Aboriginal acrobat flips into the spotlight at Circus Oz
Circus Oz Big Top returns to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Victoria to premiere their latest creation, Aurora.
One member of the Circus Oz cast is particularly excited for the show to kick off.
Jillibalu Riley is making his Circus Oz debut, coming on-board with the team for the first time as a performer.
“I’m really excited, when that first night happens, you’re waiting backstage and about to perform – that’s when I get nervous. But right now, I’m just ready,” Mr Riley said.
Growing up in Karunda in far north Queensland, Mr Riley spent most of his younger years exploring through the bush.
“Exploring was all we did after school, we went down to the river to practice our dancing and acrobatics, we weren’t supposed to. Nan would growl at us for doing it,” Mr Riley said.
The circus performer began dancing at five-years-of-age, his first performance with Mayi Wunba Dancetroop at Moomba Festival.
He still dances today performing in Laura Aboriginal Dance Festival every year since 2000 and travelling to China to dance in 2010.
“It was great to go to a different country, see a different culture. It opened my eyes to how big the world is – it takes a lot of flights to get to China,” Mr Riley said.
Mr Riley fell for circus performing in his later years of high school.
“I fell in love with acrobatics at a young age and never thought it could go any further, but when I was shown that opportunity for it to go somewhere, I went for it.”
In 2015, after graduating from the National Institute of Circus Art Australia, Mr Riley returned home – yearning for some time back out on the earth.
“I was very sick of Melbourne, very depressed and homesick. I needed a break from circus. I picked up the first job available, which was being a jackaroo out on a cattle station,” Mr Riley said.
“It was awesome, out of the station. It was exactly what I needed to fill that void inside me from being away from home for so long.”
Back in Melbourne, Mr Riley still feels that linger of homesickness.
“I just watched Bangarra down here in Melbourne – watching them perform, it hits home very deep. I can’t wait to go home and kick up some dust and move on the earth,” Mr Riley said.
“Indigenous people by nature, we’ve danced for many thousands of years – it’s built into our blood. When you see other people dance, it makes you want to dance and that’s with every Indigenous person. We express ourselves through art forms and mine so happens to be dance, and circus acrobatics.”
Although having two injuries, Mr Riley is back into the groove of performing onstage.
He is excited to reach out to audiences and work with the Circus OZ crew.
“Circus Oz are amazing, they are so supportive. I worked with them first back in 2012, but I’ve only just joined as a performer this year – seven years down the road I’m in,” Mr Riley said.
“They’re always keeping an eye on me and seeing how I’m going – it’s nice to have that sort of family feel about such a professional company.”
Directed by Rob Tannion along with Circus Oz Artistic Facilitator, Kate Fryer, Aurora, is described as a 70-minute spectacular fuelled by curiosity and wonder.
Aurora will be showing between September 16 and October 6 at the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Melbourne Gardens.
For more information regarding show times and tickets, visit: circusoz.com/aurora.
By Rachael Knowles
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