Issue: 2015-10-01 PHOTO: Christian Kuntz
Claire Ness plays the part of artistic director of the Yukon Circus Society.
Cirque du Soleil sets the bar high when it comes to circus-style performing arts. In the Yukon, there happens to be a society dedicated to performing and teaching circus performances.
At the head of things is Claire Ness. Having gathered circus experience in Toronto and Montreal for many years, she ventured home to the Yukon where there hadn’t been very much of a circus scene.
Ness sought to change that. She founded the Yukon Circus Society in April 2011, and is also the artistic director.
"After being in Montreal, I decided I was going to move home and start a circus camp in the Yukon," Ness says. "I figured I would need a bigger organization than just myself, so I could attract people and start building an army of clowns."
Ness recruited similar minded circus lovers and began teaching the art of performing. She rented a space in the Riverdale area and held weekend and after-school classes and workshops. As her classes and the society itself became more popular, Ness began to hold the summer programs at the Yukon Arts Centre. The summer classes are divided into different age groups, ranging from ages six to 14. A wide variety of circus activities are taught such as unicycling, juggling, pyramids, trapeze, and face painting. She has also done March Break Camps, and pop-up workshops in communities such as Teslin, Marsh Lake and Tagish.
“I want Yukoners to have equal opportunities to develop their talents into gifts for the audience,” she says.
When Ness and other members of the society are not teaching, they are doing what they love – performing. Common acts include juggling, aerial hoop performances, acrobatics, ribbon dancing, unicycling – just about everything you would see at a circus in the big city, minus the wild African animals. Probably not a good idea to try and house elephants during a Yukon winter.
What the society does offer in the winter are more indoor classes. One class that's particularly popular is stilt building. In the spring of 2016, another stilt workshop will be held featuring stilt walking pro Graham Rudge.
Autumn is a bit of a down season for the Circus Society. During the fall, Ness and her team have special projects planned. They are going to be building a school bus that they will use to travel throughout the Yukon and across country.
"We are hoping to build a show that is compact and portable," Ness says.
In addition, they will be teaming up with Nakai Theatre to co-produce, Dogtown: The Musical. This show was written by Ness's father Roy, and the music was written by fellow Yukoner Grant Simpson.
For more information contact the Yukon Circus Society by email at YukonCircusSociety@yahoo.ca.