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Advice from a Circus Oz star on giving things a go

Donna Coutts, September 18, 2019 6:30PM Kids News

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Aurora dancers having fun in costume outside the Circus Oz big top. From left Jillibalu Riley, Sam Aldham, Shani Stephens, Josie Wardrope and Tara Silcock. Picture: Alex Coppel media_cameraAurora dancers having fun in costume outside the Circus Oz big top. From left Jillibalu Riley, Sam Aldham, Shani Stephens, Josie Wardrope and Tara Silcock. Picture: Alex Coppel

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Circus star Jillibalu Riley had a superpower when he was a little kid.

“I was a daredevil, a just-do-it kid,” Jillibalu said.

“That was how I learned. I had many stacks on the bicycle and I had many stacks doing acrobatics.”

The little daredevil has now grown up to be a Circus Oz acrobat, currently performing under the big top as part of the Circus Oz show called Aurora.

Aurora is a combination of impossible-looking aerial acrobatic tricks such as flying, swinging, tricks in straps and the Washington trapeze, where aerialists* perform various headstand skills on the bar.

Jillibalu and his fellow performers also show off their skills foot juggling, with hula hoops, doing hair-raising balances and a whole lot of physical comedy.

media_cameraCircus Oz Aurora acrobats, including Jillibalu Riley at the bottom. Picture: supplied

Although Aurora is a new Circus Oz show, Jillibalu feels like he has been preparing for it his whole life.

“We didn’t have very much resources but we had rivers, sandbanks and trees,” he said.

“If we fell off the tree, we’d get back up and do it again.”

Jillibalu, who is now 25, grew up in Far North Queensland and spent a lot of time with his friends and cousins playing in and around the Barron River, on the Atherton Tablelands inland from Cairns, Queensland.

His first official public performance was at the age of five at the Moomba Festival in Melbourne as part of the Mayi Wunba Dance group.

“I enjoyed dance at a young age, traditional dance as a kid that I learned from my uncles.

“I loved showing my culture.”

When they weren’t down at the river, the kids would busk in the town, performing traditional dances for tourists, then spending their earnings on hot chips and lollies.

Jillibalu Riley (centre) being a daredevil on the trampoline as a kid. Picture: supplied media_cameraJillibalu Riley (centre) being a daredevil on the trampoline as a kid. Picture: supplied

He got his first taste of proper circus skills in his home town of Kuranda, Qld.

“There was a lady named Kellie Craig and she ran a little not-for-profit circus in the town I grew up in, Kuranda. We were called the Blackrobats and it was a circus for all ethnicities*. I was 11 or 12 years old and I thought it was the best thing in the world.”

He began learning break dancing and contemporary dance at secondary school in year 8 and the idea of joining a circus as a career evolved over many years.

“All I wanted to do was perform on stage, so circus and dance were the options I was passionate about so I auditioned, but I didn’t wake up one day as a kid and think ‘when I grow up I am going to be in the circus.’”

Jillibalu Riley learned breakdancing and other contemporary dance at high school. Picture: supplied media_cameraJillibalu Riley learned breakdancing and other contemporary dance at high school. Picture: supplied

He moved to Melbourne in 2013 to study at the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA).

“Even when I came to Melbourne and joined NICA I was sort of a just-do-it young man because I had obviously come with no training background. I didn’t have any technique.

“My advice to kids is don’t be afraid to try new things. You get shy and a lot of the time we don’t like to be singled out or embarrassed in front of the class.

“Let down your pride and give it a go.”

Circus Oz: Aurora is on in Melbourne until October 6.

GLOSSARY

  • aerialists: people who specialise in doing tricks up in the air
  • ethnicities: large groups of people who identify themselves as having common backgrounds, usually to do with race, religion, language or culture

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. What is Jillibalu’s superpower?
  2. How old is he now and what did he do when he was five?
  3. What sort of dancing did he start learning in year 8?
  4. What do the acrobats do on the Washington trapeze?
  5. What is Jillibalu’s advice to kids?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Inspire other kids
“Get back up and do it again.” Design, write or create something that would inspire other kids to follow Jillibalu’s advice.

Time: allow 40 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Visual Arts, Media Arts, Personal and Social Capability

2. Extension
Jillibalu talks about being a daredevil being his superpower. What superpower would you like to have? Write a diary entry of a typical day in your life with your superpower.

Time: allow 30 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Critical and Creative Thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
With a partner see if you can identify all the doing words/verbs in this text. Highlight them in yellow and then make a list of them all down your page. Now see if you and your partner can come up with a synonym for the chosen verb. Make sure it still makes sense in the context it was taken from.

Try to replace some of the original verbs with your synonyms and discuss if any are better and why.

HAVE YOUR SAY: What is your superpower? What do you love doing?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

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