Ellen Curtis

Six months into my career as a social worker, I found myself to be a Sydney commuter, and in the words of Peggy Lee was wondering, “Is that all there is to life?” I cast myself adrift! From Cairns to the UK and Europe, searching for something different. Arriving back at my parent’s home in Wollongong in 2010, I was in a new place and the years were stretching ahead of me… UNTIL… I was encouraged by my mother Fran to come to a Circus WOW Hoops Class! In that first class I met the inspirational and sensational Heidi Hillier! By week 2, I was keeping the hoop up, and learning lots of other tricks. I was hooked!

Before long I was coming twice a week, for hoops and aerials and everything on offer. I went to a train-the-trainer session with Wendy Regan, a workshop on balloon creatures, and even challenged myself to do roving—not a skill that has come to me yet! I was excited to be invited by Kate Clarkson to the first WOW AGM. This was the community I was looking for! A community of inspiring women, who gave opportunities to create and perform, embraced quirkiness and expression and exploration and creativity. I had permission to wear my undies on the outside without judgement. An excuse to always dress prepared for circus. When I imagined running away with the circus, I would have been happy selling popcorn and hanging out. I never imagined that one day I would perform a triple trapeze act, lead the Bubbles Ball dance floor, climb to the top of a silk for a drop, perform hoops, or clown at Viva la Gong.

Not only has WOW been for me a place to stretch myself physically and creatively, I’ve had the opportunity to develop skills in leadership. Over the years on-and-off as Management Committee Chair, I’ve been accepted and supported through many mistakes, and given the opportunity to grow. Having the confidence of other WOW women has given me confidence in my work life, to see myself in leadership and strive for these roles. Through Circus WOW I have found a home in Wollongong.

Inspiring Directors and Trainers: Heidi Hillier, Wendy Regan, Neisha Murphy, Emma Khourey, and Jane Davis (to name a few). Emma and Heidi have pulled together hoop acts that have been a complete joy to perform. Classes were a creative delight, with space for skills, tricks, and creation. My favourite hoop trick: Super Mario. Favourite hoop moment: performing alongside Mum at the 10-Year Show. Shakespeare Fantasia was a brilliant experience; directed by Wendy and choreographed by Heidi, the Three Witches act with Michelle Woolley and Josie Bonaz was a highlight of my time with WOW. Favourite moments in Neisha’s classes were exercises talking gibberish—Libby Bloxham and I had a particularly spectacular gibberish-off which gave me much joy! Neisha directed a small group of us for a show for Viva la Gong 2015. Performing the Lip Sync act there with Kat Parker, Angela James and Ella Hogan remains my favourite WOW moment.

In recent years, with a young child at my feet and a busy job, I feel like I’ve forgotten everything Circus when I do make it to a class. But an acro class with Jane makes it all feel possible again. I come away reminded of my body’s ability and strength. Being involved in the act The Silence We Carry has been a moving experience. My favourite acro move: Clockwork, which always drew a gasp from the audience.

The many people I’ve worked with on the WOW management committee over the years: Angela James who has stuck it out, and is a wiz with numbers and an overlocker; Ellen Dunn, whose commitment to WOW got us through some very tough times; Fiona McKay, who for a while carried just about every role, and still managed to be a supportive listener; Ella Hogan, whose diplomacy and knowledge always help keep things on track; Libby Bloxham, a creative mind keeping gigs afloat and keeping WOW costumed; and Kobie Clifton, whose positivity and energy always looks to the possible. Many hours have been spent in car parks and on street corners, sharing ideas and working through issues. This time worked by the many WOW volunteers is the engine that keeps us going.

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