For the past few years circus performers, Dawn Shepherd and Ryan Gray, have been working on strengthening more than just their bodies.
Following an intense training in Montreal, the duo launched the troupe Breaking Circus in Halifax as a way to help build the scene in their hometown.
“We have big aspirations, we’re not there yet,” said co-founder Dawn Shepherd. “But this is the biggest project that we’ve undertaken in the past three years.”
The duo already accomplished quite a bit in their short history and won an award for their 2017 Fringe performance.
They’ve also received support from Arts Nova Scotia and the Halifax Music Co-Op, their home stage, which they say has been vital to their growth.
In addition, Shepherd and Gray studied to become professional riggers, adding the ability to work behind the curtain and eliminating the need to bring in outside help.
Those elements and more all help take the troupe to new heights.
“The infrastructure isn’t quite here yet,” explained Shepherd. “We have lots of circus schools which is great and we can train in those places.”
“But in terms of venues there’s not a lot, so you kind of have to either create your own venue or find venues.”
Co-founder Gray found his way into the world of circus after he spent years playing with bands around the city as a Dalhousie University music graduate.
“I played video games and did not eat well and, you know, played my music,” Gray says of his student years. “Then when I got into this I had to be 180.”
“I dropped quite a bit of weight and just kept going and going.”
Seven years later he’s still working to improve his skills on the straps, as well as helping coach those who are newer.
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Nurturing the Halifax circus scene is something he’s proud to do.
“It’s a great thing that the fringe exists so that we can do these kinds of things,” said Gray.
“It’s also just great to feel like we’re trying to build something, that connection of we’re actually trying to build something in our hometown,” he added.
For their Fringe performance, entitled Rogue Contemporary Circus, the troupe plan to bring something that will both amaze audiences and keep them entertained with its unique story.
“It’s set in an old traditional circus,” explained Shepherd. “The site has been contaminated so it has been abandoned but there’s still these hardcore circus folk hanging around.”
“There’s a chicken and a horse and there’s a tiger and it’s kind of a zany, fun show,” she said. “Lots of mischief going on.”
Rogue Contemporary Circus opens Thursday, August 29 with four more shows running until September 8.