd, in Queenstown, today, at 7.30pm, with performances on Saturday at 11am and 7.30pm, and Sunday at 2pm.
Tickets start from $17 for adults and from $12 for children (3-year-olds and under are free).
Tickets are available on site an hour before the show. The box office is cash only. Group and family discounts are available.