Singapore group uses circus arts to connect people
Bornfire brings its jaw-dropping circus acts to the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre with its latest show RE:STARVED. (Photo: Rogan Yeoh)

Singapore group uses circus arts to connect people

Mention the word “circus” and what comes to one’s mind is likely daredevil stunts or an entertaining spectacle. Singapore-based circus group Bornfire certainly delivers these thrills and spills, but it goes a step further.

Founded in 2006, the group seeks to bring people – both performers and audiences, together through the joy of circus arts. Its performances intentionally bridge differences among people, and it is for this reason that the group calls itself a social circus.

Bornfire’s artistic director Xyn Foo, 43, says: “Circus arts has no language barrier. Through our performance, we hope people will be mindful of our shared humanity and bridge whatever differences they might have.

She adds: “Circus arts is also an art form that allows people to realise their potential through a wide gamut of activities, be it acrobatics, contact juggling or diabolo. These activities welcome individuals from different backgrounds into a learning space and provide them room to grow and embrace their differences through shared experiences of pain, fun and challenges.”

The group will be staging a free performance, RE:STARVED, from 28 to 30 May at the Esplanade Outdoor Theatre. Through gravity-defying balancing acts and mesmerising aerial performances, the family-friendly show will explore the notion of human contact in the time of a pandemic. The performance is part of Esplanade’s Flipside festival, which celebrates creativity and playfulness through performances such as puppetry, circus arts and physical theatre.

Read on as Foo shares more about circus arts and its power to connect people. 

Tell us about your first brush with circus arts.

Seeing hot balls of flame circling performers’ bodies as they moved gracefully. This was at The Substation Garden. The perfect balance of risk and grace captivated my attention and made me fall in love with circus arts 22 years ago.

What misconceptions do people have of circus arts?

People often think circus arts consists of clowns, or that a circus performance has only entertainment value. People also assume that animals are always involved in a circus act. While the use of animals in circus performances is no longer the case for contemporary circus arts.

What challenge does circus arts face?

For circus performers, who generally require a lot of training before a performance, find specialised training spaces is a massive obstacle. Large spaces with high ceilings and ample floor space are required to accommodate their practice.

What keeps you going as a circus arts performer? 

It is extremely empowering to witness people stepping out of their comfort zones, pushing their limits, facing their fears and turning what they once thought impossible into something enthralling.

I also feel a sense of responsibility to keep the circus community going in Singapore. For the past 16 years, many circus performers and teachers from Bornfire have selflessly supported local communities through collaborations, productions and workshops based on a shared vision – to cultivate the Singapore circus community and pave the way for the next generation of performers.

Replies were edited and condensed for clarity. Learn more about RE:STARVED here.

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