Acrobats go head over heels at festival’s expansive vista

Spine-tingling feats of balance and agility were being performed all over Camp Raglan last weekend as 70-odd acrobats from around the world came together for a series of training workshops in a “beautiful spot” high above Ngarunui beach.

“We love Raglan … how could you not?” enthused Zanthe Watson who with partner Colin Prinn founded the three-day event – the New Zealand Acrobatics Festival – primarily in a bid to bring the level of skill down under up to world standards.

Both teach regular acrobatic classes in Auckland and say the general level in New Zealand is low compared with the rest of the world. “There’s no sports acrobatics here (for instance),” Zanthe points out.

The festival brought acrobats and trainers together from “all over the show” to flip, jump, cartwheel and contort, Zanthe told the Chronicle. New Zealand and Australian participants were joined by acrobats from Belgium, Brazil, the US and “everywhere”.

While most of the trainers across the 32 workshops were internationals, local instructor Eva Rich – who has her advanced yoga certification and takes a weekly class at Raglan Yoga Loft – was in charge of two sessions.

Camp Raglan might be at her doorstep but Eva was equally taken by the expansive ocean views. “This is probably one of the most beautiful spots I’ve practised in,” she told her class as they stretched and breathed their way through a one-and-a-half hour outdoor session on the Sunday morning.

Eva – currently studying at Wintec for a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise Science – believes yoga is important every day for functional movement “but especially when doing really hard energetic programmes” like last weekend’s.

Zanthe agrees: “Yoga comes in before or after a long day. It prepares the body and helps reduce injuries. It’s also important to have that relax time.”

She likes to have as many Kiwi teachers as possible involved in any training here, citing an intensive workshop that was fitted in last year between the annual festivals. International teachers came to teach New Zealand teachers in a programme designed to “upskill everybody”.

This year’s festival hosted beginner, intermediate and advanced classes teaching partner yoga, duo and trio acrobatics, handstands, contortion, tumbling, pole-dancing and aerialists.

Zanthe – who has been doing circus as a hobby for most of her life – says her favourite act for the past six years is duo acrobatics in which she balances on her partner’s hands.

She was full of praise for ‘Duo Die’ –  a Sydney-based couple with a serious love of partner acrobatics – who were also on site at Camp Raglan last weekend.

Also training with them on the safety rig at the former Bryant Home children’s bible camp were sports acrobat Hilary Conroy from Sydney and French gymnast-turned-theatre artist Jo Carvalho, now from Auckland, who teamed up as a duo for the first time.     

Edith Symes